Day 111

Rio is the second largest city in Brazil, second only to Sao Paulo, and was its capital for almost 200 years until it was moved to Brasilia in 1960. We began our exciting day with the Tijuca Forest and 4×4 Drive. Our 8 passenger jeeps were waiting for us in a building just outside the port entrance. There were 5 jeeps in our caravan, travelling through town, checking on points of interest and local history, until we arrived at the Tijuca Forest, a national park at the foot of Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer mountains. According to our guide, Sayonara, the early Brazilians chopped down most of this rainforest area to make way for coffee and sugar cane farms. After some years they realized that the temperatures had warmed dramatically, and when it rained, there was flooding, since the original plants that prevented erosion were gone. Realizing their error, the government set its sights on replanting the forest, and moved the coffee and sugar cane areas further south. They replanted 70% of the destroyed area, a tremendous feat. This has grown now for almost 100 years and is now protected. Our jeeps drove through this beautiful wooded area and stopped at the Taunay Waterfalls and the Chinese View. The story behind this is that the Chinese came and attempted to plant tea in this region. It was much too hot and the crops failed. The Chinese helped build many roads in the park during restoration, and as a tribute to these hard workers, a pagoda was erected at this lovely viewpoint and named the Chinese Viewpoint. It really was spectacular. We got quite a few photos from this elevated spot.

The Botanical Garden was just a short drive away, and we got to spend about an hour here. We got to see coffee, cacao, and banana trees, and some of the indigenous plants unique to Brazil. There were some nice waterfalls and specialty gardens. It was very busy since it was Sunday, but still enjoyable. Our jeeps returned to the parking area with just enough time for us to meet for our afternoon tour, Sugar Loaf and Copacabana.

This time 23 of us were in a bus through town and by some beaches and Olympic venues to Urca Hill and Sugar Loaf. We all boarded a cable car and headed up the mountain. We needed to exit halfway up and transfer to another cable car to the summit. Again, we had wonderful views of the city, surrounding mountains, and ocean on this very clear day. We took photos from every angle and area of the summit path, even seeing a cute marmoset monkey. On the return, we drove by Ipanema Beach, made famous by the song, Girl from Ipanema, and Copacabana Beach, also well known from song. Ipanema is more of a boating and surfing beach because of its rough waters, while Copacabana is a popular swimming and gathering spot. You can see from our photos how crowded it gets (and it is fall here now).

We returned about 6:30, but had promised some friends we would join them for a local Brazilian dinner. Six of us, Gwen and Dean and Debbie and Dave and us, ventured off the ship at 7:45 to hail taxis. We had an 8:30 reservation at the Fogo de Chao, a restaurant recommended by our concierge, Daniela. After negotiating our taxi fare (we needed 2 cabs), we took the 20 minute drive to the restaurant. Apparently, red lights are only a suggestion down here, as our drivers zipped across the city barely stopping for any. We made it safely and our drivers agreed to pick us up again in 2 hours.

This place was a first-time experience for us. The others had been to similar places before. A huge salad bar was at the center of the place that included vegetables, bread, cheeses, and other unrecognizable and unlabeled food items. Everyone had a paper disk that was red on one side and green on the other. One meant, “Bring on the meat” and the other, “Stop, for now.” We shared a bottle of Brazilian Malbec wine and had bottled water as waiters approached us, almost nonstop, with ribs, sirloin, filet, baby beef, chicken, and many other cuts of beef that they explained in Portuguese. Waiters have a long skewer with a huge slab of meat and slice off individual portions to anyone wishing to try it. I never saw so many cuts of beef in one place before. This was a really different experience for Mac and me. When we thought we had enough, we turned our disks over to red. The waiter soon removed our dishes and brought new plates. I guess we tried a few more cuts of meat after that. We were stuffed. I won’t have beef again for at least a few days.

We got back to the ship after 10:30 (the Brazilians were just beginning to come for dinner) and Mac downloaded the day’s photos. By midnight, we were beginning to crash, so we went to bed. Tomorrow we need to get up by 7AM for an 8:15 excursion. Everyone must get off the ship so it can be cleaned and new folks would be coming aboard. This is a sold-out segment, with no empty cabins.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac