Our day spent in Puerto Iguazu revolved around trying to find somewhere cheap to stay in Rio, which we soon found out doesn't exist. In the end we decided not to stay in either of the main tourist hubs, these being Copacabana and Ipanema. We instead opted for the slightly cheaper option of Catete. It was described as a more cultural area, and perhaps not as safe as the other two but it was cheaper!
The next day we were at the terminal in good time and began waiting for the bus. It ended up being about an hour late so we were really ready to get going by the time it pulled in. It was fully cama so the seats were really wide and they reclined. We were looking forward to being served up the meals and snacks which are usually surprisingly tasty, unfortunately this was not to be. We got through border control and continued across Brazil from West to East towards the coast. As the time ticked by we became more and more surprised that no food of any kind was being given out, and by now we were really quite hungry. Finally at about 8pm we pulled into a service station and we all fell out, and hurried off in search of some sustenance. I guessed that perhaps the food was free, and hovered around the restaurant trying to figure out what was going on. Speaking no Portuguese we couldn't exactly ask anyone. There was another couple doing the same thing and in the end they came up and asked us if we knew what was going on, which of course we didn't. After a little while it became apparent you had to pay which scuppered our chances as we had zero Brazilian Real and there was no ATM. Thankfully the other couple, who had now introduced themselves as Tai and Christine from New Zealand, kindly offered to share their limited funds with us. We scurried over to the petrol station shop and bought a few snacks and sat down together to munch away on them. They were in South America for a couple of months before heading over to England where they were planning to spend up to five years. Christine had family in Newcastle and they were just going to get jobs and see what happened, I think they were mainly looking for a change of scenery.
The rest of the journey was smooth, we managed to get some money out at our breakfast stop and then it wasn't long before we were negotiating the traffic of Rio. When we got out at the bus station we were really on our guard, Rio is definitely a city where you need to be vigilant although in a way I think the fact that we were so aware may have prevented us from really enjoying ourselves, which was a shame. The first thing we did was book our ticket back to Foz do Iguazu (the town on the Brazilian side of the falls) for three days time and then we walked over to the local bus station. We really had no clue what was going on for quite some time, as I said before our Portuguese is seriously lacking but thankfully in the end we directed on to a bus and hoped it was going in the right direction. It was, I saw the street name we wanted as we passed by and we leapt up and only had to trudge back a little way.
We were staying at Hostal Republica which was large but well maintained. Once we were checked in we were given sheets, a pillow, a towel and a remote. We were to make our own beds, a little strange but we'd quickly completed the task. The room was not cheap but it was cheaper than most and came with a little flat screen tv, good mattresses, and a bathroom.
By now it was getting pretty late and we didn't want to be wandering around after dark so we quickly headed out to grab some take away dinner which consisted of a whole chicken, our staple diet now. We located the Subway station and knew where our day would begin in the morning.
When morning arrived we were up at a reasonable time and went down to have breakfast which was included in the room price. I poured myself a nice glass of what looked like blackcurrant squash, but unfortunately it tasted more like a sweetened version of the stuff dentists give you to swill your mouth out after they've gone at it with their metal instruments. Adam didn't think it was so bad and the rest of the breakfast was good. Once we'd had our fill we made our way towards the subway and bought two tickets to the stop closest to Copacabana Beach.
It was only a short walk down to the coast and soon we were staring out at this famous stretch of sand.
I think the fact that it was a Monday morning meant that most of the gorgeous men and women were sleeping off the weekend's excesses so the atmosphere on the sand was a little sedate and the beauty quota was pretty low. Still we walked along the promenade for quite some time, watching the residents of Rio begin their week. Quite a few people were jogging or power walking, one man however was simply hovering. Afterwards we both said that we'd noticed him and in hindsight decided we should have said something to each other, then stopped walking and let him pass. As it was though we didn't and we kept on walking. I saw that he was carrying a little pot of brown stuff in his hand but funnily enough I didn't connect the dots. Not realising what had happened I saw the little man run over to a bin and chuck the pot away, just before this he had tipped some of its brown, gloopy contents on to the top of Adam's shoe (which Adam had basically witnessed) and then came running over shouting (excuse the language) “Shit! Shit!” while dramatically pointing at Adam's shoe.
Adam brushed him aside and we continued on. Although we were unsure of his intentions, we were almost certain that they weren't going to be good. As we walked along trying to find somewhere to deal with the situation, Adam was understandably seriously annoyed about the mess on top of his shoe. We discussed what had just happened and also the ridiculous fact of the supposed excrement being on the top of the shoe, how exactly did the man think that this was believable?? We both decided that he needed to improve his act and we finally sat down and I went to buy a bottle of water. After closer examination we came to the conclusion that it probably wasn't doggy doo doo but some kind of home-made concoction which was both pleasing and slightly disturbing. From further discussion between the two of us and other stories that we've heard we believe the guy intended to offer to clean the shoe and rob us blind in the process with some quick slight of hand. Apparently other people have had mustard squirted on their neck, again slightly odd, and other liquid such as paint poured on their person. Thankfully though there is always a helpful bystander with a need to clean (you out).
Although it had somewhat tainted our experience of the beach we continued our walk down and along Ipanema beach before heading back into the city in search of some food.
We entered a shopping centre in Lebanon which was really quite fancy and ended up gobbling down a baked potatoe purchased from an English themed stall which made a nice change, I'd actually craved them on more than one occasion. We then considered the cinema to see 2012 but just couldn't justify the price.
Back on the streets it was an unbelievably long walk to the subway station through busy shopping streets, packed with people going at a very leisurely pace and by the end my knees were screaming abuse at me. Lots of the shops were selling swim wear and there were some nice looking boutiques where you could easily spend too much money. We both wanted to buy some Haviannas, which are a Brazilian brand of flip flop with the flag on the strap, unfortunately though neither of us had the energy to look at them. Adam also had knee pain which he's had on and off over the last few months, it seems to weirdly co-inside with when mine our particularly bad and we think it's sympathy pain. As we were both suffering with our knees we took the rest of the day easy and enjoyed our little flatscreen tv. Dinner was another chicken and then it was a nice early night.
One of the things we knew we had to do in Rio was go up and see the giant statue of Jesus. Although we did both expect him to look bigger when you were down in the city and also to be visible from most places but unfortunately he's not.
Still we wanted to go and have a closer look. We caught the bus to this little train station where you jump on a small train which takes you up the hill. The ride up offers some really nice views if you're sat on the right side and it's a cute way to travel. Once you disembark at the top you have two options, you can either walk up half a dozen flights of stairs to the statue or you can take a lift and then a couple of escalators. We went for the stairs.
They were doing a bit of maintenance work on the base of the statue which was a bit of shame but the greater annoyance was the amount of people milling about.
It was impossible to get a photo without the crowd in it as well and the taking of any pictures became a battle as people vied for the best spots. In the end Adam got a bit creative and we leaned out over the barriers and basically had photos taken up our noses, not a flattering angle for me but Adam looked good!
After that we did manage to get one or two good photos without a whole host of people in them.
Jesus does look quite a bit bigger when you see him up close and of course most of the pictures you see are of him in the foreground and the city below which gives the impression that he looms large with Rio in his shadow.
Not quite true but he is impressive nonetheless and worth seeing first hand. We both wished the weather had been a little better as our photos are grey on grey but ah well.
Once down on street level we rode the bus into the centre of the city and set about looking for a tourist orientated shop. We were searching for our much needed magnet but they proved to be seriously illusive and we couldn't find one anywhere. After lunch we headed over to Flamenco and Botafogo but there were no shops here either. We began to curse the fact that we didn't buy one at the stalls set up below Jesus because we knew they'd be overpriced. As we walked on and on and on, my knees again began to protest and I would have liked to just forget the magnet but then it would be the first one we'd missed and that would be terrible. Adam said he had seen some around Copacabana but I was done for the day so we decided to go there in the morning before we checked out and caught our 1pm bus.
Which is exactly what we did and thankfully we didn't have to walk far to find one. We also both managed to purchase a pair of flip flops, and a postcard for Adam's Grandma. So with our tasks completed soon enough we were checked out and on our way to the bus station. The bus back was not as luxurious as the one here, so it was going to be a slightly less comfortable 23hrs. Actually it ended up being closer to 30hrs as we had a few hiccups along the way. Progress was quite slow to begin with and we stopped for a while in some kind of garage sometime before I managed to drop off to sleep. As I slept Adam was in and out of consciousness as he became aware of the fact that we were stopping and starting a lot and generally making ridiculously slow progress. At around 6am we came to a complete stop and soon enough another bus arrived and we were all had to change. By now I think we were about 4hrs behind schedule but at least we were moving along at a good speed now. Then there was a big bang and we all quickly realised that we had blown one of the back tyres. It was another hour or so before this was fixed and we were on the move again, Adam and I discussed how we were seriously sick of buses.
Finally we reached Foz do Iguazu and some of the passengers attempted to get a refund because of some small print written on the back of the tickets regarding delays, we were given a number to phone, I wonder if anyone actually rang it. We caught yet another bus into the centre of the town and ended up staying at a hostel called Laura. The man running it was friendly, the new owner actually and he jokingly told me he was changing the name because he didn't like it, ha ha! He recommended a place to have dinner which was tasty although Adam thought it made him ill the next day. Foz was a nice little place and our hostel was pleasant, the only problem was the temperature and the humidity. It was ridiculous and as we attempted to fall asleep with just a little fan to provide any relief we wondered how successful we would be.
Laura & Adam