Brazil was always a destination of interest but I kept pushing it back since we had to physically present ourselves at the Brazilian consulate for a visa. In speaking with Angelo, we finally decided we’d go for the visa and schedule a trip for January 2005. It worked out great since Karl, another co-worker of mine that has been there before, was heading to Rio in January. Just under the 10 hour flight, we start the descent and was mesmerized with the mountains and concentration of houses that we’ve seen from the air. We flew into Sao Paulo at their international airport, raced by taxi to their domestic airport, board a flight with TAM to Rio de Janiero and voila, we’re in South America. The gigantic Maracanã soccer stadium is so visible from the air, that one can imagine the true size in person.
Without losing any time, we head for the city center and see the Theatro Municipal and the Cathedral Sao Sebastiao with beautiful glass work on all four sides of the church. One can’t miss the Sugarloaf Mountain and the suspended cable cars swaying in the wind. Karl, met up with a friend of his and we all shared a drink at an outside terrace. With the evening approaching we wanted to see the city by night. We never expected to see it at gun point.
I’ve heard of the dangers that are associated with Favelas in Brazil, but traveling with someone who has already been there usually places the guard at a more relaxed state. Karl, myself and Angelo were walking along in a linear formation in some area that although didn’t have much activity, was still relatively close to tourist action. In the distance behind us, two males were walking towards us as if they too were leisurely taking in an evening stroll. Their pace increases with every step and when they reach to a planned distance behind us, one leaps towards Angelo aiming for his gold necklace, grabs it and dashes to the right. At the same time, the other one attempts to pick pocket Karl on the left side. Karl resists the attack forcing the perpetrator to engage in an altercation only to reveal his gun. Angelo without his necklace heads to the left, I sprint to the center and Karl is then at gun point for what seemed an eternity but was all over in seconds. Thankfully no one was injured, they fled, we regroup, catch our breath and head straight to our hotel. Despite the event, Karl wasn’t really affected and wanted to continue the evening festivities by going clubbing. Both Angelo and I decided to stay in and start off fresh the next morning in daylight.
The sun was shining, locals were jogging, every corner practically had a juice bar and the dark thoughts of the night before were nothing but a memory. Let’s enjoy Rio de Janeiro.
We decided to visit the Corcovado Mountain and with the help of the “trem do Corcovado”, we were able to reach the majestic statue of Christ the Redeemer standing 40 meters tall. The view overlooking the city at the height of 710 meters above sea level was breathtaking. A mixture of condensed buildings amongst mountain peaks, enriched green vegetation mixed with dark blue waters and clouds being pierced by mountain tops provide an exceptional portrait. Brazil seems to have the marriage between nature and city life at its best.
We head down to the beautiful and populated Ipanema beach. Perfect half-moon landscape filled with sand overlooking the ocean, mountains at either side and locals that seem to have perfected the human body. Many sculpted and having just the right amount of clothing to reveal smooth olive toned skin texture.
The waves were rough that day, and in the distance, we saw two helicopters practicing a rescue mission dropping their basket to the sea level. I guess the waves can challenge any swimmer and these helicopters must have certainly performed rescue missions in the past.
Seeing the flights from Rio weren’t promising, we took a bus to Sao Paulo and boarded a flight back home to end a rather interesting adventure. One lesson we’ve learned is that no matter where in the world one is traveling to, being vigilant should always be exercised.