It’s hard to believe I’ve been in Rio De Janeiro for almost a week now, two weeks into our around-the-world. So much has happened, yet at the same time, we have yet to see many sites. Funny thing, that. Alas, that will all change tomorrow, as we take on Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain both in one day. It will be a post in and of itself.
Preeya and I arrived in Rio last Friday, April 24, after taking a quick seven hour bus; quick being relative to our bus to/from Florianopolis of course. Our host Gabrielle, our saving grace in Rio, met us at the bus terminal as soon as we stepped off of our bus, which provided us with an immediate sense of ease, as opposed to having the usual concerns of language barriers, transit chaos and personal safety. A quick cab later and we were at her house already discussing plans for the evening. The verdict: jump right into Lapa.
It seems Lapa is a bit of a controversial area, being both a must-see and a watch-your-bag-at-all-times kind of place. But with a Portuguese speaking local on our side, we had no issues at all. Immediately upon jumping off the bus, visitors to Lapa are taken back by just the view of it. Vaguely reminiscent of the arches of the Colosseum in Rome, this was the first time of the trip where I genuinely felt like a tourist, taking in the sites. We wandered the streets of Lapa, stopping for a drink at one place, taking in the jaw-dropping Escadaria Selaron steps, and just mingling with the locals. A few drinks later at an outdoor pub and we were ready to call it on our first night in Rio. It was a perfect introduction to the city.
The next day Gabrielle, Preeya and myself ventured down to Copacabana for some sun and pure relaxation. For those who know me, you know I am obsessed with reading. I can get through an entire book in one day if I’m into it enough, and this is what my beach days have entailed. One of my goals for 2015 is to read twenty four books by the end of the year and I am already well on my way to completing that before mid-year.
Day 3 of Rio was the most interesting day of our trip so far. We decided to go back to Escadaria Selaron to take some photos during the day time and thought walking there would be the perfect orientation to the city. We headed out on our way and about 20 minutes into the walk, we unknowingly found ourselves on a street by ourselves. Female Safety 101 completely out the window, on the streets on Rio De Janeiro no less. Personal safety is something we most definitely take for granted in Canada, as times where you need to be ‘looking over your shoulder’ are the exception, not the rule. Reverse that for Rio. I make sure to pay attention to the people around us and their behaviour, so the first time a guy rode by us on his bike, I took note but gave it no thought. However, the second time he rode by my gut immediately knew something was wrong. In hindsight, yes, we immediately should have gotten ourselves back on the main road, and moving forward I absolutely will be. But sometimes you can think things that logic tells you is silly so you don’t listen to it. Canadian logic failed me in Brazil. I mentioned to Preeya the second time he went by, wondering what possible reason would someone on a bike have to be riding up and down the same street? As we continued to walk and didn’t see a sign of him again, we stopped to pull out my iPod for directions, as we were at a fork in the road. This is when the boy on the bike came by us a third time, much closer, much slower, circled around us and heading back to where he came from. This was enough to scare both of us into an abrupt stop, at which point a man came out along the side of a building and started yelling at us in Portuguese. Realizing we couldn’t understand him, he started motioning exactly as we feared: the man on the bike was about to mug us, having seen we’re alone on the street and that we had smart phones, we had made ourselves the perfect victims. The man motioned for us to run back to the main road and we didn’t hesitate for a second. We bolted up the side road closest to the main street, looking back to thank the man and noting that he was watching us to make sure we made it safely. We practically ran to the main road, where once again surrounded by the safety net of people, we took a moment to take in what just happened. Doing our research before we left, it seems being mugged in Rio De Janeiro is practically an initiation to enter the country, so if this is our only encounter, which will force us to be smarter moving forward, then I will take it.
Deciding to take a cab to Lapa until we better knew the neighbourhoods, we went, took our photos, and just spent some time both exploring and stopping to enjoy some Brazilian restaurants. We had a quiet evening in, which was the perfect ending to a day that started off with so much excitement. The next day we again relaxed at Copacabana, exploring more, taking more photos, then enjoying an evening out with new found friends from the north of Brazil. As we were heading to Barra Da Tijuca the next morning, we had a lovely evening on our last night with Gabrielle, whom I can’t thank enough for her generosity. Another couchsurfing win for the books!