Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rio de Janiero: Part I

My introduction to Brazil was 5 days in Rio de Janiero. I’ll admit that I arrived in Brazil with a lot of mixed expectations and really no idea what to expect. Some people had told me that it would be super expensive, others had said that it was really cheap compared to places like Chile. Some people told me that I’d be screwed over if I didn’t speak Portuguese, since Spanish wasn’t close to it and no one spoke English; others told me that I’d be fine speaking English most of the time, and if all else failed I could speak Spanish and people would understand. Some people told me that Brazilian women were way overrated and in fact Chilean and Argentinean women were much more attractive, while others (the majority) told me that Brazilian women were by far the most beautiful women in the world. Some said that the food was bad, others said that it was amazing.
So needless to say, I arrived in Brazil with lots of things swirling around in my head, and no idea what to expect. Since the 6-hour flight from Chile hadn’t included food of any real substance, my first act on Brazilian soil was to go to the food court and pay outrageous prices for sub-par food (at least some things are the same wherever you travel). Feeling somewhat sated, I dodged the crowd of taxi drivers vying tooth and nail to overcharge me to go where I wanted to go and took the public bus into the city. A few stops later another American got on and happened to sit next to me, and we started talking. An hour later we realized that we had missed out stop 30 minutes ago so we decided to stay on the bus and wait until it reached the end and then ride it back, essentially getting a free tour of the city (we got to see all of the beaches and the city center- not bad for 3 reals).

The first thing that struck me as I watched the city pass by outside was just how active and athletic the city was. Since it was the early evening, people were just getting out of work and it seemed like everyone’s first destination was the beach. Volleyball, soccer, jogging, and these “exercise stations” every kilometer along the beach that we full of people doing pull-ups and situps between bouts of flexing at the traffic. Of course I was impressed by all of the Amazon-looking women (not referring to the river) spiking volleyballs or biking around in their bikinis, but I was also impressed by all of the “normal” people that seemed to be engaging in an athletics activity that they seemed to do on a regular basis.

Checking into the hostel 4 hours after leaving the airport I found that despite it’s great location in the Botafogo neighborhood, the tiny AC in the room did little to cool the nighttime temperature of 39 degree (Celsius) and I woke up multiple times covered in sweat.

The next day I met my first Brazilian traceur, JJ, one of the first traceurs to start training in Rio. He showed me around the city a bit and we made plans to meet up the next day to train, and also set up times to meet with other traceurs in Rio. I spent the rest of the day wandering around Rio and trying to get my bearings in the city (stopping every few blocks to try one of the many different types of fruit juice available- so good, so cheap!!!).

The next day I met up with one of the local guys, and he showed me one of the best spots in Rio, which just happened to be a 5-minute walk from my hostel. After an hour of training in the sun, I was ready to stop for food, and we stopped for my 3rd acai of the trip (in 2 days). For those of you that don’t know what acai is- it’s probably one of the best foods on earth. The berry is frozen, blended with guarana juice, and served with sliced banana and granola.

Acai in berry form.

Acai in delicious form.

I spent the rest of the day resting up before meeting the guys in the center of town for an “All-night Training session”. This session, run by JJ from midnight to 7am, is a conditioning session designed to bring a new level of intensity to training and to give both a physically intense workout, but also a mental workout. I didn’t find the session itself to be too bad, mostly because JJ couldn’t ramp up the intensity too much because there were a number of beginners participating, but I did find myself badly in need of some caffeine around 5am. Just after watching the sun rise over the beach we called it quits and went home to recover.

Not too sure I was very concious of the beautiful scenery at this point.

Sunday I met up with JJ and a bunch of the other traceurs in the center of town to go on a training excursion into the hills around Rio. After a 30-minute bus ride, we found ourselves at the head of the trail. The hike itself was pretty intense, and in addition to the 3-hours it took us to reach the top, there were a number of places that involved climbing techniques and steep drops as we neared the top. The view from the peak was pretty amazing, and shows one of the coolest parts of Brazil- the fact that you have a city with 11 million people surrounded by hills and forest that looks like this 30-minutes away. We jumped around the rocks up top for a while before heading back down the mountain.

On the way up.

At the top (notice the significant loss of clothing).

Only a few miles outside of Rio.

En route to the bottom we stopped at a “cachoeira” (waterfall) for a very refreshing break before the trek down the rest of the mountain.

At the cachoeira, a very refreshing break!

Next stop Florianopolis!

1 comment:

  1. Blake, I need the 411 on Rio. Eileen and I are going there in late May for a quick anniversary trip. Need the dos and don'ts. Want to go to a Fluminense v. Sao Paolo game. A favela. Up the mountain. Bring IPad? Don't bring Ipad? Crime? Danger? Ipanema or Copacabana? All thoughts would be appreciate!