If you haven’t already read part 1 of our Rio trip, click here to go back and read about heavy gunfire, the Olympics, and climate change.
In Brazil many of the biggest companies have extensive cultural funds and sponsorship programmes. Caixa, one of the biggest banks, runs “Caixa Cultural” close to the city’s cathedral. There’s a cinema, galleries, music hall, etc. They were running a Franz Kafka film festival, we got to see Orson Welles’ 1962 version of “The Trial”. In the next room was a pan-american art exhibition, part-sponsored by the Venezuelan government. In 2016 i’m surprised they can still sponsor anything, given their current economic situation, and lack of toilet paper.
After leaving the cinema, we warmed ourselves up. Brazilian cinemas are notorious for turbo-cooled air conditioning. We’d heard about another exhibition being held in the Centro Cultural da Justiça Federal – the old Federal Supreme court, prior to 1960. There was free drink, so we stayed a while. Much later, we stumbled to a street party nearby. It’s not hard to find these on a weekend night in Rio, no matter what time of year. Needless to say, the following day was a bit of a write-off.
The centre of Rio is one thing – the coast is quite another. Spending a day walking along the beaches from Copacabana to Ipanema and Leblon, you’ll see the Cariocas (Rio residents) at play. Row after row of beach bars, volleyball courts, rental spots for surfboards, kayaks, and deckchairs of course. Surprisingly you don’t see that many people swimming here – the seawaters around Rio are supplied by a deep Antarctic current. Still warmer than an Irish summer though. A great spot to stop here is the Pedra do Arpoador. It’s a rock outcrop that splits the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. Every evening it’s a gathering place to drink, smoke and watch the surfers do their tricks.
For a more refined experience, and a perfect opportunity to empty your wallet, visit the Copacabana palace. We stopped by this famous hotel for after-lunch cocktails, which were admittedly spectacular, but at prices to rival Dublin. Luckily, there were free nachos and dips, so in fact it was cheaper than Pygmalion on any typical day. Palm trees and outdoor pools also rare, in Dublin.
No trip to Rio would be complete without the customary trip up to Corcovado, where Jesus lives. As the bible says: Location, location, location. Jesus was known as a master of Feng Shui, when he wasn’t serving drinks, or surfing. Of the many choices to get up the mountain, we deliberately picked the most difficult.
Julia, Marina & I set off from Parque Lage, on the southern side, to follow the trail up the summit. The route goes through dense, dark forest, and had very few other hikers. Everyone we met was coming the other way, descending. But we were committed, and had resolved to suffer for Christ. It’s the only way to repent for all our sins.
Thankfully, Jesus welcomes everyone with open arms. His followers open their arms too, but mainly to use their selfie sticks. It can be a bit tough to get a nice picture up on top. We reached the summit in time to see the sunset, but we were too short on time down below. Better to start around 2pm, so you won’t be in a rush. And bring a jumper! It’s cold up there.
Next day, we turned our heads upwards yet again, but for a different kind of view. About 7 times per century, the planet Mercury passes directly between the Earth and the Sun. We were lucky enough to witness this rare occurrence at the Museu de Astronomia in Rio, on May 9th, 2016. On any other day, the museum is worth a visit, with their vast collection of antique scientific apparatus, numerous telescopes and domed observatories. On this special day, the front lawn was full of volunteers explaining solar phenomena to adults, children, and even a small group of soldiers.
With that, our time in Rio was very quickly running out. Our flights booked, we rushed home to pack our bags for a very different part of our journey. Welcome to the Jungle: next stop, Manaus – Amazonas.
- Caixa Cultural: From about R$4 (€1) for events
- Centro Cultural Justícia Federal: Free!
- Copacabana Palace cocktails: From R$60 (€15) up
- Corcovado entrance fee: R$12 or R$24 (€3 or €6) depending on the time.
- Corcovado train (return): R$56 or R$68 (€14 or €17) depending on the time. Half-price for one-way.
- Astronomy museum: Free!