It’s been a long hot summer, and while summer is still in progress at least it’s cooled down enough for me to get a tinge of creativity back, something I need before I can write a blog. I don’t deal well with the heat, and it took a couple of visits from the landlord’s repairman to get the air conditioner running.
To escape the heat I decided to take a trip to Rio, where it’s winter. (Well, actually it was a business trip, and the trip had been on the calendar for months, but it’s fun to describe it as a spur-of-the-moment vacation to an exotic location.)
Ah, Rio. The scenery, the weather, the beaches, the tanned and nearly naked girls on the beaches…. Instead, I got rain, more rain, and in between the rain lots of low clouds making the famous peaks of Sugar Loaf and Corcavado impossible to view.
I did manage a Sunday morning walk along Ipanema Beach (okay, it’s in there, now I challenge you to get the song out of your head…) where the vendors were setting up for the day. Volleyball nets were already up, as were football goals and beach chairs. Snack bars were selling fresh cocoanuts, where the top is hacked off with a machete, and served with a straw for drinking the milk inside. A little later in the morning, on my return trip, beach goers were taking their places. But rather than bikinis on attractive female bodies I saw mostly Speedoes on overweight middle-aged male bodies. Ew.
My meetings at the local university went well; it was a successful trip in that regard. The best thing about the trip had to have been the food. Even the university’s cafeteria had a wonderful lunch buffet, much better than I would expect from any American university cafeteria. The Sheraton hotel, right on the beach, had a friendly little poolside restaurant where we ate most nights, with pretty good sandwiches and pizzas, and lots of Caipirinha — the Brazilian national drink made with cachaca, a sugarcane-based rum, and lime and sugar. Yummy. One evening had us all on a tour bus to the other side of town to visit a locally famous steak house, where the waiters roamed between the tables, slicing off chunks of meat from skewers. More yummy.
At the end of the week the three of us who were traveling together decided to make one last attempt at tourism, so we booked a car to take us to Corcavado, the mountain with the Christ statue on top, on the way to the airport. I had my doubts, as the weather looked pretty iffy, but the others wanted to give it a try, so away we went. It took almost an hour to get to the base of the mountain — Rio’s a pretty big and spread out city, and there are no main thoroughfares or direct routes — and by the time we got to the parking lot near the top of the mountain we were in the fog. But we went ahead with paying for a ticket to the top, climbed into the shuttle bus, and hung on as the bus driver did his best to scare us shitless as he sped around the hairpin turns on the rain-soaked roads.
At the top we got out, climbed the stairs to the base of the statue, and gazed up at what should have been a monumental statue. All I saw was fog. Standing at its base we couldn’t even see the statue. The clouds cleared for a few seconds, just long enough to get a photo or two. But I didn’t care so much about the statue; I really wanted to see the view — the city, the beaches, the mountains. Instead I could barely see the railing. A major disappointment. A convenient placard helpfully pointed out what I had missed.
Oh well, that’s what you get in Rio in winter, I suppose. No Carnival. No gorgeous naked women. We didn’t even get the expected riot in celebration of a World Cup victory as Brazil didn’t make it that far. But at least I had one of the most uncomfortable flights in my life on the way home, so the trip wasn’t an entire waste. I’m not sure when I’ll be down there again, but I hope next time to go when there’s something to see.