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Rio de Janeiro – Last stop in South America

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

August 16, 2014 – August 22, 2014

Full Rio Photo Gallery Here.

After travel through South America for 140 days we finally found ourselves at our last stop in South America, sunny Rio de Janeiro!  Rio, the party and beach capital of South America, has tons of great beaches such as Copacabana and Ipanema, striking mountains like Sugar Loaf and of course the iconic Christ Redeemer statue.

We arrived early in the morning, too early to check in to our hostel but they agreed to hold our bags while we went out to explore the city.  Our first stop, the beach!

Famous Copacabana Beach.
Famous Copacabana Beach.

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The less crowded an equally nice Ipanema Beach.
The less crowded an equally nice Ipanema Beach.

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Beach volleyball is popular.  Although Brazil is known for having one of the best soccer teams in the world, few are aware they have one of the best volleyball teams as well.
Beach volleyball is popular. Although Brazil is known for having one of the best soccer teams in the world, few are aware they have one of the best volleyball teams as well.

Just off the beaches were small marketplaces selling fresh produce, meat and seafood, and just off Ipanema beach there was the weekly hippie market, a collection of shops selling t-shirts, handicrafts and other souvenirs.

Fresh produce and meat markets, right next to the beach.
Fresh produce and meat markets, right next to the beach.
The hippy market, off Ipanema beach.
The hippie market, off Ipanema beach.
We also explored the ritzy Ipanema neighborhood and lagoon. Christ the Redeemer can be seen at top of hill.
We also explored the ritzy Ipanema neighborhood and lagoon. Christ the Redeemer can be seen at top of hill.

Free Walking Tour

We took the free walking tour in the central district downtown.  We take free walking tours whenever we can, they rarely disappoint!

The free walking tour started with the history of Rio, made a loop of the city seeing sights along the way.

The famous Selaron steps.
The famous Selaron steps.
It was fun to check out the interesting tiles.
It was fun to check out some of the interesting tiles.
The Carioca Aquaduct.
The Carioca Aquaduct, also known as the Lapa Arches since the Lapa neighborhood lies on the other side.
One night we returned to the Lapa neighborhood, known for its nightlife, to enjoy some Brazilian beer, always served ice cold.
One night we returned to the Lapa neighborhood, known for its nightlife, to enjoy some Brazilian beer.  Brazilian beer is always served ice cold.
The oil company headquarters was voted one of the most ugly buildings in the world, and is in several movies. (Usually as the bad guys headquarters)
The oil company headquarters was voted one of the most ugly buildings in the world, and is in several movies. (Usually as the bad guys headquarters)
One stop on the tour was this well known Brazilian flip flop store.
One stop on the tour was this well known Brazilian flip flop store.
The opera house.
The opera house, which we would tour later. It is beautiful inside, and definitely worth a visit if you have time.

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Rio is famous for its tiled sidewalks which often have pictures built in and can be seen all over the city.
Rio is famous for its tiled sidewalks which often have pictures built in and can be seen all over the city.
One evening we experienced a Brazilian BBQ steakhouse at its best at Fogo de Chao.  Flip over this card to let the waiters know whether to offer you their cut of meat.
One evening we experienced a Brazilian steakhouse at its best at Fogo de Chao. Flip over this card to let the waiters know whether or not to offer you one of the choice cuts they are serving.

After spending a few days in our hostel close to the central district we decided to move south near Leme Beach, which is really just one end of Copacabana Beach.  One of the cheaper and possibly more interesting options than staying in a hotel, would be to stay in a favela.  Rio’s favelas are hillside communities built one atop the other up the steep hills and can be seen all over the city.  Some are notorious for high crime and are often run by gangs of drug dealers.  They do however offer great views from their heights on the mountains, so of course we decided to stay in one!

We stayed in the Chapeu Mangueira favela which is just above the Leme beach neighborhood, and was actually a ‘pacified’ favela, and safe for tourists.

Steep stairs leading to our favela hostel.
Steep stairs leading to our favela hostel.
Favelas are collections of buildings built atop one another up the hills of Rio, and they do not seem to conform to any kind of building standards.
Favelas are collections of buildings built atop one another up the hills of Rio, and they do not seem to conform to any kind of building standards.  After a certain point, streets give way to walking paths which vehicles cannot access.
The great view from our favela!  One of the benefits of staying here.
The great view from our favela! One of the benefits of staying here.

Christ the Redeemer

You can’t go the Rio without checking out the Christ the Redeemer statue.  The easiest way is to take a van up to the top, the vans leave from the north end of Copacabana beach and the park outside of the Largo do Machado metro stop.  Check the weather before heading up as it can often be covered in clouds and have no view at all.  From our limited time in Rio, the mornings seemed to be better, as the clouds seemed to roll in around noon.

Locals playing cards near the Largo de Machado metro stop, and starting point of our transportation to the statue.
Locals playing cards near the Largo de Machado metro stop, and starting point of our transportation to the statue.

Having not yet discovered the nature of clouds in Rio in August we headed up the mountain around noon.  Only to discover that clouds had rolled in and almost completely obscured the view!  It was also quite cold, bring a jacket! T-shirts might be fine in the city or on the beach but not on the top of the mountain.

Statue Facts:  The Christ Redeemer statue is  98 feet tall, its arms stretch 92 feet wide. It weighs 635 tons and sits atop a peak at 2,300 feet above the city.  It is also struck by lightning occasionally and must be repaired and cleaned, as was the case when we arrived.  Notice the scaffolding next to the statue.

Christ the Redeemer statue.
Christ the Redeemer statue.
The clouds rolled in as our van was heading up the mountain, we only got occasional glimpses of the city through the fast moving clouds.
The clouds rolled in as our van was heading up the mountain, we only got occasional glimpses of the city through the fast moving clouds.

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It was crowded and cold at the top of the mountain.
It was crowded and cold at the top of the mountain.

 

Sugar Loaf

There is one other iconic peak in Rio, besides the one on which Christ Redeemer sits, and that is Sugar Loaf.  The tall conical remnant of a volcano which juts straight up above the city.  Learning nothing from our cloud experience at Christ Redeemer we once again headed out around noon.

Sugar Loaf, free of clouds as we were about to head up!
Sugar Loaf in the background, free of clouds as we were about to head up!

The cable car system heading up to the top of Sugar Loaf, first built in 1912, actually goes up two mountains, stair stepping its way to the 1,299 foot summit of Sugar Loaf.

A sign of questionable accuracy in the cable car lobby.
A sign of questionable accuracy in the cable car lobby.
The first mountain on the half way point to Sugar Loaf also had great views of the city.
The first mountain on the half way point to Sugar Loaf also had great views of the city.

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The clouds obscured the view of the city, and they seemed to be only around Sugar Loaf.
The clouds obscured the view of the city, and they seemed to be only around Sugar Loaf.

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Copacabana Beach, as seen through one of the few gaps in the clouds.
Copacabana Beach, as seen through one of the few gaps in the clouds.

Coming down from Sugar Loaf to the lower half way point of the cable car we could see the cloud problem we were dealing with.  Clouds were forming around, and only around, Sugar Loaf mountain.  Go early!

The clouds forming only around the top of Sugar loaf.
The clouds forming only around the top of Sugar loaf.

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The clouds didn’t stay forever, they waited patiently for us to go all the way down to the ground and exit the cable car building and then they dissipated, leaving the summit completely free of clouds for at least 15 minutes.

Thankfully we came home to a beautiful sunset view from our favela hostel rooftop, free of clouds.

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Niteroi – The city across the bay

On our final day in Rio de Janeiro, before heading to the airport for our night flight to Sweden, we made a quick morning trip to the nearby Leme beach.  Then we took the ferry across the bay to the city of Niteroi.

 

Niteroi across the bay.
Niteroi across the bay, as viewed from the MAC.

We visited the contemporary art museum or MAC for short (in Portuguese).  A round space ship like building designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, which had great views of the water and Rio across the bay.

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The Contemporary Art Museum
The Contemporary Art Museum
It housed a collection of some of the worst art we had ever seen.
It housed a collection of some of the worst art we had ever seen.

Inside can be found one of the worst collections of modern art we had ever seen, but few were actually looking at the art, as the great views out the windows and interesting building itself are the reason to go.

The view from inside.
The view from inside.

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After returning to Rio on the ferry and grabbing some dinner at a restaurant downtown, we got our stuff and headed to the airport for our long flight to Sweden.  Goodbye South America!

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