South America Trip Day 17 – Rio de Janeiro

A glorious Rio Monday. We wasted half of it traipsing around Copacabana trying to find another hotel. We were shown a number of rooms – none as good as the place we’d just checked out of. We headed back to Atlantis Copacabana and said we wanted to check in again. The manager welcomed us back with a smile, and we were given a much better room, with wifi that actually worked, 2 big beds instead of one queen and one single that we were having to ‘janken’ (Japanese game of rock/paper/scissors that is a method used to decide almost everything) for, and a much higher floor. We were happy, and at last we could try and get something out of the day. Jesus.

Jesus. Christo Redentor. Christ the Redeemer. One of the 7 wonders of the world. It was a perfect day for it. We got a cab to the bottom of the mountain he stands on, Corcovado, and bought a ticket for the cog train that goes up every 30 minutes to the top of the mountain where Jesus stands. The ride up, if you sit on the right side, provides breathtaking views. People actually live up this mountain, there are a few stops on the way up for those people to get home or get down. These stops are also where the unregulated samba bands can jump on and busk – which puts a smile on everyones faces. The mood was unsurprisingly upbeat anyway, but the music added to the magic of the clear blue day.

We got to the top of the 710m high mountain, and climbed up the steps to see Christ the Redeemer. There he was, all 38m and 1145 tons of him, white, a calm expression on his face, his hands held out perhaps as a symbol of welcome, or of protection? Or one of arrogance perhaps? But then, he has a right to be, he’s one of the 7 wonders of the world. Now I’d seen 5 of them. But it wasn’t just Jesus that was worth the visit. The views all around Rio are simply stunning. This has to be one of the most beautiful settings for a city anywhere in the world. We could see the whole city, and sugarloaf mountain too. A helicopter carrying well-heeled tourists buzzed overhead now and then, and Jesus didn’t flinch, perhaps regarding them as no more than pesky flies. Alex and I stayed here for a while, admiring the view, and Christ, from every angle. We had a drink in a cafe overlooking the city and just under the statue. What a place. We were lucky, as we were leaving, the mist was rolling in.

We grabbed a taxi at the bottom and headed to Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf mountain), where we got a cable car to Morro da Urca, then another (the one James Bond and Jaws had a fight on) to the summit of Sugarloaf (a modest 396m above Rio) in time for sunset over the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, a beautiful lake in the middle of Rio with, of course, a mountain backdrop. Alex and I had lived out our James Bond fantasies before many times in many places, but this was something rather special, and we very nearly celebrated with a vodka martini, but they didn’t have any at the top, so we had to settle for a can of brahma each. As the sun set, it felt like we’d really achieved something worthwhile today, and the beer was reward.

In the evening we headed out to a churrascaria, but the meat was old and the best thing about it was the salad. We popped into the famous Copacabana Palace hotel for a walk around, then took a taxi to Ipanema, where we popped into a cool bar and met Lenny.

Lenny was from Mexico City. He was alone in Rio, and today was his birthday. Shots of extra-strong cachaca were ordered, to go with our caipirinhas. We knew we were in for a long night. Lenny was a legend, he worked for some production company in the US, and was full of stories. While he was drinking with us, his mum phoned and wished him happy birthday. As soon as he got off the phone, Lenny announced. “You know what, guys? I need a hooker. I so need to get laid in Rio.” Alex and I dropped him off at an upscale ‘gentleman’s club’ we’d noticed close to our hotel. We walked into reception with him, just as a group of seasoned Americans were coming out. “It’s a good house, a good house”, the one about 10 stone overweight with a goatee beard said. “But, now is not the time. Look, the girls, they’re tired, they’ve been working all night. I’m not saying it won’t be good, but come back tomorrow around 8, and these girls’ll make you feel a million dollars,” he added. “Thanks mate, I’ll do that,” I lied. Lenny was still going to go along with it. It was his birthday, and he’d remember it for ever. The club brought a few ladies out for us to ‘inspect the quality’. They were stunning, all smiles, and all over Lenny when they knew me and Alex weren’t interested. “I’m going in, you guys!” beamed Lenny. “Happy birthday mate!” We called, as he was led away by 2 Brazilian beauties. “Hey, you guys….we’re going to Balcony Bar, wanna come?” asked the American. Balcony bar. The equivalent of Orchard Towers in Singapore. Alex and I said we’d see them there later (another lie) and we jumped in a cab back to the same street we’d met Lenny. Across the road from the bar we were in earlier was another place that played classic indie and rock music, and seemed to have a crowd. We left that bar at 6am, several caipirinhas the worse, and walked back along the beachfront in the early morning light, where people were already playing volleyball. What a day.

Author: Neil

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