Our truck is not really suited to big cities. Driving is a challenge with all the traffic and it is difficult for us to find places to park and stay for the night. We had been to Rio before but we were keen to visit again so we did what we always do before driving into a city. We came up with a plan and researched possible places to park and to drive to. In this case we had plan A (a marina), plan B (a parking spot for the truck in the centre), plan C ( hopefully a hotel with a large enough parking lot) and plan D (a campsite 35 kms out of town).
As the first few options were right in the centre of Rio we had to take the plunge and drive in. The roads were not too bad but I am not sure we obeyed all the driving rules. Certainly we drove down a number of roads that were marked as only been for buses and taxis. When we arrived at the marina they said we were too big and could not stay but they directed us to the truck park (plan B) a short distance away. Unfortunately when we got there they were full. In addition the car park attendant was rude and unhelpful. As stress levels were rising he got a real earful from me.
We realised that there was very unlikely to be hotels with big enough parking so very despondently we set off out of town to find the campsite. The drive through the city though did have it’s upsides. We saw all the sights and even drove the truck down the side of Copacabana Beach. The drive out of the city was jammed and it took us over 2 hours to cover the 35kms to the campsite.
We checked in at the campsite with a view to booking a hotel and heading back into Rio the next day, leaving the truck safely outside the city. To our dismay when going on the Internet to try and book something nothing was available. We later learnt that the following day was a holiday and a long weekend. That might also have explained all the traffic leaving the city. Eventually we booked a small apartment between Copacabana and Ipanema beach.
The next day we headed back into the city. With the Olympics been in Rio in 2016 there is lots of development going on including a rapid bus transport system. Unfortunately this only went half way into the city so we had to jump on a normal bus for the remainder of the way.
On the way in one thing that concerned us with booking an apartment over the Internet was how did we get the keys. At least we had the telephone number of the owners so when we arrived we rang them. As you know our Portuguese is not up to much and the owner did not speak English. The bit I could understand though was that there was a problem and we needed to ring Booking.com. We rang them and they explained the apartment had been double booked. Oh no!! But to be fair Booking.com were great. They said they had another larger apartment for us right in the heart of Ipanema only 10 minutes walk away. So off we trooped and at last got settled.
The location was fantastic, right in the heart of Ipanema. As it was a holiday there was a nice buzz on the street with people chilling in bars and restaurants. We were close to the beach and many people were going to or from the beach. Things are very relaxed as even 3 roads back from the beach in the shopping district people were walking around just in their swim wear and flip flops.
We took a long walk along Ipanema Beach and then Copacabana Beach stopping for refreshment along the way to enjoy the view.
The next day we headed up to Christ the Redeemer, the large statue overlooking Rio that you can see from all over, including our apartment window. We had heard it was busy and when we got to the station at the bottom we were told the first train we would be able to get on was in 5 hours time. We were not too bothered as we had been up on the train before so instead jumped in a minibus for the ride to the top. When we got there though here was a massive queue to get into the piece of the park with the statue. We asked a guide how long he thought it would take to get in and he said 3 hours. As much as that would be standing in the midday sun and as we had been there before we decided we did not want to spend the whole day queuing. So instead we went for a walk in the National Park where we got some views of the back of the statue as well as great views over Rio. We also got to see a pair of toucans.
Rather than queuing we spent the afternoon like a true Carioca (Rio resident) on Ipanemea Beach with our deck chairs, sun shade and cold beer. It was a great atmosphere. The beach was packed with families and groups of people chatting and having fun and all sorts of vendors passing by selling drinks, food and various other things. We were surprised though that so few people were in the water until we ventured for a paddle and found it to be very cold.
One thing we had done 4 years ago when we were last in Rio was to have dinner at a Churrascaria. We remembered one place well as it had a play ground which had entertained the children all night allowing us to have a relaxing dinner. I was sure it was not far away in Ipanema and true enough it was just around the corner so we booked it for the night. Again the kids were happy in the playground and Gilly and I were able to have a more relaxing dinner with some Caiparinas The meat was fantastic although to be honest Alisha and Lucy were more impressed with the sushi on the side buffet.
On our last morning we hired a “bike” that we could all fit on to cycle the 8kms around the nearby lake. It was a great end to our trip to Rio. We got some good exercise. Although as there were a lot of joggers and walkers on the cycle track steering was almost as hard as driving the truck through the city. We had thoroughly enjoyed our short time in the city. The weather was great, Ipanema is a great place to base yourself and the city was buzzing and friendly. We are really glad we made the effort to see it again as we enjoyed it more the second time around.
On our way back to the campsite we broke our journey at a large shopping mall in Barra da Tijuca to do some Christmas shopping. This is the area of Rio that will host the Olympics and there is a lot of development going on. The area is been modernised with large shopping malls and residential areas right next to some great beaches. It feels very much like California.
The following day we headed out along the Costa Verde. The road twisted and turned along the coast through Atlantic rainforest that went right down to the sea. Every so often we would get peeks of small sandy beaches as well as wonderful views to small islands out at sea. We arrived in the small colonial port of Paraty where we found a campsite just across the road from a small beach. As it was the end of the holiday weekend it had quietened down but the great weather we had had in Rio had also gone and it was overcast with a little drizzle. Still we were able to enjoy a late afternoon drink while wriggling our toes in the sand.
Paraty was the port through which all the gold in Brazil was originally shipped. However it’s heyday did not last long as a shorter route was found over the mountains to Rio at which point Paraty went into decline. In its short heyday though a beautiful small 17th century town was built which has been well restored and today is a charming place of whitewashed buildings set next to a small harbour and surrounded by white beaches and green rainforest tumbling down the hills.
We were not sure how much of Paraty we would see though as Lucy had gone to bed with a high temperature and the weather forecast was for heavy rain. Luckily Lucy woke up the next morning almost fully better and although it was a grey day the rain held off.
As Paraty is in easy reach of both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo it can get very busy. However we were there at the beginning of the week so things were pretty quiet. We first visited the fort for views along the bay. We then spent the rest of our time wandering the cobble stone, car free streets enjoying the lovely churches and buildings.