Post by: Sophia Garner (Follow on Spotted Places @Siophiahhg)

Off the bat I’m going to say now I will not be boring you with all the drivel that comes with beginning most people’s holidays, travels, trips, adventures and so on. Quite frankly no one really needs to know how there was traffic getting to the airport, or how you filled your time in either the duty free, or sitting in a restaurant/bar for an awkward amount of time. Or you turn into one of those people who for some unknown reason suddenly see consuming a large alcoholic beverage, at 08:30 in the morning, is completely acceptable. So, let’s just run with the thought that I had a pleasant enough time at the airport.

 

Made it to Lisbon, after what felt like a horribly long flight, which realistically was just under 3 hours. I have never actually been on a connection flight before. Therefore, I found it all a bit odd. I had to go through, what felt like, a back-door entrance which then lead me to the gate I needed for my flight to Rio. The reason it felt odd was because I had to go through very little security and no one checked my passport, but hey ho! From there it was a 9-and-a-half-hour flight to Rio De Janeiro. As I arranged all my flights with STA, who I cannot recommend enough, I was unsure as to which airlines I was flying with. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t really bother me and as long as I arrived safely at my destination with all my belongings there was no issue. That being said,  I was unimpressed with TAP Portugal’s (the airline used for my Lisbon and Rio flights) inboard meal options. As a heads up here, I will usually have a grumble at any restaurants/cafes or even supermarkets and service stations, I’ve clearly had an incident or two for that to be so specific – another story, that don’t cater particularly well for those of us don’t eat meat. So, when I was given a chicken meal option I was pretty disappointed when I was told there was no alternative. Following from that meal the breakfast also offered no non-meat option. As there was no alternative for either meal I didn’t eat for the entire flight. It is safe to say I was not impressed. The plane eventually landed and passport security was next up. Surprisingly easy peasey! I had been told previously, by both others that had travelled to South America and by airline staff, that there was a form of interrogation when you arrived. I in fact received nothing of the sort. It was quick and pain free, other than the tedious and excessively long walk to the passport control offices, then straight through to baggage reclaim. All in all, it was probably the quickest easiest arrivals I’ve had.

 

Next stage was figuring out how to get myself to the Hostel. I had seriously miscalculated how far the airport was from the hostel I had chosen, I believe this was partially to do with the fact I thought I would be flying into a different airport within Rio, so far so good right? Well no, of course not. I paced around the airport for a moment or two until realising there was a stand located next to a line of very blue, very large buses. The reason this took me longer than it usually would, to figure this sort of thing out, was the fact it was 5:00am, I hadn’t eaten or slept much and I was now trying to regroup and organise myself. Anyway, cut a long-er story short, I fixed myself on a bus to Lapa. The useful gentlemen at the airport advised I then get a taxi to the hostel from Lapa. However, after using google maps, FYI if you’re on Three network they now do Feel at Home in Brazil – making life easier right now, I thought I’d walk it. The overall time distance didn’t seem far, a mere 14 minute walk, how wrong I was. The walk actually entailed some flat bits, some slightly up hill bits and then a god awful amount of steps. To be exact these steps are the beautiful Escadaria Selarón or also known as the Selaron Steps. They are the work of Jorge Selarón, who was born in Chile, he claimed the steps were his "tribute to the Brazilian people". There are 215 steps in total and they measure 125 meters in height. Please do remember at this point I had my full backpack attached to me and I was running on very little, needless to say it was a challenge, I made it to the hostel somewhat out of breathe.

Once at the top I felt a bit of relief, however, this was very short lived as there was an almost vertical cobbled hill in front of me. I eventually made it to the hostel, feeling pretty out of breath and rather sweaty (I’m really selling myself here), as I rang the bell I hoped that someone would be awake at 7:00am! Thankfully a short, round lady answered the door. After a quick introduction, made awkward by my lack of Spanish, I was greeted by a young man dressed in colourful shorts and flipflops. After my slight grumble about the steps and the almost vertical hill I was expecting something incredible at the top. I was not disappointed. The view from the top terrace was breath-taking.

I decided to shower and head straight back out to explore. My Rio to do list was quite specific, I had always wished to visit Pão de Açúcar, also known as the Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer. I had looked at the map previously to attempt to make a plan, as I would only be in Rio for 3 days, I came to the conclusion that I would need to do each of these visits on different days, due to the distance between them. However, as I arrived and left the hostel a lot earlier than I had originally expected, I was able to be up the first Mountain, Morro da Urca, at 09:30am. You can hike up to the Morro da Urca if you wish and then take the cable car to Sugarloaf. If you do like the idea of hiking part of the way, it is mostly through jungle but is clearly signed posted and various trails have been mapped out for you, please remember to buy your ticket for the cable car at the ticket office before your hike. Apparently it used to be possible to buy a Sugarloaf cable car ticket at Morro da Urca, not sure why this has changed, but you now have to purchase all tickets at the bottom before you ascend either by foot or by cable car. You can also purchase tickets online here. There was little to no queue when I arrived, however, I can imagine at certain times in the day and possibly over the weekends the queue could become pretty hectic. The views from the top of both peaks was just incredible. Luckily for my camera and I there were barely any clouds to be seen making for some beautiful views! From Morro da Urca you have views of Botafogo, Flamengo, Centro and the long bridge joining Niteroi and Rio de Janeiro. Once at the top of Sugarloaf, which has been measured at 396 metres above sea level, you have a more complete view of Rio. Views including Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon in the Southwest. I was fortunate to have a very clear morning and was able to see Dois Irmãos (the Two Brothers hill), Corcovado (with Christ the Redeemer), Pedra da Gávea, Pico da Tijuca, Bico do Papagaio and Dedo de Deus (God’s finger). After being mesmerised by the views I ventured off down the mountain side in search of some jungle atmosphere. There are numerous signs warning visitors of the wildlife, asking you not to feed them or to get too close. I can imagine there may have been a few incidences with some thieving monkeys, specifically Brown Capuchins and the feral Common Marmosets which are very common in Rio.

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 At around 12:00pm I was back on ground level and no longer up in the skies. I decided I would make the absolute most of the day and venture to see Christ the Redeemer. The impressive statue was created by the French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by two engineers; Heitor da Silva Costa, Brazilian and Albert Caquot, French. The statue stands 38 metres tall, making it the 3rd tallest statue of Jesus in the world, with arms stretching 28 metres wide. It weighs a whopping 635 tons and sits on the peak of the 700 metre Corcovado mountain. Pretty impressive! The red tram takes you as far up as possible by vehicle and then you walk a flight or two of steps to the base of the statue. The weather turned slightly as the tram ascended the mountain. Clouds began to appear; however, I am slightly inclined to say that unless it is an incredibly clear day, it may be difficult to reach the top and it not become a little foggy/misty, due to how high up you are. Although it made seeing the entire statue somewhat difficult I was not overly fussed. The fact I was able to venture up the mountain and witness such an incredible piece of art was more than enough for me. The structure alone must have taken serious dedication and determination. It took almost 9 years to complete and is listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

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 I had now ticked off my top ‘to do’s’ in my first day and it wasn’t even 14:00 yet. I decided I would walk back from the statue to the hostel, which by google maps was just under 11.3km, I felt it was time to wander through some of Rio. I walked through a few different districts of Rio: Lagoa, Humaita, Botafogo, Flamengo and the outskirts of Glória. Each area felt slightly different, with a different vibe to it. As I walked through some parts of Lagoa the vibe was very relaxed. A lot of people were sat by one of the small parks, eating and chatting. When I returned to my hostel I researched the area and it is described as being ‘perfect for relaxation and some wholesome family fun’. Humaita is situated at the foot of Corcovado Mountain and seemed to be built up of residential housing. Botafogo and Flamengo felt more maintained, with some lovely looking restaurants and a huge shopping mall, overall it felt more middle class. I was told by the gentlemen at my hostel that this area has some of the better nightlife in Rio and is particularly popular with students (may have to come back when I am actually a student again).

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 After walking for most of the afternoon I decided a quiet night, which was a definite as I was the only guest in the hostel, was what just what the doctor ordered. I’d be fit and ready for Day no.2 in beautiful Rio!

 

You can find Sophia here:

Spotted Places : @Siophiahhg

Blog site : My Cuppa Tea

Instagram :  @ohsoph_

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