Our flight left Manaus at 2:50 a.m., but due to delays, it didn´t actually leave until 4:30. We were exhausted by the time we reached Rio, but wanted to do at least something during the day so we could get back on a decent schedule.
The guide book mentioned that a visit to the soccer stadium was a must, but it is a little dangerous, transportation is difficult and tickets are hard to come by. Our hotel organized a tour for us (along with about 35 other people from different hotels) to take us to and from the stadium, with the tickets included. We decided on that option, but with the stadium only about 10% filled (the stadium holds 135,000), realized that we could have easily negotiated the logistics on our own. Oh well, better safe than sorry.
The game was really exciting. It was a Rio team (Fluminense) against Sao Paulo and Sao Paulo won 3-1. There were several free kicks, yellow cards distributed and a general sense of rivalry. Both sides had their loyal fans who did chants and beat on drums throughout the game. I wasn´t sure how interested I would be, so took a book just in case. I didn´t open it once! After a quick dinner, we hit the sack early.
On Monday we took a long walking tour of the city, although most of the museums were closed. It is an incredible contrast coming from Peru where it is poor, dingy and dirty. Rio is gorgeous with its beautiful beaches and delicious food. We came upon the Municipal Theatre where there was an extremely long line of people waiting for something. We finally figured out that there was free entry to different performances. In the afternoon there was a ballet and in the evening there was a symphony and choir performing. At 4:00 the people were already lining up for the 7:00 performance. We found out it was going to be Beethoven´s 5th Symphony, as well as Ode to Joy and decided we would wait. We were not disappointed. It was incredible, although neither of us cared for the 4 opera singers they had. You could tell it was a free performance, though, because 2 ladies in the choir came in about 10 minutes late. Then a bass player just left with his instrument in the middle of one of the performances and somebody from the back moved up to take his place. It was a little comical, but we enjoyed it immensely nonetheless.
Tuesday we spent the day walking along many of the beaches, including the famous ones of Copacabana and Ipanema. We looked for the Girl from Ipanema, but she was not to be found. Later we checked out the surfing gear at the surf shops and some surfers on another beach called Prata do Aproador. We ate dinner at a place called Spaghettilandia (seriously) where all that was good was the name. Then we took in a movie (Charile´s Angels 2) and called it a night.
Wednesday morning we were picked up by the hang gliding company to take us to the location. This was something I had been looking forward to the entire trip. We reached the top of the mountain, got suited up and did a practice run. Unlike skydiving, there was no safety video or training, basically just hold on and don´t touch the steering bars! We had to wait for the wind to be in the right direction and then Travis took off the platform and immediately disappeared before soaring upwards. Then it was my turn and I was excited! When you get hooked into the glider, it makes it a little difficult to walk because you can´t quite touch the ground completely. But, it wasn´t a problem and we were able to run off the platform properly. You aren´t supposed to jump or lunge or anything, just keep running until you run out of platform. It´s a really neat feeling when the wind catchs you and lifts you up. The other thing that is so different from skydiving is that it is really quiet. It is very serene and you can just enjoy the nature and view from above. There was a camera hooked up to the end of the wing and so we got lots of pictures (which haven´t yet been developed). I sort of felt like my instructor wanted me to be more effusive, but I was just enjoying the ride!
We then toured the Museu da República & Palácio do Catete right across the street from our hotel. It used to be the Presidential Palace when Rio was still the capital. The president from 1896 to 1954, Getúlio Vargas, killed himself in this palace and his bedroom where it happened was on display. It was quite an impressive building, but unfortunately there were no English guides and all of the information was in Portuguese, so we went through it rather quickly. After this tour, we headed to Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf Mountain) where you take a cable car up for a spectacular view. It was in the late afternoon and we were able to watch the sunset from here. It was beautiful.
Tomorrow we are heading to Ile de Grande, which is in the south where we hear it may be a little warmer and the surfers hang out. Travis will try his luck there if the water isn´t too cold and I might try to body board. It should be fun!