January 21, 2009
Again we are at sea, well on our way to Montevideo, Uruguay where we will dock tomorrow at about 9 AM. This is our second sea day, after a wonderful day exploring Rio de Janeiro. The most wonderful part was actually the afternoon we sailed in. It was a beautiful, sunny day and our captain took the ship right straight towards the city and the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, having the mountain of Corcovado with the statue of Christ the Redeemer on top to the left, and the granite peak called Sugarloaf on the right.
Then he swung the ship to the right and glided us past the beaches and around most of the city to the port area. We could see the unique way that this city is built with granite peaks called morros scattered throughout, beautiful beaches with high rise buildings behind them, and slums called favelas built up the hillsides in the background.
After we docked, quite a few people went off to have dinner and see a show in the city, but we elected to stay on board, knowing that we had a full day tour scheduled for the next day.
At 8AM we were met by our tour guides, Neyla and Jerry, who took us in 2 groups of 10 in 2 air conditioned and comfortable vans. Unfortunately, the day started out being rather overcast, and we had changeable weather all day. First we went to Sugarloaf mountain, which involved taking 2 cable cars as it is about 1300 feet high.
Once we got up there, we waited a while to see if it might clear so that we could see the city spread out below us. Eventually, that is what happened, although it was never as totally clear as it had been as we were sailing in the day before. We took lots of pictures of the views, and also saw one very large iguana and lots of smaller lizards running all over the slopes below us. Because this day was a holiday, the traffic was a lot less than normal, which made it nice for driving around. But it also meant that lots of Brazilians were also visiting the places that we wanted to see. When we arrived at the cog railway station to catch the train up Corcovado to see Christ the Redeemer, there were hundreds of people there already! Neyla got the tickets and we all waited about an hour before we were able to catch the train. It goes through a rainforest park, Tijuca National Park, on the way which has beautiful trees and flowers, and probably lots of animals as well, but not when the trains are running. Here we are on the train with Ken & Carolyn, Joe & Carla.
It is the largest national park within a city in the world. At the top, we had to take an elevator and 2 escalators to the bottom of the statue, where again, there were hundreds of people. Also, the sun had disappeared and it was overcast; but we still managed to get a few good pictures. The statue is so big (100 feet tall), that I had to lay down on the pavement and shoot up at it with Carla, Joe and Elaine standing right near me in order to get them in the picture with the statue.
The views of the city should have been fabulous from there, but the mist was floating in and out, obscuring our views. Then we had to wait in line again in order to get the train back down.
Our guides had planned for a large Brazilian buffet lunch, but after all the huge meals we have been having on the ship, and after learning that the cost would be about $35 per person, we opted out. So they took us to a hill where there were some overlooks of the beaches and the city. Here we are with Joe & Carla at the viewpoint:
Neyla also bought a jackfruit, and opened it up for all of us to taste. It grows very well here, and we saw lots of fruits on the trees as we took the train up to Corcovado. Then they drove all along Leblon, Ipanema, and Copacabana Beaches and dropped us off at Leme beach. We could see that there were thousands of beach goers wearing rather brief suits, and even a few really fantastic sand castles.
We found a shady area where we could buy a local beer and take in the beach, the people, and the high rise apartments and hotels lining the beach. Then our guides returned us to the ship. Overall, it had been a most interesting day because we also saw a lot of the city while driving between the various venues we visited. It was a warm evening as we pulled away from the dock and sailed out of Guanabara Bay with the lights of the city sparkling in the distance. We were happy that there would be 2 sea days to get to Montevideo because we all needed a rest!
Yesterday Elaine woke up with the respiratory illness that has been clobbering our group, so she hasn’t been going to any exercise classes and we mostly rested the past 2 days, with just a little walking up on deck today. We want to be in tip top shape for walking around the old city part of Montevideo tomorrow. Last night was another formal night and we enjoyed having Madelyn and George with us at our table, now that they have joined our group for the second and third legs. Of course, we miss Dwayne and Dorothy, Charlie and Marla, and Susan and Clay, all of whom have returned to Houston. The ship is much busier now that about 600 Brazilians have come on board in Rio. Apparently the late dinner seating is quite boisterous as they like to eat very late in these South American countries, and stay up late partying afterwards.
Today at sea we have had calm waters and sunny skies. This is quite a change after yesterday, when we had gale force winds and huge waves which were bashing the ship and making loud banging sounds. We kind of expected that this might happen once we get down by the tip near Ushuaia, but not here, where we have been having fairly hot and humid weather and only small waves. The prediction is for mid-80’s tomorrow and we hope that is true. The 2 days after that will be spent in Buenos Aires. Elaine and I spent about a week here in 2001 when we were arranging to have our VW van shipped back to the USA after our 8 month exploration of South America. It will be interesting to see it again, and perhaps explore areas we missed then. Don’t know when the next travel report will be posted because of all these port days, but keep checking because I promise it will eventually appear.