Rising determined but no less tired we sluggishly took breakfast. Tom was moving on to Ilha Grande from some R&R so with a heavy heart we said our goodbyes. The day before I’d briefly crossed paths with Sarah from Baltimore in the US, a teacher who’d been invited to Rio on a 6 month contract to teach graffiti to under privileged children, and we met properly this morning. I’ve been fascinated by graffiti and street art since we set off on the trip so I doubtless bored the poor girl to tears quizzing her over how she came to be involved in such a subject. We also met Sebastian from Germany who joined us for our day plans. We’d promised to email Raquel and Vanessa with our plans and so somewhat late in the day I shot them an email saying we’d see them at Christ the Redeemer at 10:30am. We eventually set off and called for Emmy-Lou from Sweden at a hostel down the road. Emmy-Lou was in town for work as a journalist but had free time for a wander before a couple of long-arranged interviews later in the day. By the time we reached the train at the foot of our destination it was closer to 11am and our Portuguese friends were nowhere to be seen. Worried we’d missed them we set about sorting tickets for the next available train at 11:40 and eventually boarded and made our way up.
The sky was blue and the view over Rio typically spectacular if a little hazy. The crowds swelled up and down while we wandered round and took in big J.C. For me it’s synonymous with Rio so I was suitably impressed and enjoyed being somewhere I’d seen so many times before but never visited. Emmy-Lou parted company with us to make sure she didn’t miss her interviews and eventually we finished taking photos and made our own way down having failed to meet Raquel and Vanessa. On the train down we all took turns at dozing, the relentlessness of the weeks’ events taking their toll on us. We reached the bottom and who do we find but Raquel and Vanessa who pointed to a note they’d hastily scrawled and stuck on the wall addressed to us all informing us that they’d mistakenly gone to Sugar ‘Love’ that morning and upon realising their mistake high-tailed it over to J.C. They’d been just about to leave when we arrived back from the summit. We took great comedic delight in informing them that it was actually called Sugar Loaf but we have now re-christened it Sugar Love forever more. Raquel and Vanessa booked to return for sunset and the reunited team set off for Sugar Love.
Cable cars and good views followed before a tired team parted once again, our Portuguese contingent off for their sunset rendezvous with the big man on the hill and the rest of us catching a bus, missing our stop and having to walk back from Centro. Flo and Steve took the opportunity to fire off post cards, Fi briefly stealing Steve’s wallet while he wasn’t looking to give him a fright. When we got back a siesta was on the cards after chilling on the couch. We got to know Suzanne from the US, a well travelled lady who once again put us to shame. Raquel and Vanessa arrived as it made more sense to come to us than go back to their Copacabana hostel and everyone took a powernap.
People began to reconvene for another late one, with the day team and Eduardo all deciding to head out for food before taking a look at a local jazz night we’d been told about. After some advice from Juliano on the reception we returned to the Escaderia Selaron in Lapa and found a close-by cheap restaurant with great Brazilian food. Eduardo and I shared the ribs and we all shared some Brahma and talked the night away. Before we knew it we’d past 1am so we made our way through the streets to a tiny one room venue crammed full of people and over-flowing into the now expected street party. We met the departing Sarah and the girls she’d come out with briefly before they all went back to the hostel and we wandered inside to see the band. We stayed for a couple of songs because when you hear a 15 minute jazz-medley across sax, bass, piano and drums of ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ in a downtown Rio dive bar surrounded by far more Brazilians than tourists you know that it’s not going to get any better than that! Eduardo heroically took on the gentlemanly task of sticking with the never wilting Portuguese ladies while Germany and England went home for some shut-eye.
Thursday morning saw the departure of the German gents Flo and Steve around 9:30 for their trip onward to Sao Paulo. We made sure we were up to see them off then spent most of the rest of the morning looking at options for transferring to Campo Grande which would put us close to the Bolivian border but with options of visiting the Pantanal or Bonito before we left Brazil. By midday we’d achieved nothing other than an understanding that most Brazilian websites are incapable of processing British credit cards. I’d been tasked by Nicole our Canadian friend with seeing about securing tickets for the evening football game between Fluminense (second in the league) and Santos (much vaunted player Neymar’s club). After a lot of work – and notable help from Eduardo – I managed to score tickets via the web and information on how to get there. I had nothing but a print out confirmation and instructions that I should slide my visa card at the turnstile and we’d all be let in… it was worth a shot.
In the afternoon Fi and I made our way to Copacabana to resume the search for swimwear for Fi. After a lot of walking we both managed to score something to swim in and nipped into another per kilo place for a late lunch / early dinner before jumping back on the bus to our hostel. Not long after we returned Nicole arrived straight from the conference and we eventually got ourselves together and started the journey to Engenhão. The first step was the tube which went smoothly enough but in a moment of madness I side stepped the train in favour of a taxi which only resulted in us being stuck in a taxi as the match started. After a bit of running, a rapid knock-back of beer, a successful and elegantly simple Visa swipe and entry and a comical jog up the massive concourse we were watching the game only 10 minutes after kick off. It was a pretty good game with a great crowd despite the low attendance of just short of 16,000 – Fluminense won 3-1 and Neymar was nowhere to be seen, away on international duty for the match against South Africa. We had a good laugh and leaving the stadium with the drummers was like a mini-carnival in itself. We caught the last train back to Central then hopped in a taxi back before saying goodbye to Nicole and hitting the hay.
The following morning we were back onto sorting our departure and once again foiled at every turn but enjoying the company of Sarah (who I again quizzed to within an inch of her life about her magical job as a graffiti teacher), Sebastian, Laura (from Belgium but with the best true English accent I’ve heard in a long time thanks to her long stint in London) and Suzanne who had many a tale to tell. By midday we’d torn our hair out enough and decided to get out and see what we still wanted to of the city. We’d also been forced to pay for a more expensive double room thanks to the hostel being booked out for Independence Day celebrations which we moved into – it was a nice change with en suite after the rest of the week in the 10-bed dorm. We arranged to meet Nicole later in the evening and set off into Lapa. We snapped the Arches again and the Escaderia Selaron before hopping on a bus to Botafogo to snap a few photos of an interesting head sculpture sat in the water of the bay at the moment, then on to Ipanema to finally walk the beach. The latter was crammed with Brazilians given that it was a national holiday with bronzed beach bodies, girls of all sizes and ages in tiny bikinis, Speedo sporting gents playing keepy-uppy to a standard Milton F.C. will never reach and beer everywhere – of course we were loaded with camera gear and thanks to the dietary minefield of travel currently feeling far from comfortable stripping down to beachwear so we trotted on and eventually made our way back to the hostel.
Raquel and Vanessa returned for one last night so we lined up dinner and a waltz around Lapa with them, Suzanne and Nicole while Jens also returned but after a long day was far too tired to join us. Nicole arrived and we decided to nip back to Baby Galeto for another cheap Brazilian meal. After filling up and chatting we wandered over to the Lapa street party where we got chatting with a Bolivian lady who served us some cold beers and declared her intention to write a book called “The Truth about Drugs in Bolivia” amongst other things. She was a riot but afterwards many of us were starting to tire – except of course for Raquel and Vanessa whose superior Portuguese genetics keep them on top form always. They elected to stay while the rest of us returned and went to bed.