Friday, 30 January 2015

Day 4 - Maracana Football Stadium

This morning we caught the bus into the centre of Rio in order to book a bus ticket for the 20 hour journey we need to make in a few weeks to go to Porto Seguro. Little did we know that there are two bus stations, one for local buses and one for long distance journeys. We stopped at the local bus station and soon realised we had made a mistake. This part of town, overlooked by several favelas is rather questionable and we were very uneasy trying to find where to book our ticket. Thankfully neither of us had bags or jewellery on but that didn't stop the locals looking our way; we stood out like sore thumbs. After a tense 10 minutes unsuccessfully trying our best Portuguese - hardly anyone here speaks English, a reflection on the state of education available - we decided to catch the bus back to where we knew. After travelling through a tunnel under the favelas we were in what seemed like a whole different place with hotels, boutique shops, museums and art galleries. It was such a stark contrast and a huge eye opener to the two sides of this beautiful city.

After a ride through this part of the centre we caught the Metro to the Maracana football stadium. This iconic football ground saw a complete overhaul for the 2014 World Cup and it shows. Everything is so modern and sleek and it is easy to see why riots took place over the World Cup when you think of the money invested in such an impressive stadium.

Although I am not a huge football fan it was a great experience learning about the history of the game this country is so mad about and it seems others are keen to learn as well, as there was a steady stream of tourists all with the same idea as us. From here we caught the Metro to Ipanema and after learning from our previous mistake, walked the right way and found the world famous beach. Similarly to Copacabana beach, it is easy to see why it is famous with the white sand and stunning coast, both being lapped up by huge crowd on the beach.

The beach is split in two by an outcrop of rocks which we climbed. In the 35 degree heat it wasn't easy but we agreed it was definitely worth it as we took in the views. Helicopters are constantly flying around this area, presumably carrying the new rich elite vying to see the sights too. As much as that would be amazing - and definitely out of our backpacker budget reach - it was so rewarding after the difficult climb to be able to see first hand just how outstanding this coastline really is. So after all our to-ing and fro-ing across town, we hauled ourselves up the steep hill to the hostel, devoured even more noodles in contended silence and will soon be getting an early night in preparation for another busy day tomorrow!