Rio de Janeiro

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Without a doubt Rio de Janeiro is one of the most photogenic, dramatic and beautiful cities I have ever visited, the views of the city itself are one of its biggest draws. It used to be the capital of Brazil until the purpose-built Brasilia showed up in the 60s, and it is the second largest city with something between seven and twelve million inhabitants, depending on when you stop counting.

Rio is also one of the most dangerous cities I have visited, based on chances of being mugged or worse. We took plenty of precautions and managed to stay out of trouble, staying in the safest part of the city, Ipanema, and keeping off the beaches at night. We never saw any signs of trouble or felt threatened at any point, and had a blast.

Pao de Azucar

Sugar Loaf Mountain and Botafogo district, as viewed from the top of Corcovado. The cable car takes you to the top of the mountain, about four hundred metres high, where we sat on the terrace, drank beer and watched the sun go down.

Cristo Redentor, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, stands on top of Corcovado watching over the City of God. Having done our research, we knew to steer well clear of the actual City of God, itself a favela. The statue was built in the 1930s to give Rio a distinctive international landmark, and is as synonymous with Rio as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, or the Burj al Arab to Dubai.


Cable car

The cable car which takes you up to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain, as ridden by James Bond in Moonraker, and destroyed by Jaws. A student project had left a Vauxhall Corsa hanging from one of the redundant cables, you can see it about halfway down. Copacabana Beach is on the top left of the photo.

I was really pleased to spot this ring-tailed lemur on Sugar Loaf, until I was reliably informed that it couldn't be a ring-tailed lemur, as they only live in Madagascar. Clearly being nothing of a zoologist, I have no idea what it is, but it was having fun hopping about the trees.

Ring-tailed lemur?!

Sunset in Rio

We were treated to a full sunset view from Sugar Loaf towards Botafogo. Corcovado is the highest peak in the background, with the statue floodlit.

Brazil's shanty towns or favelas are notoriously dangerous, there was only one which we could hope to venture into and come out in one piece, with a guide of course. Rocinha is home to over a quarter of a million people, and is the only favela to be officially recognised as a district of the city proper.

Rocinha favela

Music in Rocinha

In Rocinha this cheery minstrel played "The Girl From Ipanema" for us, and then he sold us his CD.

Close view of some of the narrow passageways in the favela - there is only really one road which snakes up the hill, everything else is carried by mule or by hand.

Stairway to...?

View over Rocinha

At the top of Rocinha we could see right down to Sao Conrado, one of the richest districts in the city. Quite a contrast.

In order to get a better view of Sao Conrado, we leapt off a five hundred metre cliff and glided over the top of it! This is one of few activities I've taken part in where signing a death waiver was required. The next was visiting the North Korean border.

Hangliding launch ramp

Sao Conrado beach hangliding

Of course I flew with my camera, but this is about the only half-decent snap I managed to get from the hanglider. I was more pleased about not dropping it. Sao Conrado beach, with Rocinha stretching up the hill in the distance.

Ipanema beach, four blocks from our hostel, with one of the many Rio mountains in the background. This is Morro dois Imraos, the Two Brothers Mountain. The tower of the Sheraton Grand helps give a scale of the mountains - they are big, with Corcovado itself being well over two thousand feet.

The girls from Ipanema

Lagoa do Ipanema

The view from Corcovado down to Ipanema, the stretch of land between Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and the ocean. Ipanema is the safest place to stay in Rio, much more so than Copacabana which is a favourite spot for muggers, due to the large number of tourists!

Once again the statue of Christ the Redeemer, who kept fading in and out of view with the cloud. It was a lot colder up here than down at beach level, and there was always some clown doing the arm thing in front of the statue! Myself included. I would see a very similar statue several years later, when visiting Lisbon.

Cristo Redentor

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