Week twenty two: the end of a Latino era

Knowing that I have to resume real life all too soon, I have been thoroughly enjoying taking a holiday from my own brain. You know how the story goes: Girl meets boy; girl makes friends; girl makes everyone make her decisions for her. Aptly, in a city named after a river, I’ve been blissfully floating wherever the flow takes me.

Having said that, for this final week of my adventure, I had some very specific things left to tick off my list. These mostly involved climbing up tall things and dancing in the street at any chance I got (so pretty much just a repeat of everything the last 21 blog posts have detailed!)

First off, no self-respecting human could visit Rio and not head up to see Christ the Redeemer. Rising proudly over the city, atop mount Corcovado, we (somewhat foolishly) thought it a great idea to make our way there by foot. The mansion house and landscaped gardens at the entrance to the basecamp, Parque Lage, did nothing to prepare us for what lay ahead! Thick forest took us entirely away from the surrounding city and up an incalculably steep hill. Think less hiking, more hoisting yourself up a muddy trail using tree roots as handlebars, or, even at times, a chain to pull yourself up a sheer rock face. Exhausting, exhilarating, sweaty, but ultimately very rewarding.

Reaching the summit, we were surrounded by far less sweaty tourists who had enjoyed a nice train journey up; but I felt as though they hadn’t earned this moment and thus couldn’t possibly be as enthralled as I was. I was torn between which way to look: at the impressive view, at the looming wonder of the world, or simply at the obscene number of people taking snogging selfies! One can’t help but feel small, and a little humbled, by such a universally famous (and physically enormous) monument. (Plus there are great cafes at the top, serving all the deep fried goodness our work out had earned!)

Forever in the hunt for my next viewing platform, we also scaled the heights of the Sugarloaf mountain (in a cable car this time around!) Monkey-filled trees populate the peak of this dramatically protruding rock. Yet, much less rustic than our climb up Corcovado, there are a multitude of predetermined pathways to circumnavigate, offering 360 degree views of the city and sea sprawl. As with our trip to Christ however, we became acutely aware of our altitude thanks to the shift in weather; despite our first day of glorious sunshine for a while, the chilly wind whips around endlessly (and lifts skirts aplenty, be warned!)

After all of the climbing, much of the rest of the week focused on the beach and/or eating:

Despite the ever fluctuating weather, Copacabana and Ipanema continued to offer the perfect chill out spot. However, for a truly glorious spot to sit and watch the waves, I can recommend heading downtown, to Praça Mauá. Dominated by the spaceship-style building that houses the Museum of Tomorrow, this spot was a perfect remedy to the otherwise eerily quiet weekend streets. Those who weren’t ogling the architecture could enjoy skating, a live band, a spectacular sunset and unrivalled people watching. The only thing to detract from the buzz and romance of this spot are the security guards doing rounds on a Segway; the approaching sound is enough to snap even the most star-crossed, sunset-gazing lovers back to reality!

Food-wise, I have sampled some truly gluttonous treats. A quick afternoon tea in the impossibly glamorous Confeitaria Colombo gave the famous Cafe Tortoni (Buenos Aires) a run for its sugary money. An all you can eat/drink/dance barbecue on a local rooftop combined my love for twinkly city lights, with my love for piles of charred meats! Market stalls lined with deep fried pastels and coxinhas filled my arteries and transported my tastebuds back to Colombia and the month when I solely ate beige. Best of all though, a three day craving that Leo and I shared for ice cream was satisfied by a litre of the city’s finest flavours, devoured in the street, at night, in the cold weather; suffice to say, people stared!

Said market stalls were to be found in just about every neighbourhood come Sunday afternoon. Our beloved Santa Teresa had a market with a heavy vintage clothes focus; down the hill, in neighbouring Gloria, stalls ranged from carefully curated and displayed fresh fruits, to stinky fish and flea market floor piles; but, the best spot to find yourself has to be Praça Sao Salvador. Another quaint and arty market lines the edge of the square, yet the main focus is on the central gazebo, full of musicians. Oldies with the full orchestral spectrum of instruments in hand treated us to a performance. Then, once they tired and packed up, a samba band took up the reigns and carried on the party. Locals, young and old, inspired our eclectic group of gringos to join in the fun. Multiple street caipirinhas fuelled the afternoon of dancing in the sunshine; on this Brasilian Valentine’s Day, the very streets of Rio itself (and an international hostel family) were my date.

Continuing on a similar vane, my final night in South America happened to fall on a Monday, which happened to play host to the Pedra do Sal street samba extravaganza! Despite being little more than a dead end street in the middle of nowhere, thanks to its natural amphitheatre shape and kooky street art, bunting-clad vibes, this party spot floods with people. A live band play samba music and, as ever, street vendors get creative with their drinks (n.b. Passion fruit caipirinhas are purely heaven-sent.) It seemed everyone and then some were present, as Leo and I weren’t shimmying alone for long and were reunited with friends from Rio and BA alike. The perfect roundup of my time in Rio, in a neatly packaged final night (admittedly minus a few keys faces who had headed to the airport mere moments before.)

Rio is the city that transforms from golden sands to verdant hills, from scorching sun to biblical rain and from entirely deserted streets to drunken crowds, all within a fraction of a second. Whilst I have somehow managed to leave much yet unexplored, I grew so comfortable here, enough even to walk the streets in a cape fashioned from a sleeping bag! I left my heart, some dignity and my favourite scarf in Rio.

Weighed down with a variety of now useless currencies and the onset of the holiday blues, I rushed to swap between airlines in Frankfurt and my trip officially came to an end. I’ve observed a lot, learnt even more and met some truly wonderful fellow citizens of the world. The only thing holding me together on this cross-Atlantic homeward journey is the thought of my next trip… Watch this space!


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