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Rio de Janiero

semi-overcast 34 °C
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9th February
Last night we went out to dinner and there were people everywhere in fancy dress celebrating the Carnivale. One block down from us there were celebrations in full swing with dancing and music. It was really nice as it was a family affair. We had only just retired to our hotel room when we suddenly heard loud music outside the hotel. The block party had got underway and was now travelling along the streets with more and more people joining in. There was a truck carrying musicians and dancers on board with big load speakers. As the truck moved along so did the hordes behind it, sambaing their way down the street. Shane took a movie as photo’s would not do it justice. We will try and put it in the blog at some stage. But here is a photo.
This morning we headed up to the Tijuca Rainforest in an open jeep. This rainforest is just a few kilometres from the streets of Rio and is the world's largest urban rainforest. Contained within the city limits, this lush jungle is home to over 1,600 species of plants. The contrast between the stone jungle of Rio and the lush green backdrop of Tijuca is amazing.
We stopped to feel the refreshing spray of the Cascatinha (Taunay’s) Waterfall.
We then took a hike in the rainforest, where we saw some lovely blue butterflies but they would not stop still long enough to take a photo. We were shown the sloths favourite trees and what was really interesting was that the tree had ants inside it. When you knock the tree like a sloth was climbing up it ants came out from nowhere. These ants bother the sloths and therefore they do not stay long to eat all the leaves which would then kill the tree. I would have loved to see a sloth but we didn’t.
We did however see some Capuchin monkey’s that were eating jack fruit. They were swinging around in the trees and it was hard to get a photo of them sitting still.
We then stopped at the Vista Chinesa (Chinese View). It got it's name from the architecture and the many Chinese that lived around the area.
We were to soak in the impressive views of Rio (well that is what the brochures say), I guess it depends on the weather. Although it was a nice day at sea level we were fogged in.
The trip back took ages. All the roads to Copacabana were choked. The Carnivale celebrations were once again underway and the residents of Rio never know when or where celebrations are going to take place. We were eventually dropped near our hotel. We could see the Copacabana Beach and it was absolutely packed with people having lots of fun and the music was extremely loud. It is hard to describe the atmosphere here; you really have to be here to see it. Once again there were many dress up pirates, people with funny coloured hair, colourful outfits and even dogs had been dressed up with shoes and glasses. It was time to get our own colourful pieces to celebrate the next few days of Carnivale. We don't have full outfits but have bought some fun things to wear. Stay tuned.

10th February
We had a big day today visiting the key sights of Rio. We had been told that there were going to be thousands of people in Rio for the Carnivale including 8 cruise ships so instead of going it alone we had asked Magdalena from Enchanting South America to arrange this big day for us. We actually thought that we were going to be on a bus however Christian a local guide arrived with his car at 8am. So off we headed with our own personal guide. The weather was looking promising although first thing in the morning The Cristo Redentor was still under cloud, so we headed for Sugarloaf Mountain.
Sugarloaf Mountain is a peak at the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean. It rises 396 metres above the harbour, its name is said to refer to its resemblance to the traditional shape of concentrated refined loaf sugar.
The mountain is one of several hills of granite and quartz that rise straight from the water's edge around Rio. To reach the summit you take 2 glass walled cable cars, each holds 65 people, and runs along a 1400-metre route. The first ascends to the shorter Morro da Urca, 220 meters high.
The second car ascends to Pão de Açúcar. I was a bit nervous as I don’t like heights much, however it was a really smooth trip and as we went nice and early the cars were not packed.
We had some fantastic views of Rio.
There was no rush so we spent considerable time at both points taking in the scenery. At the top of Pão de Açúcar we sat and had a drink. Christian suggested Guarana – it is a Brazilian softdrink. It was really nice.
We then decended back down.
Christian then took us for a drive around the centre of town. He had prewarned us that last night there had been a Carnivale block party and that apparently there had been two million people crammed into the streets. There was still rubbish everywhere and as we got out of the car to take a walk he warned us that it was likely to smell like pee pee. Boy he was right. In places there was what looked like water on the paths but I wasn’t going anywhere near it. He kept apologising that we had to see Rio in that state, but when you have that many people at a party it is likely to get messy.
We visited the Cathedral of St Sebastion of Rio de Janiero. He is the patron saint of Rio. This Cathedral was built between 1964 and 1979. The New Cathedral, as it is sometimes called, is located in the center of the city. Conical in form and with a 96 metres internal diameter and an overall height of 75 metres, it has a standing-room capacity of 20,000 people. The cathedral's four stained glass windows soar 64 metres from floor to ceiling. With architecture inspired by the Mayan pyramids of Mexico, the conical shape is believed to give proximity to God.
We then visited Cinelândia which is the popular name of a major public square in the centre of Rio. Unfortunately there was quite a lot of rubbish and stalls still around from the block party. One of the buildings was the Municipal Theatre. It was lovely. There were several colonial buildings around the square.
Our final stop was The São Bento Monastery which is a true treasure not usually on visitors radar. It was founded in 1590 and construction of the church started in 1633. It is still used today by the Benedictine monks. The inside of the church was amazing. It was all carved wood with gold everywhere.
We headed back to Copacabana for lunch. By the time we headed off again at 2pm the cloud had lifted and we were in for a real treat. We were heading for Corcovado Mountain. Upon arrival at the bottom of the mountain we took a cog-wheel train to the top. The construction of the railway started in 1883 and completed in 1884. It was the first electried railway in the country. For decades thereafter tourists and locals alike went up to the top of Corcovado Mountain to enjoy the views of Rio de Janeiro and to picnic. There was no Christ statue at this time.
After 20 minutes we arrived at the top. After taking a lift and 2 escalators the moment had arrived. There he was The Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). This is a statue of Jesus of Nazareth. It is considered the largest art deco statue in the world and is the 5th largest statue of Jesus in the world. It is 30.1 metres tall and then also has a 6 metre pedestal. It is 19 metres wide. It weighs 635 tonnes. It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, was constructed between 1926 and 1931 and is located at the peak of the 700 metre Corcovado Mountain. It is now one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Until you see it up close it is hard to explain what an impact it has on you.
Although the statue is majestic what impresses most visitors is the panoramic view. Some of the major attractions can be seen including the Sugar Loaf where we had been in the morning and Guanabara Bay.
In the distance you can also see Copacabana where we are staying
Here is the lagoon where the rowing is going to be held for the Olympics. Behind the lagoon was Ipanema Beach.
Christian then drove us to see some of the other beaches south of Copacabana. We visited Sao Conrado where the hang gliders land. We sat and had a drink as we watched them land.
We then visited Ipanema Beach.
The traffic was terrible as there were once again several roads shut for Carnivale. We finally got back to the hotel at 6.30pm. Again a long day but wow it was worth it. I think that it is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited for the amazing scenery.

Posted by shaneandnicola 16:24 Archived in Brazil

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