Rio 2/09

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A city embodying its zest for life...

"Christ's View" wide over Rio toward Sugarloaf

Rio is an astounding place visually, in its samba music and in its 12 million people - a way of life embodied in a city. Love of living life seems painted all over it. Being there, it feels nowhere near as dangerous as what is written about it. On this trip I spent three days in and around Rio and then two days 700 miles west at Iguaçu Falls on both the Argentina and Brazil sides. The summer weather was hot - around 90°F, but clear with no rain throughout the trip. I had an excellent driver/guide in Rio whom I now consider a friend, Raphael Torres Lopez (+5521 9469 6562 donrafainrio@yahoo.es). With his help, I saw some things few tourists see and covered a staggering amount of ground in a short period of time.

Thursday February 5th - Corcovado & Marapendi

I arrived late morning after my overnight flight from Washington DC. Rafael met me at the arrival hall and off we sped to the JW Marriott on Copcabana Beach (view from my room in first picture below). I did a quick turnaround there and we were en route to Corcovado by 1pm. We stopped at a lookout point called Mirante Dona Marta (second picture below with Rafael) while winding our way 2300 ft up through the urban Tijuca rainforest. The iconic 1931 art deco styled statue, Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) is an imposing 100 ft tall and can be seen from all around the city (immediate right and third picture below). The 360° view from the top of Corcovado is equally impressive (large picture above facing east, shot at 10mm wide angle).

 

At the base of Cristo Redentor on Corcovado

Descending through the Tijuca rainforest on the road of Paineiras, we passed by natural showers and the Cascatinha waterfall (fourth picture above) before crossing to the west side of the city to take a unique lagoon boat trip through the Marapendi Wetlands (first through third pictures below). This is a large, scenic "off the beaten track" series of islands and peninsulas where many Cariocas (locals) live. We saw lots of wildlife and upscale residences there before returning to Copacabana. I had dinner paired with some nice Argentinean wine at the hotel's sushi restaurant before retiring for the evening.

Friday February 6th - Sugarloaf, Centro & Niteroi

I started the day with a ~2 mile walk up and down Copacabana Beach before breakfast. Rafael picked me up mid-morning and we headed east to Sugarloaf, known locally as Pão de Açucar. There are two cable tram trips that take you 1300 ft up to the summit. The trams were crowded and hot, but the views along the ride were wonderful (fourth picture above headed up from Cara de Cão and first picture below headed down facing Corcovado - Christ Statue in the background). The views at the top were great as well. The second picture below shows the crescent of Copacabana Beach from Sugarloaf's peak. From Sugarloaf we headed toward Centro - the business district downtown, with a stop en route at São Bento Church, built in 1576. It has a very plain exterior, but a magnificent interior. Since no flash pictures are allowed inside the church, the third picture below was shot at ISO3200 with my 50mm f/1.8 lens. We parked downtown near the ferry boats in a neighborhood with narrow streets that reminded me of Seville, Spain. We stopped at the Cultural Center of Banco do Brasil and at the Candelaria Church, dating from 1727. The fourth picture below shows a beam of natural light inside Candelaria over the alter.

After a snack in Centro, we drove north and then east to Niteroi, across Guanabara Bay from Rio (first picture below - 20mm wide angle of Rio from São Francisco bay). We stopped at the Contemporary Art Museum, designed by Oscar Niemeyer (second picture below) and the colorful fishing village of Jurujuba before climbing up the steep grade to Parque da Cidade with its sweeping views across Guanabara Bay towards Rio (third picture below). Before returning to Copacabana for the evening, I had my first Caipirinha along with a traditional Brazilian meal at Restaurante A Mineira in Niteroi across from the beach.

Saturday February 7th - Ipanema & zona oeste beaches

I started the day again with a morning walk up and down Copacabana Beach before breakfast. The beach was a frenzy of people on Saturday, fueled by Carnival only a couple of weeks away. Rafael picked me up at 10am and we headed to the Fort of Copacabana where mostly locals go. I had my first of several delicious Mate Cocidos (an infused tea drink) there. The fort is next to the rocks of Arpoador that mark the transition from Copacabana Beach to Ipanema Beach (fourth picture above). We walked almost the whole length of Ipanema before turning inland for a cold Brahma beer at the cafe/bar Garota de Ipanema (first picture below), where Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes wrote "The Girl from Ipanema" based on a 15 year old girl (now 64) who walked by each day, Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto.

After buying my father a T-shirt with the first bars of the music written on it, we took the bus back to Copacabana and then drove west on Niemeyer Road to the gated community of Joa (second picture below). Continuing west we went through Barra da Tijuca with a quick stop at the Hard Rock Cafe for a drink and then on to a series of beaches: crowded Recreio (third picture below with the island of Pontal in the background), surfers' Prainha (fourth picture below - part of a nature reserve) and Abrico, where we enjoyed a leisurely late lunch with a local crowd at a picnic table on the beach at Cabana Grumari. The drive back to my hotel was slow due to road closings for beach music festivals on both Ipanema and Copacabana. Cariocas know how to party well. I finished my last evening in Rio with a nice Copacabana beach walk along the water's edge. Sunday morning Rafael drove me to the airport for my 2 hour flight west to Iguaçu Falls.

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