Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Rio, Thursday, December 10, 1986

Went up to Pão de Açucar (Sugarloaf Mountain) and took a photo of "Guanabara mitológica" - a lovely statue of the mythical personification of Guanabara bay overlooking that eponymous body of water.

Well, I went, I saw, I sprained my foot (almost). Sugarloaf, Ipanema, Copacabana, all in one afternoon! Call me supertourist.

This city contrasts gorgeous, paradisal beaches and coastal vistas with mediaeval scenes of maimed (or shamming) beggars, children cadging cigarettes and miserable poverty. I've been to the bus station and the beaches - two ends of the continuum. Two people, a man and a woman, each carrying a baby, asked me for money at the bus station within two minutes of each other when I went to buy my ticket to Bahia. To the first - the woman - I gave; the man was not so lucky. I could hemorrhage pity.

After stopping back at the hotel and calling my future hosts in Salvador, I took off for Sugarloaf (the maid took the penny I left out on the shelf, as a test. Nothing else seemed to be missing, though. It was eerie, almost as though I had manipulated her into taking it.)

I took a bus almost as far as the cable-car terminal at Praça Vermelha, near Praia Vermelha and its reddish sands (must be clay content). I saw the beach as we ascended. It was a bit frightening, lurching slowly up the hill as awesome vistas spread out before us. We stopped first at Morro da Urca - very commercial, but nice view. "Climbing" Sugarloaf has been a goal of mine for as long as I've known it existed. I really feel as though I've been to Rio now - even more so than after the "showpy". I now have more postcards - I need a ton to fulfill all my obligations. I must write to my sister as soon as I get to Salvador.

I had to pay my respects to Ipanema - and it was incredibly lovely, with coastal mountains curving away into mist, clear, cascading, blue-green waves, white sand, people of all shapes, sizes, ages, colours (mainly shades of brown). I trucked back to Copacabana through side streets, as the two beaches are separated by a fort - I saw quite a few military installations today, and at least one mini-machine gun. The walk along Copacabana's famous tiled sidewalk soon became a trudge. I bought a Guaraná soft drink from a Brazilian from the Pomeranian-speaking German colony near Rio (Espirito Santo). Each of us thought the other was Argentinian!

I hurt my ankle trying to catch a bus, took the back streets, trudged some more, and finally hopped a bus back to the hotel. The Hotel Novo Mundo rented me a room for March 2 - what luck! I was afraid I'd have to spend the night in the street. Even so, I don't think I'll get much sleep - Carnaval on Fat Tuesday!

My experience of Rio has always to be bittersweet: a delicious seafood meal (Mariscada a la Carioca - how appropriate), balanced by overpriced, overpoured beer that took the bill to nearly as much money as I'd brought (no tip for the poor innocent waiter - I needed it for the taxi). The maitre-d' had told the taxi driver I was going to Copacabana - much further than just across the park.

The driver was put out when he realised how short the fare was but I promised to make it up to him. I ran up to my room to get more money - but the key jammed in the lock! What slapstick.

Well, the concierge got me unstuck, I paid the driver, and even though I tipped him I'm sure he short-changed me by 10 cruzados - not a big deal, less than 50 US cents. Oh, by the way, I found the penny. All in all, though, I'm thrilled at "my day in Rio". Having such a short time to enjoy it makes me appreciate it more.

Everyone seems very disillusioned with the police - the taxi driver said that the police rob people and book them for resisting arrest if they fight back! (He was a pure Carioca, by the way. I understood about 50%, the rest I intuited.)

Tomorrow, the great adventure - 27+ hours on a bus up route 101 to Salvador!