Oh Brazil!! Visiting a new place and going on new adventures with B is definitely my jam. I love it so much.
But, as much as I loved Brazil, man does it feel good to be home. All it takes is a few days in a faraway place to not only refresh me, but make me realize how much I adore my life at home.
The long journey to Brazil started with a flight from Phoenix to Miami (4.5 hours), then a flight from Miami to Rio (9 hours- B and I are getting really good at long flights.) The flight from Miami to Rio was a red-eye. We arrived in Rio at about 10:00am. Our hotel room wasn’t ready that early, so we caught a cab to the expo. My excitement from being in Rio cancelled out my exhaustion even though I was ready to shower and put on a fresh set of clothes.
After the expo and a 3o minute wait in the lobby, we were able to check into our room. During the wait I started to feel tired. We showered and napped, then got tickets to dinner and a show that night and to go paragliding in the morning. We stayed at the Rio Othon Hotel in Copacabana. This was the view from our room:
That night we ate at a Brazilian Barbecue place called Carretão. There was a thousand different kinds of meat (chicken heart!) and other interesting items at the buffet. I stuck to grilled chicken and rice. The show afterwards was filled with dancing, drums, and crazy costumes. We ended up leaving early. It was not what we expected. Probably wouldn’t recommend it to my friends.
Friday started out with a bang. We were picked up at our hotel to go paragliding (we went through this company, and we were very happy with our instructors, but there are other companies that do it as well.) I am scared of heights, so I was nervous. And when the driver dropped us off at our destination, I thought there would be some sort of class or informational video, but we just hopped right in another car with our instructors (and an enormous paraglider strapped to the top) and headed up the mountain. When we got to the top they started to get us strapped into our gear. No class or video I guess? My instructor could tell I was nervous. He was very nice and very reassuring (and he called me sweetie.) Once B’s instructor got strapped in he said, “When I tell you to run, you need to run. Let’s practice.” They practiced running together a couple times and in no time they were running right off the mountain. One person was in line between us, and the man in front of us ended up having to wait at the top of the mountain for several minutes for the wind to be right. My instructor made me promise a few times that I would run. I reassured him, “I promise I will run!” He told me that after that it’s very peaceful. I was really excited! When the wind was right, the man in front of us went (he didn’t run! My instructor told me, “don’t be like him,”) then it was time for us to go. When he said, “Okay- Run!” I ran! (I wanted to make sure and do everything right so I didn’t die.) And he was right- after that it was incredibly peaceful.
To be completely honest with you, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I loved every second of it!! It is something I will never forget. It was about a 6 or 7 minute ride down to the beach with breathtaking views. I had tears on my face but I couldn’t tell if it was from the wind or from smiling so hard.
(They had a GoPro attached to that pole you see in front of the camera. There was an option to purchase photos and/or video at the bottom.) When we got to the bottom I saw B and we were both all smiles. We purchased our photos (to show the kids of course) and waited for our driver to take us back to our hotel.
The streets in Rio de Janeiro were lined with the most gorgeous trees. Some had leaves that were bigger than my body. Some had vines wrapped around and hanging from them, and some had different plants growing all over them. Confession: in sixth grade I had a small obsession with rainforests. I did a report on them, watched movies about them, and read books about them. That sixth grader in me was really excited to actually see it. The greenery really is stunning. Here’s a street in Rio:
That night we headed to the Corcovado- Cristo Redentor. When in Rio, you can’t miss this!
To see the Cristo, there is an option to take the train or the buses, and the train tickets were sold out, so we took the bus. My advice- don’t take the bus. The lines were long. Very long. When we finally did get to the top, it was extremely crowded. The views were stunning and the statue was absolutely amazing, but there were people crammed in everywhere. We went at sunset. Here’s a view from the top:
After lots of lines and waiting, we couldn’t wait to eat some dinner and head back to our hotel.
Saturday morning started with a tour of a favela, Rocinha. A favela is a Brazilian slum. (We went through this company. Click here to book a tour- this company was really great and informative.) Click here to learn more about favelas in Brazil.
This tour blew my mind. This favela, Rocinha, is the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro. It is home to 200,00 people! The homes are just stacked and stacked and stacked on one another. There is trash everywhere, and their electrical system is mind-boggling. The homes have been built so close together that there are no streets, just narrow alleys and lots of steps to get from one house to another.
Walking through this particular alley, there was an 82 year-old woman (our guide spoke to her in Portugese) laying in a bed that was right next to a window that opened up to the alley. She smiled and said hello to us and waved as we walked by. She looked like she was in poor health. She had no teeth and I wondered to myself when the last time she had gotten out of that bed. I also wondered if she had lived here her whole life. Our tour guide told us that most families that start here will never leave. I took comfort in the fact that she looked like she was clean and being well cared for by someone she loved. Here are some more pictures of Rocinha:
The blue tubs that you see on top of everyone’s home are for their water. B told me that when he lived in Argentina (he lived there for two years serving a mission for our church) that he would clean those for people as service. He said they usually have about six inches of dirty, thick muck at the bottom that he would have to scoop out with his hands before he could scrub them.
The tour of Rocinha is something I will never forget. No matter where I go in the world, it is completely fascinating to me to see how different people live, to see where they live and what their day looks like. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s because they can all be so different. I thought of the hardships that the people of Rocinha might have, but I also thought of what they do have- an enormous sense of community, of family (they are literally surrounded by family), and a lack of distractions.
After Rocinha, we spent the afternoon off of our feet, relaxing on the beach. After all, tomorrow was race day!
We ended our beach afternoon with a chocolate filled churro. Yum.
I tried really hard to go to bed early that night, but didn’t. Instead I got all of my racing things ready, braided my hair, and watched a movie with B. Good thing my body is used to running long distances on very little sleep!
Race Rundown will be posted tomorrow….