Our South American adventure starts in Rio. Rio is colourful, sunny and hectic, a real contrast to New Zealand. As we had planned to be in Rio during carnival we had booked our accommodation before we had even left the UK. It was nice to know we had a Airbnb waiting for us after a long flight!
Hugo and Patricia (our Airbnb hosts) welcomed us into their home and gave us loads of tips to explore the city we like a local. Gaia their puppy was also extremely cute and Nathan immediately had a friend to play with. Over the first few days we struggled with jet lag, not being able to sleep until 4am, it was a bit of nightmare but we tried to explore as much as we could.
We stared with a walk around the Lagoon, connected to the sea and located In the middle of Ipenema. Following Hugo’s instructions we headed to the park to start the trail up to the view point. It was pretty steep and Nathan patiently waited for me to catch my breath at a few spots along the way. When we reached the top we saw an amazing view over the lake and to the beach. We could also see Christ the redeemer in the other direction which was amazing.
On our way back to the apartment we picked up a costume for carnival. We had learnt from Hugo that most Brazilians have a different costume for each day of carnival – we were very unprepared. I saw some kids fairy wings which were pretty cheap so I picked them up along with lots of glitter. Nathan wanted to be the parrot from the film Rio, so we headed to a fabric shop to buy some material to make wings. Before we entered the store, I had practised what I was going to say in Portuguese. As I walked in the owner started speaking perfect English which made getting 1 meter of yellow fabric easier!
Back at the apartment I made Nathan a beak from a cereal box and created some make shift wings. Hugo and Patricia invited us to join them on the first day of carnival at a number of blocos (street parties).
The next day we woke up to music on the street, street sellers shouting Cervaja and people laughing and singing. We went out for a morning coffee before we put on our carnival costumes. We wandered to Cococabana beach, the street was full of people in wonderful costumes. After a couple of attempts to get coffee we settled for a beer and watched the people walk by in their colourful costumes.
We headed back to the apartment to be introduced to Hugo’s friends who we would be celebrating carnival with. We hopped onto the metro to Botofogo but unfortunately Nathan and I and a couple of other people were unable to get out at the right stop as it was so busy! We had to get off at the next stop and get back on another train to meet the rest of the group. On the train Nathan was surrounded by a group of guys who wouldn’t stop chatting to him. One of the girls was translating to me what they were saying. They were mainly asking if he was gay. Nathan had no idea what they were saying and just kept saying yes, which Hugo’s friends found hilarious. We rejoined the rest of the group and headed to the street where the bloco was. We danced for hours on the street along side a float before deciding we were ready for bed. After getting lost for a couple of hours and eating a massive pizza, we finally found the apartment!
I had read online about Santa Teresa and really wanted to check it out. It’s a colourful neighbourhood and has a old fashioned tram which you can ride on. Unfortunately there is hardly any information online and the tram was closed due to carnival. However, we wandered the streets and stop by the Escadaria Selarón the famous steps where Pharell and Snoop filmed the music video for Beautiful. The steps are wonderfully detailed. The artist is from Chile and collected tiles from all around the world! We wandered to the top of the hill hoping to see the Ruins and the Art Museum but again these were closed due to carnival! The streets are very European and there are beautiful flowers everywhere!
We headed back down the steps and wanted to find somewhere for lunch. As we were walking I heard Sophie Sophie Sophie from behind me. It was Roxanny, one of Hugo’s friends. Her and her boyfriend, Rui were having lunch and they invited us to join them. They told us to try Mejoira a national dish which was lovely. After lunch they told us to head to the most amazing graffiti in Rio which was close by. Graffiti in Rio is legal as they want to encourage artisits to create beautiful murals.
On our final day in Rio we decided to Hike Dois Imramos – the Two Brothers Mountain which looms over Ipenema beach. After reading a few blogs online and armed with a note written in Portuguese which read ‘please show me where the start of the Dois Irmanos walk is’ we headed off. First we jumped in a taxi to the edge of the favela, Videl. This cost around £7 the taxi driver seemed very confused as to why we were going to a favela but I assured him it was correct. On arrival at Videl we saw the Moto Taxis which would take us to the start of the walk (you can also get in a white bus which takes you to the start but we thought the moto taxi would be more fun). This cost £1.30 each. The road through Videl is windey and steep and Nathans driver overtook us and tried to make it into a race! I was clinging on to my drivers waist, so scared not to fall off! On arrival at what looked like a concrete football stadium we started the walk. We followed a path which took us to someone’s house and these ladies pointed us in another direction. I saw a police officer and asked him which way to which he just said follow the road to the right. We walked along the road to the end where we took some steps up which again took us to a house where there were a number of barking dogs! We then back tracked a bit and I showed my note to a lady in a shop who just pointed to a path and said ‘Arriba”. We followed the path and again seemed as if we was going into someone’s house. This time we were too embarrassed to go back so we just kept going. Walking along a concreat plinth around the back of a house. We heard talking and Nathan warned me that there might be something dodgy going on up there and maybe we should turn back. I said that I would keep going and then realised the people were talking French! I hoped this meant we were going in the right direction. Finally we had found the path and started our walk to the summit!!
On the way down we decided to skip the bike ride and walk down through the winding streets of Vidil. Everyone was very friendly and we felt safe. Although as we reached the bottom a police car came driving up the streets with the policeman in the passengers side holding his gun out of the window. Pretty intimidating!
Overall we were daunted by Rio in the beginning however it’s a very friendly place and we did not encounter any trouble however we were cautious and kept our valuables hidden.
We spent our last evening watching the sunset over Ipenema Beach drinking a capihena and listening to the local music. Absolute bliss.