July 17th - We got up and went to the bus station to catch our 1pm bus to Rio. We got on at 1.30pm and it was full. Emma was sat in front of Neil. We went straight to the Argentinian border crossing where we were waiting for 1hr for everyone to get a stamp in their passport. The Brazilian border crossing was much quicker. Once we were through the borders the lady next to Emma moved for some reason so we had seats together. We were then both given a massive lunch as we were the only people to get on at Iguazu and everyone else had eaten before. The journey was fine, we had a couple of English films and we managed to get some sleep, although the least leg room we had had on a bus. We arrived into Rio at about 1pm the next day.
July 18th - We got a taxi straight to our hostel Mellow Yellow in Copacabana.
The hostel was massive with about 120 beds but it was expensive. It was geared more towards 18-30 holidays as there did not seem to be many backpackers and everyone was a bit younger as they were on holidays after gcse´s or a levels. The hostel had loads of facilities including a massive bar which was really good,tv room, playstation room, chill out room, spa,pool table....We dumped our bags and went out for a walk to explore. Copacabana beach is amazing, its about 2.5 miles long and full of people playing football, volleyball, american football. These were all full scale matches with kits, refs etc. we were amazed that all the men were just walking round in small pants and quite annoyingly for Neil were all ripped. Everyone had a 6 pack.
The women all walked around in g-strings whatever size they were. That night we cooked our own tea and went to the bar.
July 19th - we had a lay in and got up for the hostel breakfast which was really good and included 2 pieces of fruit a toastie and unlimited bread with dulce de leche. We then got a taxi to the botanical gardens which are in the heart of the city. They were beautiful and were massive. There are hundreds of plants and trees from all over South America and monkeys swinging around. We walked round for a couple of hours then got a taxi back to the hostel. That night was the hostel bbq which was really good, not the best meat we´ve had but lots and lots of different salads etc. We then went to the hostel bar and met a couple of Irish people who had been in Rio for a couple of weeks so they told us where to go and what to do.
July 20th - We got up and caught a local bus to Pao de Azucar - Sugar Loaf Mountain. The lonely planet guide says that the bus drivers in Rio are raving maniacs - this is true!! We queued for about 30mins for the cable car to the top, luckily the weather was really hot and had been since we arrived in Rio - in the 80´s. The cable car went to the first of the 2 mountains, here the view was amazing across most of Rio. We sat and watched a film about the history of the cable cars and Sugar Loaf then went in another cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf. Here the views were amazing too but we prefered the views from the first mountain so we went back down and sat in the sun for a while looking across Rio and watching helicopters come and go, taking people on 7 minute rides - too expensive for us!!We then went back down and caught the local bus to Ipanema beach.
On the way it went through Leblon
which is the most expensive area of Rio and it looked just like Palermo in Buenos Aires. As it was sunday afternoon Ipanema beach was packed and buzzing, there was so much going on and a brilliant place to people watch. We walked the entire length of Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, occasionally stopping to watch football matches and eat a corn on the cob! All along both beaches there are bars selling coconuts, caiprinha (Brazils national cocktail) and lots of street sellers selling all types of local food, jewelry, brazil shirts etc..That night we chilled out in the hostel and watched a couple of films.
July 21st - We had planned to make our own way to Corcavodor mountain (Christ the Redeemer statue) but the hostel was offering a trip in a mini bus for the price it would have cost us so we booked that.
We checked out of Mellow Yellow and got a taxi to our new hostel Wave of a beach a bit further along Copacabana and a lot cheaper. it was our first experience of a dorm - 12 beds. The hostel was really nice and clean, it had a good kitchen and communal area with a bar and the dorms were fine as they were not full. We dropped our bags off and then made our way back to Mellow yellow for our trip at 3pm, along the way stopping for a coconut on the beach. Neil loved it, the man just got a coconut from the fridge, chopped the top off and stuck a straw in it, very refreshing . There were about 20 of us on the trip mostly English and the guide worked at Mellow yellow - we thought he was a bit strange and wondered how he was going to be a guide! He actually was very knowledgable about Rio and the Favella´s including the crime, death punishments and drug problems.
The statue was massive! It looks down over the whole city and was built to bring peace to Rio. It is over 100 tonnes of concrete and was brought up to the top of the mountain as one giant bolder and carved there. From there we were taken down to a heliport below the statue for a different view - the views are amazing and much better than those from Sugar Loaf - you can see all the beaches, the Maracana stadium, several favellas and a lake where the olympic rowers are training. At the helipad the most embarrassing thing of the trip so far happened to Neil. We were standing looking out at the views with Neil near the edge and Emma behind. Emma then walked off to look somewhere else and Neil did not realise. As he moved back he saw blond hair behind him so he put his arm around the girls shoulders - it was not Emma! he kept his arm around her for at least 5 secs as he was still looking straight out.
It wasn´t until her boyfriend who she was taking a photo of starting laughing that he realised it wasn´t Emma! They all saw the funny side although the girl looked very scared of this wierdo with his arm round her! We then got the mini bus back and then walked back to our new hostel. We cooked our dinner and then Adam and Kate arrived, the couple we met at Iguazu and we had a few drinks in the hostel before going out to a bar. We were amazed that there are not many bars in Copacabana and it took us a while to find one. we stayed out until about 2am and walked back to our hostel- we wouldn´t have considered this before arriving in Rio as the guide books say how dangerous it is but it is not as bad and we felt safe in a small group.
July 22nd - We got up early at 6.45am after our first night in a dorm bed. Neil didn´t snore but a girl next to emma did! We got a taxi to the bus station and made it just in time for the 8am bus to Angra dos Reis. here we then just made it for the 11.15am ferry to Ilha Grande - this is a tropical island an hours journey away and is gorgeous. It has no real roads, just dirt tracks, no vehicles(apart from 1 massey ferguson!), no banks. We love it here and the hostel is the best we´ve stayed in, partly because the owner is amazing and so helpful..she will do anything for you and is like a mum to everyone. We went for a walk along the shore which had lots of small coves so you have a choice of several little beaches all reached by trekking up small trails in the forest.
The water is crystal clear with white sandy beaches, we laid on the beach and read our books until the sun went. The weather seems even hotter here so we´re at last changing colour although taking it slowly. That night we stayed in the hostel and met the others staying there and went to bed early as we were really tired.
July 23rd - we got up early to have our breakfast as it had been recommended and is included in the cost of the hostel. It was worth it especially the homemade banana jam. We walked around the shore through the forest to a secluded bay - we had started walking to the other side of the island where there is the best beach but it was too hot so we turned back! There was only 4 other people on the beach, and funnily a man did similar to what Neil did at the helipad and thought that Emma was his girlfriend.
Neil was pleased as he wasn´t the only one! We stayed here for a few hours having our first swim in the sea which was fab, and then after lunch went to another part of the coast as the tide comes in early and stayed there until sunset. back at the hostel we were given passion fruit caiprinhas and popcorn from our brazilian mum and sat around with the others playing pool. we went out for dinner and had a couple of drinks before going to bed about 11pm - the sun makes you tired!