Operation Badger travel blog

On top of Corcovado

On top of Corcovado

Button the Redeemer

Sugar Loaf and tasty beach

Corcovado from the air (a picture of a picture...)

Copacabana at sunset

Sugar Loaf at sunset

Copacabana: best beach in the world?

Sugar Loaf cable car

View from Sugar Loaf


After the Rio carnival we hit the sights. The guidebooks and local advice were full of scaremongering saying not to take anything valuable with you anywhere, stay off the beaches, don’t go out at night etc because of all the robberies and crime, particularly around carnival season. Mexico City sounded like a tiddlywinks party at the Cambridge University Silly Buggers Society in comparison. Clearly, however, I wasn’t going to come to Rio and leave my camera at the hotel, so we ventured forth and tried our luck. The most immediately noticeable thing about Rio is the heat. It flirted playfully between the upper thirties and low forties, both day and night, but the air is very humid and wearing anything more than swim suits left you covered in sweat, which meant that I was wearing vests a lot, much to Georgie’s extreme prejudice. Most of the local chaps, however, seem to stroll around in just Speedos, even in the bars and restaurants at night. It’s probably the most casual big city we’ve ever been to, where going to a restaurant in a vest is considered smart (though I’m sure there must have been some very smart and swanky air conditioned places for the discerning gentlemen that we were not invited to). Obviously we only saw the city during the carnival week so nobody was doing anything industrious, and since reality only exists in the eyes of the beholder, Rio seemed like a city of pure leisure and hedonism. Not a bad thing.

The locals seemed to be in two camps, with little in the middle, either swamp pigs or supermodels. There were lots of Amazonian type women with legs that touched the sky, tight abs and chests that you could place several pina colladers upon, and then sip slowly through straws. Apparently, according to Georgie, there were some fairly buff chaps in Speedos too, but naturally I didn’t notice that sort of thing. I only mention this out of curiosity, for it is indeed a striking thing to behold, and from an amateur anthropologist point of view, it’s interesting to investigate the notion that certain races are generally more beautiful than others, or whether this is just jingoistic baloney from the days of the Empire. But what wonderful legs with which to study a hypothesis...

Rio has to be one of the most aesthetic pleasing cities in the world (I’m not talking about Amazonian goddesses any more, just thinking about them...), in terms of its natural beauty. If I were to create a city from realistic playdough I would select many of the characteristics that this place is blessed with. Granite mountains jutting out of the sea in interestingly haphazard shapes, rainforest and jungle at the shore, white sand, blue water, all in different coves and for good measure dozens of islands dotted around the place. Obviously I would leave out all the slums and crime, and would adopt some sort of screening policy that would have a particularly favourable bias towards Amazonian goddesses and a rather harsh draconian policy against men in Speedos, all of which would be presided over by a vest wearing pirate dictator.

Naturally, one of the most interesting and iconic of the rock formations in Pao de Acucar, more commonly known as Sugar Loaf Mountain. We got a cable car up the 396 metres, all the time hoping that I’d end up having a fight with Jaws on the roof, not the man eating fish responsible for the deaths of (among others) old Ben Harper, Quint and the little Kittler boy on his yellow inflatable, but the eight foot tall, steel teethed assassin as featured in the rather lame but amusing Bond outing Moonraker (admittedly this was more my fantasy then Georgie’s). From the top you get cool views over Rio, reinforcing the aforementioned opinions that it is a rather tasty city. To cap it all off, there was a cinema at the top where they showed a film about the history of the mountain, including several minutes from James Bond. Seeing it on the big screen, atop the mountain was most considerably agreeable, akin to having Santa Clause deliver a new camera at Christmas, personally, and take you for a ride on his reindeer. “I’m looking for Dr Goodhead?” “You just found her.” – Genius!

Even higher than Sugar Loaf is the Corcovado, surmounted by a 38 metre high statue of Christ the Redeemer, and to some, particularly those of a Catholic bent (pretty much the entire continent, except perhaps for a few indigenous tribes in the jungle who worship the massive length and girth of the mighty anaconda and sacrifice tourists to its rapacious appetite every Sunday, again more my fantasy than Georgie’s), by far the more iconic. Naturally I’m a Bond man, but I like to keep an open mind about these things. We took a small train to the top, up some very steep tracks to the top of the 710 metre summit. The view is probably more superior, but it’s also busier and filled with a few too many freaks bowing down at the ground, rather than just admiring the view. The Gospel of Button, book 1: Stop praying and admire the view. And play more Bond films at the summit, naturally.

All in all, Rio was a tidy number and will probably rank quite highly in our Top Ten cities list, although that will be for another time. We’re hanging out for another day and then heading down the coast. Since it would be rude to sign off without a Rio quote from the great Duran Duran, I feel it would be apt to simply say, ”You know your something special and you look like you’re the best!”

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