We woke afresh at 7:45 the next morning, no jet lag and a good twelve hours of sleep. At the communal breakfast table we ate toast, coffee and cake whilst roaring planes flew low overhead. Outside a hummingbird looked for food.
It was still overcast but the clouds were high enough not to impede views. We gambled and decided to spend the day at Christo do Redentor. With directions from Rich we walked down into Laranjeiras around to Corcovado train station, where tourists can get a red cog train up the hill to the foot of the famous statue.
The next train was two hours away! Ah well, we bought our tickets and avoided the ticket pedalling taxi drivers at the entrance. Now, how to occupy ourselves while we wait? This area of town is mostly residential.
Further up the hill was Largo do Boticario, a colourful but dilapidated 19th century mansion. Moss grew thick on sky blue walls, window shutters were broken, and the grand wooden doors had seen better days.
The whole time we stayed in Rio there was an ongoing fear about protecting our valuables; not making the SLR camera too obvious, etc. In this secluded place we first felt comfortable enough to get some snaps.
On the way up we passed a gang of shady looking guys. One down the road appeared to be a spotter, he’d gesture to the group, and they’d start their routine. One guy came out into the road, pretending to direct a bus as it turned, another tried to divert a car away from the turning bus but up a very steep hill that led to a favela. We didn’t see anyone fall for the scam, but who knows what would happen if a tourist in a rental had taken the bait.
With still an hour to go we explored the nearby church, a grand circular building with beautiful stained glass. It was rest-bite from the touristness going on outside, where coaches were reversing, horns honking and traffic was heavy. With a few minutes to go, we grabbed lunch from a grocers.
Beneath rows of flags, in the station, we boarded the two carriage cog train. Sitting on the right, facing down the hill gives the best views. The train set-off, chugging up the hill, gradually climbing to the summit. It took about half an hour, the trees occasionally subsiding to reveal views of Rio and its beaches below.
At the top, up some steps and there he is, Christ the Redeemer, arms outstretched in all his glory. The viewing platform is rammed with people, many crouching to the floor to get the tight angled photo of the statue, others spreading their arms out wide in the familiar pose. Around the edges people jostled for the best views.
Below us Rio looked magnificent. We took all the photos we could imagine, and then some more. Down over Ipanema, and views of the lagoon, where a helicopter landed on the large yellow H. Then out towards Botafogo and the sugarloaf, cable cars going up and down, with Niteroi just visible out across the sea. Favelas everywhere, towers of rickety shacks popping up on the hills and between tower blocks. Rain lashed down and we wiped the lens clean.
Of course the pictures rarely give the view justice. You can’t capture the dizzying wind, the sounds of birds in the forest, or that vertiginous feeling of looking over the edge.
Then for 30 minutes in the entire day the sun returned, the views cleared and on a quiet bench behind the redeemer we shared our picnic lunch before heading back down.
Sam had the camera on the route down, and she probably snapped a few hundred images of blurry trees. And then we walked home again, back through Laranjeiras, stopping once for a delicious cinnamon cappuccino amongst the half decorated Christmas trees.
Back at the hotel we relaxed on the hammocks, read our guide and played with the tortoise, unwilling to test whether he really did eat toes. Four new guys arrived, also from London, and we shared our stories so far. They’d just flown in from Sao Paulo. They weren’t sure whether to stay, the place seemed too far ‘away from the action’, but we sung its praises and they warmed to it.
For dinner we booked a ‘top-rated’ Bahian restaurant in Copacabana, “Siri Mole & Cia”. It was rush hour so we walked down to the metro in the dark, traipsing through the wet streets with an umbrella. From Ipanema we found our place, the menu looked pricey, but we’d booked and there’s no way we were hunting around for somewhere else. It looked busy for a Monday night.
Positive reviews adorned the walls, and our Lonely Planet’s description sold it to us. We were looking forward to trying traditional Bahian cuisine which has African roots. The moqueca and vatapa were recommended. I ordered a manioc flour and prawn vatapa, and Sam had the ‘fish’ moqueca, along with the optional couvert. We erred on the side of caution, the prices really were astronomical, but we expected the finest cuisine.
We should have noticed something when the couvert was merely tuna mayo on stale bread, but we gave them the benefit of the doubt. When our meals did arrive Sam’s was average but mine was downright horrible, a yucky orange sludge that lacked any flavour or seasoning. We were aggrieved to even pay for it, but at Michelin star prices, and with such fabulous reviews, we felt conned. We cannot possibly fathom how such an atrocious place reached such accolade. It had the feel and taste of a restaurant that begs for business with a tout. We blindly assumed price was proportional to quality.
We left quickly and got a taxi home. Alas, we were put off trying any other Bahian cuisine. I put earplugs in and mistakenly fell asleep on top of the covers, a perfect feast for the mosquitoes in waiting. Don’t sleep on top of the covers. Spray and protect.