IgoUgo member and editor Valerita has one regret about her first trip to Brazil: that she didn’t spend more days in Rio de Janeiro. Here’s why.
My biggest concern when considering a trip to Rio was safety. When I asked midtownmjd—a recent visitor to the city—about it, she said, “I felt safe in Rio all the time!” That was all I needed to know, and our initial plans to spend 9 days in the quiet town of Buzios turned into a 6-day stay in Buzios and a 3-day stay in the city of contrasts: Rio de Janeiro.
Visiting the city in times of dengue epidemic is not the best idea, or at least, that’s what we thought before going. We had to use repellent all the time, although I didn’t see a mosquito during our entire stay. Once there—and calling home every day to say “We are perfectly fine”—we let the city captivate us, and it surely did!
If I could do it again, I would stay fewer days in Buzios and a couple more days in Rio. There are so many things to do there that we weren’t able to see half the things we had in mind: namely, the Sambodromo (we had to resign ourselves to seeing it from the outside on our way to the hotel, instead of trying on costumes and pretending to be part of an Escola do Samba); the Maracana (okay, I may not be the biggest soccer fan on earth, but Uruguay beat Brazil there and won the World Cup in 1950, something that Uruguayans still consider our biggest feat); night clubs; Lapa; and Barra de Tijuca.
You may wonder, what did you see then? Well, those three days were enough to fall in love with this vibrant city. Contrasts everywhere: mountains; sea; beautiful architecture; favelas.
One of the best moments of our trip was our visit to the Sugarloaf. You have to take two cable cars to reach the top of it, and once you get there, the views are spectacular.
I have always heard of the spirit, energy, and kindness of Brazilians, and now I can say that it’s totally true. From the taxi driver to the hotel receptionist to the guy renting umbrellas at the beach, Brazilians were always ready with a smile, a piece of advice about somewhere interesting to go, or just a nice chat. Of course, they know very well that tourism is one of their biggest treasures, but still, they do it with pleasure, and that’s something you don’t find very often.
There was one particular moment that will stay in my mind forever: reaching the top of the Corcovado to meet him, Christ the Redeemer. We had scheduled this tour for the eighth day of our trip. During the entire previous week, we repeated all the time: “Can you believe that we are going to be up there soon?”
Finally, Saturday arrived. The tour operator sent us a taxi to take us to the Corcovado and then to the Sugarloaf. There are three ways to go to the Corcovado. You can take a taxi, a van, or the train. Our new friend Marcelo was a perfect tour guide. We were enjoying the scenery of the Tijuca National Park when we noticed that something was wrong: there was a traffic jam. Can you imagine our frustration when we learned that there was a protest of taxi drivers blocking the access and that we would not be able to go up? It was noon Saturday, and we were leaving Rio on Sunday. We couldn’t believe we weren’t able to visit this icon of the city. We were going down when we heard on the radio that a part of the road was liberated, and our taxi driver thought that if we took the train, we would be able to get to the top.
Fortunately, stars were aligned in our favor! We could take the train and were really happy we did, as the journey was a lot of fun. When we arrived, we couldn’t believe our eyes. The city was at our feet. I couldn’t help remembering a text by Eduardo Galeano that tells the story of a little boy who goes to the beach for the first time. What he discovers is so wonderful, so huge, that he asks his father: “Help me to see!” I felt that I needed another couple of eyes to see all that beauty and immensity, too.