My Journey Part 2: Rio de Janeiro
Oli, Myself and Auntie Vali set out on the five hour road trip from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, well stocked on fizzy drinks, fizzy sweets and magazines, wondering whether the beat-up Volkswagen Auntie Vali was driving would make the distance. After a game of eye-spy, a bit of car sickness and a Tupac album or two, we finally made it to The City of God, named due to the towering presence of Christ the Redeemer which sits on top of Corcovado Mountain.
The statue holds a lot of cultural significance in a country which boasts the highest proportion of Roman Catholics in the world, with two of them being my brother and I who were baptised by the orphanage which is predominantly run by the church. We paid our admission fee (£14 for weekends and holidays and £12 for weekdays) and trekked the 220 steps to the summit where we collapsed to our knees, not in homage but in exhaustion. Now they have lifts and escalators for disabled access, bit late for us though! Like all things after the age of 12, it didn’t seem as big as it appears in pictures but was still a once in a lifetime moment! They also have a small chapel where weddings are held, which definitely trumps getting married on the Las Vegas strip! The view from the top is almost as impressive as the statue itself, overlooking the city and Copacabana Beach which was next on the list of places to tick off on our bucket list
We prepared for a more chilled out afternoon by donning our swimming shorts and making our way to Copacabana beach. Although December through to February are considered the summer months in Brazil, there is always a significant amount of people on the beach playing volley football, buying food from the beach kiosks and just generally relaxing. Like all major city hotspots, prices were inflated but that’s what you come to expect. Being big into rugby, Oli and I introduced the game to a few of the locals, which I like to think had an influence on Brazil introducing the game at this year’s Rio Olympics!
Brazil is home of the carnival, with Rio’s annual event attracting a record 12 million people in 2013, making it the biggest street party in the world. People dress up (or rather dress down), samba dance and follow the float procession. Food and drink plays a big part in any carnival and Auntie Vali recommended some of her favourites that being sold on the beach, including fried Tapioca filled with dried meat (a Brazilian Fajita) and Quiejo Coalho, a salty cheese grilled on a stick, my personal favourite. Not being the biggest drinker, I left it to my brother and Vali to down local street cocktails like Caipirinhas (Sugar and Lime) and the national beer, Brahma, which had them samba dancing with locals on Copacabana.
After having walked up 220 steps a few days previously to marvel at Christ the Redeemer, Vali convinced us to walk a further 250 steps in the name of art! Local artist Jorge Selaron decided in 1990 that he would spice up the laborious task of renovating the crumbling steps outside his house by adding a bit of colour and substance, which amounted to them becoming an iconic tourist attraction known as The Lapa steps. Two years after our visit, Snoop Dogg and Pharrell William’s ‘Beautiful’ video featured the steps which is a point of reference I like to boast about until this day.
After a week in Rio we packed our bags and headed on to our final destination.