24.04.2009 36 °C
Ah Rio! The land of the naked people!!
OK, so the "tourist attractions" in Rio really are amazing. The Sugar loaf, two enormous Granite peaks jutting up into the sky line, provide the most incredible views of the city. And from above I would say it is one of, if not the most, beautiful views I've ever seen. The setting is ridiculous; mountains, beach and all things city, i.e. high rises, traffic, millions of people in an extraordinarily small space - from above it is in-cred-iiible. By day you can see many of the cities Favelas, the slum areas, stuck on the hillsides like crumpled post it notes. They are all through out the city but always on higher ground. Some of them have micro populations of more than 25,000 but to look at the from afar they look like they might just blow away. By night these areas, unlit, disappear into the darkness leaving only the spectacle of Rios lights. A truly magnificent sight, although a little disturbing to watch half the population slip into blackness. When I see places from above I always image what is going on down there, in Rio I found it all quite upsetting. I found the city to be really paradoxical. On one hand it is breathtakingly beautiful but at the same time horribly ugly. Absolutely amazing but equally shocking. This goes for a lot of the people too; ugly beautiful and beautifully ugly. I guess it is better to go back to ground level to explain my self.
So we were staying in Impanema, near the beach. Now, there is no smoke without fire and the roots of the reputation of Brazilian women can be seen to be burning bright here. Obviously they are not all stunners, but it is safe to say that when they are aesthetically blessed in Brazil it is beyond ridiculous how gorgeous they are. In a desperate attempt to match up to their female counterparts the men make themselves quite an eyeful as well. Think QVC shopping channel - Absolute Ab Increase - Feel the burn Fat burner - Muscle men in Lycra. This, it seems, is the aspiration of the Rio Male, basically beeeefcake. So Impanema is basically a parade of the beautiful, and desperately wannabe people. There is very obviously a lot of plastic surgery, apparently bum implants are overtaking breast implants. Don't get me wrong it is amazing to see, but a plastic barbie world.
Generally speaking, regardless of age, shape or physical condition if you are female you wear a thong bikini and if you are a man you wear speedo's. Now as Rio is unique in that it is a city on the beach, the beachwear spreads throughout the whole city so there are men in ONLY speedo's and flip flops literally every where you look. In banks, supermarkets, markets, buses. You name it, there are speedos out in full force. And what I really mean by that is man bits jiggling around everywhere you look. Not, in anyway, pleasant. A lot of Errrrr, oh God, don't know where to look, oh no he saw me looking, but I didn't want to be looking, now he's smiling, and I'm cringing, look the other way, OH GOD! it's happened again and so on and so forth. They love it. It is hilarious but honestly, some decency please!! Shows how bloody British we ae doesn't it! In truth it is really liberating, and a nice quirk to their culture. I mean if you take beachwear out of the conext of the beach what it really is is waterproof inderwear. Can you imagine nearly everyone walking around Holborn in their underwear? If you think about it long enough it is quite nioce that people aren't set on disguising all their lumps and bumps and if your blessed with a beautuful body well ...
There is also an element of phsyical apreciation. It is not just westerns but the men are very vocal about these things which
Much to my horror, Claire actuallly chased a pair of red speedos down the street for photographic eveidence. She, not being the most subtle, got caught and so we had to resort to sneaky pics on the beach. The colour co-ordination displayed by the Rio gay male is some really spectacular. Turqiose flip flops, turqiose speedoes and a delightful turquoise scarf wrapped .... Oscar Wilde ....
What else? Shops. Shops and the beach, which is odd. Despite how beautiful it is, it feels so weird to have a beach in the city - it doesn't seem real. A faux beach to match the faux people. So this is Impanema, how we found it, and Copa-Copa-cabana is pretty much the same, although a little more 1970's degrading grandeur.
Without getting into facts and figures Brazil has an enormous population most of which is on the coast (except all the rich political criminals living in Brasilia). 40% of the population are living under the poverty line. What is so shocking about Rio is that the impoverished live right on top of the ridiculously rich. The Favelas are a stones throw from the 5* Hotels and the luxury apartments. So the same expensive-shop lined streets are being walked by sparkly high heels, also the dirty shoeless feet of the hundreds of people with out a penny to their names, not to mention the unwitting ipod-camera-cash clad travellers. I wont go on, but it is not hard to see why Rio has the crime rate that it does. You throw people with far far too much in the same bowl as people who have absolutely nothing and some people are going to get robbed. In fact, most people get robbed. Although this doesn't discourage people, not at all. Rio has got it's die hard fans. I guess people are accepting of the crime as it is so overtly obvious why it happens. I thanked my lucky stars when we crossed the boarder to Argentina with all of our things.
So Rio as a tourist ....
The Christ Redeemer is very cool. It is such an iconic image. Often with these things you have seen so many pictures of attractions that it kind takes something away from seeing it yourself. But it really is so impressive. It again gives you incredible views of the city and the statue it's self is really cool. It is an Art Deco statue, I think the largest in the world, and to me it doesn't have the creepiness of a half dead man hanging off a cross. It is, simple, beautiful smooth and awesome and it a warm feeling in you that you cant quite explain.
As Kathryn will tell you, we spent the carnival in Floranopolis which is like playschool compared to Rio. I can't even begin to imagine what it would have been like being there the week before. We went out to Lapa, which is a really old neighbourhood in which they were still very much celebrating the Carnival. It was all a bit too much. The Caprinia's are ridiculously strong, making you feel a little disarmed after just one. The streets are jam packed. I'll say it again, JAM PACKET. You cant move. The men grab at you and are constantly trying to get a trophy kiss, even if it is by force, off of a Western girl. It is relentless and it doesn't matter how many street corners you turn you can not get into some breathing space, for at least a square mile. By 3 am we'd had enough and piled in a taxi home. That said, the Carnival culture is amazing, the whole thing is based on fantasy hence the wild costumes and it is all about the street parties; drums, samba, caeporia, and cocktails but going to Lapa is like going right into the mush pit of a good gig with no escape. An experience for sure but too intense for the likes of me n Lil' Claire.
The extremeity of the classes permentates every aspect of the city and the nihgt life is no different ....
Rio, is obviously famous for it's nightlife but to be honest we wouldn't really know. Other than not really being in the mood for it, cosmopolitan clubbing is not really our thang anyway. Dancing with sand between the toes and sunrise go together, not 50 quid entry and 10 p/drink. Frankly, our budget couldn't afford it and we can do that in London.
I think thats it! We had whizzed around a bit whilst Kathryn was with us so we took some time in Rio to breath, catch up on our blog, load some piccies and prepare for our mammoth journey down to the End of The World. Oh and we finally caught up with Lucy even though it was only for a night!!