Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When I think where I was a year ago today – standing in the pouring rain at 4.30am for the dawn service while the Police Commissioner’s umbrella added insult to injury by flooding the Minister and I every time he moved – today’s gloomy weather didn’t seem too bad!
None the less, we had a tough call to make in the face of very fickle weather – did we risk going up the mountain today to see ‘Cristo Redentor’ or wait for tomorrow when it could be worse? We had just about decided to put it off when the clouds broke and a patch of blue signalled it was time to go, gO, GO! No time for backpacker credibility, we jumped in a taxi and headed to the funicular that would carry us up. Of course once we got there, we had to queue with our fellow meteorological gamblers.
Eventually we made it to the summit only to discover that Jesus had his head back in the clouds… and so did we – total whiteout! Hundreds of useless photos were taken all around every time he became vaguely visible, the disappointment was palpable. But then, a miracle, the cloud parted followed by a chorus of clicking cameras and squeals of delight. The views over Rio were breathtaking – it was immediately evident that its not just the statue on its own that qualified as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. When our camera’s could take no more, we bet on our luck holding and hot-footed it over to Sugar Loaf Mountain for sunset.
We’d been warned of queues the day before by fellow guests at La Maison but we walked straight in and took the first cable car to the top of Urca Mountain. By now the sun was shining, the sky a perfect blue – we decided to take our time here at the halfway point given sunset was still a way off. Time to try another local delicacy – acai – now hailed as a miracle detoxifying berry, it’s been a staple in the Brazilian diet for many years and is surprisingly delicious when served like frozen yoghurt.
We climbed aboard the second cable car up to Sugar Loaf Mountain where even more spectacular views awaited us. Birds swarmed overhead – hawks and frigid birds which Bec and I instantly recognised from the Galapagos Islands by their exaggerated art deco bat like appearance. Then suddenly, something I hadn’t even considered that we might see – little monkeys scurried by pausing only long enough for their close ups. I hadn’t seen monkeys in the wild before so I was absolutely giddy with excitement!
The sun began to set, we took up our positions at the look out and I have to admit, I felt the empty space next to me and had a moment as the lights twinkled on in sugar city.
My battery went flat, Bec’s memory card was full – time to take a deep breath and reclaim the night. As is often the case with holidays, meal times get thrown out of whack and often missed so we were in that nowhere zone between too-late-lunch and too-early-dinner by the time we got to the restaurant of choice. I saw an opportunity and seized it as I coerced Beck into the ‘bum bar’ next door (amazing what a full bladder and available toilet will convince someone to do!) and we had a great time knocking back a few long necks of Antarctica Cerveja with the locals.
When appropriate Brazilian dinner time came (not before 9pm please!), we went next door for feijoada – a stew of black beans, beef and pork. Luckily they were able to do a veggie version for me which was served up with another ubiquitous local delight – manioc flour made from cassava or so they say – best we can tell, it was just good old fashioned sand from the beach at the end of the street!
Back at the hotel, we looked up again at Jesus shining brightly in the distance. Only now, having been up there, we realised he had his back to us and that it was indeed a holy moon we could see lighting up the night sky.