Chris's rant fest travel blog

Christ the Redeemer

Chris the Redeemer

Ipanema from Redeemer statue

Sugarloaf from Redeemer statue 1

Sugarloaf from Redeemer statue 2

Ruined hotel 1

Ruined hotel 2

Guy fishing in a canal that smelled like poo

Ipanema when sunny

Officer, I think my bike is 3rd from the bottom. Not sure...

Today the weather finally came right so I decided it was time to get my act into gear and see some of the touristy things for which Rio is famous. I started of with Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) as I thought this would provide a good viewpoint for the rest of the city. Although it was a little cloudy when I first arrived, this soon burnt off to supply amazing panoramic views of Rio. One of the reasons why Rio is such a striking city is that it has beautiful beaches, which are bordered by steep mountains hundreds of metres tall. The hill Cristo Redentor is on is a prime example of these.

I was going to take the bus to the start of the train - but the guys at the hostel kind of scared me a bit. They basically said that as a relatively big guy I should be fine - but to make sure I glared at anyone that looked at me funny, to scare them, , to be careful, to sit behind the driver, to be careful, to hide all valuables (e.g. camera), to be careful, to have a roll of loose $1 real bills I could give any would be robber and to be careful. After being told to be careful at least 1/2 dozen times I decided that the best way for me to be careful would be to grab a cab! I guess I am just a wuss - would have tried the bus if with someone else - but as it is - have no one to watch my back at the moment.

To get up the 700 metre climb, they have built a relatively unlikely electric railway system, which chugs up the at times 45 degree slope at a leisurely 15 km/hr. The transport to the top provided an excellent preview to what would be an amazing view. I spent a few hours walking around taking photos with the throngs of other tourists taking in the sights and looking at the statue.

The statue is also set in a massive forest / jungle park which has roads running through it and is bordered in places by favelas (which the guy at the hostel suggested - if you enter alone they will be sending my stuff back to the address supplied when I checked in! In 40 years he has never been to one...). That said, there were some apparently spectactular walks through the park - so I decided to have a look. Unfortunately I was the only gringo about - and after I had been stared at by a couple of slowly moving vans full of locals I decided enough was enough and headed back to the train. I guess all the talk of dangerous favelas kind of made me creep myself out. Also, at one point a cop car went past me and blocked the road - checking IDs and doing I don't know what else. Having heard so many rumors of crooked cops down here I decided I didn't want to know what they were doing and that this would be an appropriate time to head back to the train. Its pretty funny when you can't decide which is the biggest threat - the criminals or the crooked cops that are supposed to be making the city safe!

My uneasiness was not helped by the presence of an abandoned hotel at the start of the road into the park, which seemed to be inhabited mainly by monkeys and homeless people. The hotel looked to have been pretty flash once upon a time, and it certainly seemed like quite a South American thing to do to abandon it upon one of the major tourist locations rather than renovating it or turning it into something useful (gift shop? restaurant?...).

It was still pretty warm when I came off the Cristo Redentor mountain, so I decided to have a quick look at Ipenema's other major tourist attraction - its beach. Its pretty funny, there are zones all down the beach depending on your inclination - one for surfers, beautiful young people, gays, families with children, old guys in speedos, soccer / volley ball players, muscle heads etc. Although it was still around 29 degrees, the beach had lost the sun by this stage so people were leaving - but think I will go down during the day to check out the 'sights' at some stage tomorrow!

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