The Girl in
April 23, 2007
I arrived into the main bus station in Rio early this afternoon. It was time for me to find a taxi to make my way out to Ipanema.
I have to say that I did everything right. I repeat: I did everything right.
Asked for the price before getting in? Check.
Asked to have him use the meter? Check.
Watched him turn on the meter and saw 4 reials flash on the screen? Check.
It wasn’t until five minutes into the trip when I realized there was a problem. I checked the meter. There was nothing on it. I
motioned to the meter. He nodded his head and pushed a button and it showed the number ‘4’ – the same number that it said when
we left the bus station. I don’t speak Portuguese so I couldn’t really say what my concerns were. But I now had the thought that I
was being taken for a fool. I couldn’t do anything at this point so I was just going to sit in the car and deal with things once I got to
the place I was staying.
We got there. He punched some numbers into his calculator (as nothing was on the meter). The final calculation? Wait. Before I say
the number I need to point out that this ride was just from the main bus terminal to Ipanema Beach. Okay. Now I can proceed. He
showed me the number – 160 reials! This is the equivalent to $80 US! To put it in perspective, this amount is $10 US more than it
was to fly from Salvador to Rio! Luckily there were two guys working in the cab. As one guy was giving me the insanely ludicrous
price, the other guy (who had no idea to my objections) was getting my bags out of the trunk. I grabbed my bags, gave the guy a 50
reial note and got the heck out of there. I would come to find out at the place that I am staying that it should be around 40 reials for
the ride (she was absolutely blown away by the amount the cabbie tried to charge me). So it was only $5 US that I missed out on.
No big deal. It was more the frustration of the whole situation that bothered me.
But now I was in Ipanema. I could finally enjoy myself. It’s actually a holiday today in Rio (Sao Gorge Day) so a lot of the shops are
closed. No big deal. Because the main source of entertainment (the BEACH) was alive and kicking! I parked myself on the sand and
became a People Watcher Extraordinaire. I did have a couple of café breaks but this was where I spent the better part of the day.
Ipanema Beach at sunset was a beautiful sight. Lights started to trickle up the closest mountain. The shades of color in the sky
ranged from mauves to purples. While people were still out, there was a sense of calmness to the area.
April 24, 2007
After waiting for two hours, Michelle and Clarke finally arrived! (I would come to find out that they opted to take the long and
cheap way of getting into town using the airport shuttle. Would have been nice to have a bit of forewarning about this so that I didn’
t rush to get to the hotel so early in the morning just to sit around and wait for two hours. I made them buy me lunch to compensate
for my time lost in the matter.)
As it goes when my sister meets up with me, she had already done her extensive research on Rio and the different things to see and
do out here. This always makes my job easy. She’ll say something like “Do you want to go to Santa Teresa? It’s near the center.”
And I’ll simply reply by saying “Sure. Why not?” even though I don’t have a clue what Santa Teresa is.
So that is how we ended up taking the tram up to Santa Teresa.
It was on our way to the tram (which was almost the equivalent of a cable car) that Michelle warned me and Clarke that it is
common for people from the favelas (i.e. the Brazilian slums) to hop on along the way and then steal things from people on board. I
love comforting thoughts like this.
We got on in a colorful area which was Santa Teresa. This was when Michelle informed us that we had to follow the path of the
tracks while we were out here – if we ventured off of this path, it might be favela-city that we head into. We heeded Michelle’s
advice - I wasn’t really in the mood to give up my stuff with the aid of a knife pointing at me just yet.
Santa Teresa: Some great street art (i.e. graffiti). Some great views. Some great buildings. Some shady people we wanted to steer
the hell away from.
We were on our tram ride back to the center of town. I missed some great views on the ride up since I was in the middle of the row.
On this ride, I made it a point to sit on the end. The tram made its way to where I could see the Christ statue on top of the far-away
hill. I had my camera in hand to take a picture. I was looking out and this was my internal monologue: Ohhhh. There’s Christ.
Ohhhh (as I am turning my head further back to continue to get the view)… There’s…a favela man! At this point my camera
went directly into my bag and I handed the entire thing to my sister who was in the middle. The favela man was basically breathing
down my neck. So, in my mind, this guy could have grabbed my bag and ran off at any moment. Paranoia is not something I like to
practice but sometimes it is necessary. I’m not saying that he had anything shady in mind…but there is one thing I have learned
while traveling through South America: everybody is a potential thief. Does this sound a bit mean and uncalled for? Possibly. I have
come to believe that if you don’t pass judgments out here you’re a naïve idiot. It’s just the way it goes. I can only say this because I
was that naïve idiot when I was in Santiago. That little experience has toughened me up which I probably needed a bit of.
The metro dropped us off at the Copa…Copacabana…the hottest spot north of…
Okay. Still working on getting that song out of my head. It’s not an easy thing to do (it has replaced ‘Girl from Ipanema’ for the time
being). Anyway, we were now at the most famed part of Rio: Copacabana Beach. Even though I like the Ipanema Beach area better,
there was something wonderful about walking down the promenade next to this massive expanse of sand.
Now I just need to get this song out of my head. I wonder what ‘Copa’ Barry is even talking about since this is not north of Havana.
At least I don’t think it is…
Past the end of Copacabana Beach is a pretty steep rock/hill-looking thing. This is what they call ‘Pão do Açucar’…or as us gringos
call it ‘Sugar Loaf’. I’ve never actually seen a loaf of sugar but maybe this is what it would look like?
Anyway, this is where we went to watch the sunset. Wow. Talk about a million-dollar view (that we got at a steal of $18).
The sun works pretty quickly out here. For that reason we got to enjoy a series of scenes: while it was still sunny out to when the
sun dropped behind the clouds to when the different colors were forming in the sky to when only lights against the dark sky were
And the night would only get better once dinner time rolled around…
Aside from having taxi rides being divisible by three, another wonderful thing about having a couple of traveling companions is that
I now have people to eat at nice restaurants with. This is just not the same to do it by yourself…especially when there are several
things on the menu that look really good and you want to try them all…as was the case tonight. We went to a restaurant called
Bazzar and I must say that everything was sooooo good! Even things that sounded a bit on the weird side (filet mignon with an
apricot sauce serve with rice mixed with a creamy brie). Since our stomachs are our way to our hearts (more so with me and
Michelle than with Clarke), our hearts are very happy right now.
April 25, 2007
We started our morning off by heading out to Corcovado to see Jesus Christ.
Yup. Two Jewish girls on their way to see Jesus…
Perched way up high on a hill in the middle of the city stands Jesus. Yesterday, I was saying hello to him from afar at Sugar Loaf (I
felt like Mr. Christ might like a little informal conversation – I feel like he’s a humble man and likes it when people take a break
from the kneeling down and praying to him). Today I was standing underneath him practically looking up at his nostrils. Let me
remark on his amazing stature. Almost intimidating. Almost. But then I remembered that Jesus loves everyone and the
intimidation passed. I also must say that Jesus has one of the best views in Rio. Life isn’t so bad if you spend every day looking out
at Copacabana Beach, Ipanema Beach, Sugar Loaf and Macaranã (the fútbol stadium that Jesus has grown to love after being in
Brazil all these years). Before leaving, I confessed to him that I used his name in vain yesterday while expressing my amazement at
the views from Sugar Loaf. A helicopter flew overhead at this point. Does that mean I am forgiven? I am going to take it as a ‘yes’…
The rest of the day was spent in Leblon and Ipanema and along the beach in those two areas. Amazing how many hours can be
spent staring at water and staring at guys playing foot volley (basically volleyball with the use of everything but your hands). It was
our last night in Rio – we had to take the opportunity to watch the sunset along the beach.
April 26, 2007
Enjoyed our last morning reading magazines on Ipanema Beach. I have to admit that I forgot how much I love just flipping through
magazines. The simple pleasures.
Now we are at the airport ready to board our plane en route to Iguazu Falls….
|Me and Michelle with our frozen caipirinhas.
|Me, Clarke and Michelle on top of Sugar Loaf.