Monday, May 23, 2016


Rio scared me.
From what little I knew of the city, it seemed like the polar opposite of what I grew up with. In Minnesota we don't shake our big booties on the beach, we don't kiss strangers on both cheeks upon meeting, and our ideas of carnival are slightly different.
Left: Rio's Carnaval                                     Right: St. Paul's Winter Carnival
Thanks for the photo

But wow. What a city! The geography for a major city is unparalleled. Venice has its canals and Stockholm its archipelago, but Rio has ocean and mountains and lakes and beaches and jungles all butting up to each other like dancers at a saucy nightclub.

It was rainy my first few days here so I hit some museums and rented a bicycle from my hostel to bike around and introduce myself to the city.

You've probably heard of the two famous beaches, maybe the most famous in the world -- Copacabana and Ipanema. Copacabana is almost 3 miles long and Ipanema a little shorter.
Copacabana beach

Ipanema Beach

They inspire song, most famously by Antonio Carlos (Tom) Jobim. Here's me and him hanging out waiting for the Girl from Ipanema to walk by. Dark and tan and young and lovely...

Then I biked to this beautiful botanical garden.

After three days the weather finally cleared up enough. I had seen hang gliding and paragliding advertised at several places in Chile and Argentina. But I knew if I was going to do this I wanted to do it over Rio. It turned out to be an excellent choice. Here is a shot of the runway I ran down with my pilot/guide Roberto to launch over the city.

Despite the deer in the headlights look, this was all very professionally run and I felt completely safe. That's Roberto in the helmet clipping me in and checking for safety.

Hell yeah.
The flight lasted about 10 minutes and was great. We landed smoothly down on a beach after soaring with the birds.

Another famous landmark in Rio is the big Jesus statue up on one of the hills that you've likely seen in photos. We like to call him Unsportsmanlike Jesus in reference to the Touchdown Jesus that graces the University of Notre Dame. Jesus makes more sense to many of us when compared to a referee in American Football. Touchdown Jesus has his hands up in the air like he's signaling a touchdown. Unsportsmanlike Jesus has them spread out to the side like he's an NFL referee signaling an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Here Jesus is being worshiped by throngs of citizens who praise him by taking selfies with pouty faces that they think make them look sexy when they share them with friends online.

On the right of this photo you can barely see Unsportsmanlike Jesus on top of the mountain in the background. This photo was taken from Sugar Loaf, one of the other popular Rio mountains that you can visit. I hiked up Corcovado to see Unsportsmanlike Jesus, but rode a tram up Sugar Loaf.

Sugar Loaf is a wonderful spot in a charming neighborhood. I spent the day around here yesterday first walking around the neighborhood, then going for a swim at a little beach, then hanging out up on Sugar Loaf for a few hours admiring all the amazing views and waiting to watch the sun set.

What's Next
Tomorrow I bid farewell to Rio and I leave with a love for this city that I did not expect to achieve. It really is a special place. Perhaps I will actually come back for Carnaval some year.

Next week I'll be in Costa Rica and then it's back to Peru. Plan is to work my up Peru, then hit the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, then spend maybe 2 months or more in Colombia. I've been traveling now for 6 months and am getting ready to chill out in one place for a month or more again.

And I had an interview for a job in Antarctica, so that's a possibility for October through February. 

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