Rio de Janeiro, 9/19 - 9/23, (Part 2 of 2)
Hey everyone, after some relaxation and getting back into the swing of things in Buenos Aires, I finally wrote about my experiences in Rio de Janeiro this past week. As you remember from my last post, Rio de Janeiro (or "Heu de Shanairu") was the most amazing city that I have ever been to. With a unique mix of white, sandy beaches, plush rainforests, and a diverse population within the city, what's not to love?
On Thursday night (9/18), our flight left from Ezezia International Airport, which is about 40 minutes outside the city of Buenos Aires. As expected, airport security in Argentina is a joke compared to the United States, for example, and we were early enough to explore the airport more. This was the second time that I was at this airport, with the first time being when I arrived in Argentina back in July. Buenos Aires has two airports, one within the city limits for mostly domestic flights and then Ezezia. One interesting thing that we noticed in the gift shops and stores within the airport is that all of the items are priced in US Dollars. Things were still just as cheap as they are in Argentine Pesos, but it was strange to see USD signs for the first time in two months.
It is well known that things change while traveling around the world. Whether it be the people, the places, or the plans, it is best to expect the unexpected. And with this, we experienced our first change of plans in our travels on Thursday night. Our flight to Rio was delayed for one hour. You may be wondering what the reason is? The reason is as South American as it gets because the airport's Customs workers and petroleum engineers that fuel the airplanes decided to go on strike at 9:30pm on a Thursday night.. I could not fathom it either. So after an extra hour in the airport, their "strike" ended and we were safely off to Rio.
As I mentioned in the last post, I was a little apprehensive about the language barrier between Portuguese and my Spanish/English. When we arrived in Rio at 2am on Friday morning, it was sink or swim with our languages in the International Airport. This is when I realized how similar Portuguese is to Spanish. Our taxi drivers only knew Portuguese, but we had no problems making to the hostel that night.
After making it to the hostel and catching a few hours of sleep in a swelteringly hot hostel bedroom surrounded by six other foreigners (once again, how could you not love that aspect?), we took the liberty of making our first day in Rio de Janeiro a beach day at Copacabana Beach. With the hostel only being five minutes from the beach, it was a perfect start to the trip. The pictures below only show so much of the beauty in the surrounding area, and Copacabana is a place like no other. I can only imagine the insane crowds for the World Cup in June and July, but they certainly chose the right place to hold the events.
While on the beach, vendors are constantly coming up to you and asking if you want to buy things like hats, drinks, ice cream, various foods, the occasional drugs, etc. It came to a point where it was more annoying than anything else, because they did not get the memo that people do not like to be bothered while on the beach. Nonetheless, we still enjoyed our day.
Later that night, we formally met some of the awesome people also staying at our hostel. Of course we met Antonio and Olga, from Italy and Greece, who were with us most of the weekend, but we also met a man named Luis from Chile. He was traveling by himself during the Chilean vacation period. What was interesting enough was that he works for a Geologist and studies the frequencies of earthquakes throughout Chile. We learned that Chile has earthquakes EVERY DAY but go unnoticed because it is such a common aspect of life. Although the earthquakes do not reach high magnitudes on the Richter Scale, they still can be felt by many people. This was comforting to know considering that I am going to Chile in two weeks. GREAT.
Also on our first night, we went to the most famous bar and club in all of Rio. It is called Rio Senarium and is massive. The place had different floors and rooms for different music types. For instance, there was the regular bar area, then on the first floor a Samba area, and on the second floor another room just for House Music. Something different that the Brazilians adopted at their bars and clubs is the use of these plastic cards to pay for drinks or food. Then at the end when you leave, the guest pays the value that was credited to the card. This is a smart idea, but also could be deadly for someone who has no concept of money.
On Saturday (9/20), we opted to explore the city outside of Copacabana. Our first objective was going to Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). For the price of 60 Reais (hay-aish), we got transportation to the top of the mountain where it is located and entrance into the park area. From a distance, Cristo Redentor does not look very big, but I was wrong to think this. He is over 130 feet tall and can be seen everywhere throughout Rio. Built in 1922 and 1923, the statue is known to be the largest Art Deco Sculpture in the world. I have no exact clue what that means, but it sounded important enough to share with you. The experience to go to Cristo Redentor was something that I never would have thought was possible in my life. The view of the entire city on a beautiful day from that height was something that I will remember for the rest of my life. In addition, Cristo Redentor is one of those places where you need to take in where you are. Unbelievable.
After Cristo Redentor and a ride from Hell on the bus, Ben, John, Sydney, Antonio, Olga, and I decided to explore the neighborhood of Santa Teresa. The area is well known for its nice houses, artistic influence, and winding roads through the hills. The word for neighborhood in Carioca Portuguese is favela. Favelas usually have a negative connotation due to the fact that movies and the media have used the word to describe the dangerous neighborhoods in Rio. Granted, there are several very bad favelas in the city like Ciudad de Dios ("City of God"), but Santa Teresa is the complete opposite of this. Here, the famous Selarón Steps (Escandaria Selarón) take precedence in the tourist forum. Constructed by a struggling Chilean artist beginning in 1990, the Steps are covered with tiles, ceramics, and mirrors as a tribute to the city of Rio de Janeiro. Even today, the artist can be seen editing his work or adding to it, as it is now his obsession and a popular place to visit in Rio.
We were then distracted from the Steps by a loud noise of celebration and music from around the corner. We came to find some small performance going on by Brazilians playing music and dancing Samba. It was cool to see this, and was one of those unexpected facets of the Rio that I appreciated a lot. Finally, on Saturday night, my friends and I enjoyed the nightlife of Rio for the last time before having to leave in two days.
So, if you are actually still reading this, then I congratulate you for surviving my rambling about Rio. At this point, I am going to end this blog post and then make a THIRD post containing the rest of my amazing experiences in Rio. Thanks again, and keep reading if you'd like.
"Traveling--It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." - Ibn Battuta