So we jump on the american airlines flight and spend upteen hours flying. After flying a large number of airlines, American quickly cemented themselves as my least favourite. But since suffering builds character, we made the best of it. I must be getting old, since previously I was so grateful to be actually getting on a plane I would endure all sorts of issues without complaint. Now, I whine like a 2 year old, which is a sure sign of maturity.
But in any case, we reclined our chairs the permitted 1/4 inch, I wedged my knees deep into the kidneys of the guy sitting in front of me, and we prop our heads together and fall fast asleep. After a good 12 seconds sleep, I awake, somehow having in the process acquired a crick in my neck that lasts for several hours. Pretty good return on investment, if only my shares did that well.
The plane touches down in Rio like a feather, like a massively heavy, lead lined concrete feather that sunk big divits in the runway. But like Launchpad McQuack said “any landing u can walk away from is a good landing”.
We got through customs, and met giselas dad, who I adroitly alienated in 2 seconds with my mangled attempts at a portuguese greeting. But hes a nice guy, and was soon giving a running commentary of the sites of Rio.
Rios a funny kind of city. Known as the “cidade maravilhosa”, Rio greets new arrivals with views of endless favelas, poor shanty towns that are basically 10ft by 10ft brick walled cubes 2-4 stories high, and ofter stuck precariously to Rios high granite hills.
Then, as you pass through the tunnel through the granite hill that separates the northen part of the city from the south, and the southern part of the city opens before you, all sun and green, pretty old buildings and potholed cobblestoned streets that hark back to a slightly better time.
Eagar for a glimpse of Rios famed bikini crowd, I serruptiously scan likely areas, but the most skin I see is the extended pot belly of an aging man, wearing his t-shirt as a kind of a bra for his man boobs. I hope that image goes away soon.
So, rio is a mix, old and new, rich and poor.
In the following days, we managed to fit most of the sites of Rio in, in a whirlwind of activity, as well as various social functions that we were invited to (well, they actually wanted to see gisela, I sorta invited myself in that endearing way I have, the one that sounds a lot like whining).
We saw the famous beaches of Rio, Ipanema and Copacabana, as well as several others. I nearly detached a retina, trying to check out bikini babes while at the same time appearing to be innocently looking at windsurfers. The beaches are pretty, but a little polluted, so the locals head further out. After taking a a few pics and being warned that I was now marked as an easy target by the thousands of dodgy brasilians hiding, lying in wait for a naive gringo like me, we commando rolled back to the car. I never did see those people, but they exist.
Again, I wasnt allowed to drive, but this time it might have been for the best.
I would have stood out a mile by actaully trying to use my indicators, instead of reserving them for suicidal manuevers that havent a chance of success. Lane lines also serve more as guidelines than anything enforceable, and are often used for positioning the center of your vehicle as you contemplate a left or right turn. After deciding, you then signal your intent by absolutely not using your indicators and just driving, sometimes communicating to the other cars by honking your horn repeatedly in a special carioca kind of morse code.
But really, Rio is the cidade maravilhosa. It is undoubtedly the most beautiful big city I have seen, the mix of towering granite chunks, a la yosemite, blue sky, blue sea, and large areas of greenery with the climate, combine to make a pretty awesome place. Throw in the favelas to appeal to the puritanical streak in all of us, the beaches for the hedonist, and the traffic for the anarchist, and well… the cidade maravilhosa.
Thinking about all this lying bed falling asleep, I hear the crack and thump of distant fireworks. “how nice”, I think drowsily, ” a wedding”. “How nice”, gisela says, “The drugs have arrived”. And evidentally, thats how the drug guys in the favelas signal the latest shipment has arrived. I hope there no recent immigrants from spain, where fireworks at weddings are commonplace, innocently celebrating their nuptials, only to find a number of enthusiastic but rather vacant ‘friends’ in attendance.
We went to Corcovado, to see the most recent wonder of the world, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, the famous statue that overlooks Rio. On ascending the heights (using of course, a car), it is immediately apparent that impressive though the statue iis, its not wonder of the world material.
The wonder really is the view of the city itself, the beautiful harbour, the beaches and jungle and park, all under the eye of christo redentor. Its an amazing sight…
To be continued….