The last stop on our trip – Rio de Janeiro!
It was time for our last few days on this 175 days long adventure and we were definitely ready to spend the last days on our trip soaking in the sun on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro! The coastal city did not disappoint and we had a fantastic finish to 175 days of traveling around the globe.
We ended up at the Crab House hostel close to Ipanema Beach and woke up the next morning with blue skies and the tanning oil ready to be applied. Although the hostel was nice enough we decided to split our stay between Crab House on Ipanema beach and Yellow Mellow on Copacabana to get a proper feel for both beaches. After watching movies like City of God about the dark side of Rio I was ready for anything. It turned out that if you stay in the touristy areas and do not stray into the favelas the city to my eyes seemed perfectly safe. Not that the favelas are that dangerous for tourists, but this is again based on advice I have heard from others which in many cases is usually overrated.
Rio de Janeiro is the third largest city in Brazil and is the city in the southern hemisphere that receives the most international tourists. Although we missed out on the carneval and did not hear any Bossa Nova we still felt that we got to experience some of the things that have made Rio as famous as it is today.
We started of with a few days on the beach enjoying both Ipanema and Copacabana. The beaches were both pretty much what I had expected and I was not disappointed. They are both wide stretches of sand that have the ocean on one side and skyscrapers and apartment buildings on the other. As it is Brazil there was plenty of volleyball and football being played in the sand. At both beaches you have to pay a fee to be able to sit back and relax in one of the beach chairs. Contrary to my advice in countries like Italy and France I really recommend getting one of these chairs as the people running the beach bars where both nice and helpful and served a wide variety of refreshing drinks and snacks at relatively low prices. The caipirinhas there were definitely not on the weak side! It was nice to once again relax in the sun and two full days on the beach felt just right.
The next day we decided to do some sightseeing and booked a day trip with the company Brazil Expeditions. It was pretty much a private sightseeing tour of Rio from a jeep which suited us just fine. We started by driving up to one of the many hills in the National Parks surrounding Rio. As it was really cloudy we did not really get a good view of the city from above as we looked out from the launch platform of the local hang-gliding company. What we did find interesting here was a bunch of tiny monkeys that were probably the smallest balls of fur I have ever seen, they just begged to be photographed!
Our next stop was within the Tijuca national park where we stopped at Cascatinha Taunay, which was a tropical waterfall surrounded by lush rainforest and tropical flowers, before we headed towards a large cave up in the surrounding hills. It was nice to combine both the urban and the natural part of Rio in one trip as we did with Brazil Expeditions. What came next was supposed to be the highlight of the sightseeing, but due to bad weather it was hard to get both good pictures or a peak at the amazing view. It was another of the wonders of the world! The Christ Redeemer is a magnificent statue, considered to be the largest Art Deco statue in the world, which was located on top of the 700 meter high Corcovado mountain in the middle of Rio. It was easy to tell that the statue itself had become a tourist trap as there was now escalators that took you to the top. All in all it was worth the visit, and on a better day I am sure the view from the top of the mountain must be incredible. The statue itself is nice, but I still think that its place among the new seven wonders of the world is a bit out of place. Compared to wonders like Angkor Wat the Christ Redeemer seems a bit puny. But I never say no to another photogenic object!
We continued up into Santa Teresa for lunch. Santa Teresa was a part of the older districts of Rio, something that was easily visible by the architectural style and the charming old trolleybuses still used for public transport. Our last stop was probably my favorite one as “The Great Madness” or Escadaria Selarón as it is also called is probably the most artistic and original stairway that I will ever see. Escadaria Selarón is a set of world-famous stairs in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who claims it as “my tribute to the Brazilian people”. There are 250 stairs measuring 125 meters long which are covered in over 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world. It started out as one mans vision, but is now being shared around the world as people are sending Jorge tiles from their own country which he incorporates into his piece of art. It was an amazing place and I cannot imagine how much work it must have taken to finish this. Although it is always nice to explore places on your own we did not have much time left and it was nice for a change to be on a guided tour where we only had to sit back and enjoy the view presented to us. As we got back to the hostel we had yet another adventure planned for the day as we were going out to watch a proper Brazilian football match!
The match was between the local team Flamengo and the out of town team of Palmeiras. The game was to be played at the Maracana stadium which was massive! It is owned by the Rio de Janeiro State Government, it is named after the Maracanã neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. It was opened in 1950 to host the FIFA World Cup, and in the final game Brazil was beaten 2-1 by Uruguay. At this match there was a total of 199,854 people watching! The stadium currently seats 82,238 spectators which is still a lot more than you can find at a football stadium in Norway. The experience was amazing as the Brazilian football fans where crazy! Watching the fans was almost more fun than watching the game itself, and as we bumped into some Norwegians on the way into the stadium we ended up watching the game with them. It was a blast and I definitely recommend going to one of the games while in the city.
Our last day had finally arrived and we decided to use our last day on an excursion to the Sugar Loaf mountain. Sugarloaf Mountain (in Portuguese, Pão de Açúcar), is a peak situated in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean. Rising 396 meters (1,299 ft) above the harbor, its name is said to refer to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated refined loaf sugar. To reach the top we had to take two cable cars which in the end got us up to the main view point with a breathtaking view of Rio. It was the perfect way to end the trip as we stayed up there until the sun had set and we could see the lights from the city of Rio glimmer in the night. It had been an amazing 175 days with adventure, beautiful countries and amazing people. As we stood up on that mountain and watched the sun set it was also the closure of a great chapter in our own life. The 175days trip was over and it was time to head back to Norway.