Rosy Lee is one of our travel specialists. In her latest blog, she shares some of her experiences from her time in Brazil.
Frantically waving my parents goodbye, I stood clutching a tattered pillow. I gripped tightly my one-way to Rio, the dream about to come true. I was terrified. Finding solace in this piece of upholstery, I vowed we’d cross continents together. Tear filled eyes welcomed the kind words of a stranger, “It will be your biggest adventure”.
I couldn’t have picked a better place to start. A metropolis, brimming with energy and bursting with colour. A city with rhythm and vibrancy from dusk to dawn. I was drained of fear upon arrival, the explorer in me ignited. Before long, I joined locals each evening on Ipanema to marvel at the sky. A shimmering orange descended on gaping rocks, it signalled the time for fiesta. Swarming into town, cariocas and visitors alike, sambaed the evening away. Hours on, when feet began to sore and the bar had run dry, there was only one place to go. Shoes were slung and toes became buried. Throwing weary bodies down, we would watch the sun rise over Copacabana.
With so much to offer, time in Rio disappeared. Each day, another spectacle to witness. I roamed around the city, by foot, bus and train, ticking the bucket list boxes. One sunny day I decided it was time for the big man himself. I journeyed through Tijuaca National park on board Trem Corcovado. It was a lush route to Christ, a highlight for any nature lover. Amongst the crowds, I stood in awe, thirty-eight metres of stone towering above. Arms spread wide, he was magnificent, a true structural masterpiece. The sight was humbling, even for the most avid of atheists. Content with one of seven wonders, I stopped to watch the world go by. Clouds parted over Santa Theresa, Lapa and Leme, all areas I’d grown fond of. Spotting the Sugar Loaf in the distance, I decided on my next conquest.
I head for the iconic peak in the hour before nightfall. Finding myself at the mouth of Guanabara Bay, I was ready to embrace my inner Bond. I hopped in the carriage and shuffled my way to its transparent perimeters. Climbing higher and higher, the picture of Rio before me grew more impressive. At 220 metres we stopped for Morro Da Urca where I was amused to find restaurant and bar, how extravagant. Thankfully, a Caipirinha half way cleared the last of my nerves and I was ready to brave new heights. Reaching 396m, very pleased with my timing, the sun was about to set. The arrival of darkness was not disappointing. Across districts, neighbourhoods and favelas, the night sky became bright with the lights of the city, my favourite view of the day.
Becoming attached to my first destination, I stayed in Rio weeks longer than planned. I was amazed and delighted to feel so at home, the city continued to surprise me. Reluctant to move, but weary of time, I planned my onward expedition. I would take bus and boat to Isla Grande, having heard whispers of this paradise nearby.
Before leaving I returned to my favourite attraction, Escadaria Selarón. Decorated tiles line the floor and walls of a downtown stairwell. The colourful walkway brings a smile to each passer-by, brightening their day. Constructed with ceramics from around the world, I admired the detail in each square. A life-size sculpture, as interesting as the artist responsible. This eruption of colour is the work of Jorge Selarón (1947 -2013), mysteriously found dead at the foot of the steps. Tributes were laid out acknowledging such tragedy, it’s a special mosaic for many.
It was a 3-hour journey to Isla Grande. I jumped off the boat a few metres from shore and waded my way to white sand. My first experience of island life was shaping up well. The water was clear, the sun radiant and the palm trees, just as I’d imagined. Rows of fishing boats bobbed up and down, the smell of churrasco lingered. Within hours of arrival I was deep in chat, a local with an interesting history. The man offered my friends and I a tour of the islands, a gesture too good to turn down. We chartered a boat through turquoise seas, snorkelling amongst the fish. Islands scattered on the horizon, as picturesque as a postcard. It was the perfect end to my time in Brazil, I could finally relax and slow down. After four days I set off again, Iguacu Falls in mind, the nearest gateway to Argentina and the next chapter of my trip.
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