Rio de Janeiro

Mystic of Holyhead (successor to Lynn Rival)
Rachel and Paul Chandler
Tue 3 Sep 2013 00:21
For us, sailing into big cities has always been somehow disappointing.  Istanbul was shrouded in murk, Mumbai was pretty much pea soup and now RJ wasn't much better.  We arrived at dawn after an uncomfortable night's sail.  At least we managed to sail all the way from Ilha Grande, but the sunrise that greeted us was decidedly hazy and not worth getting the camera out for.

By way of compensation we were able to drop anchor right under the Sugar Loaf mountain in the cove at Urca, immediately on the left after entering the enormous Guanabara Bay. 

Sugar Loaf,from Lynn Rival at anchor

We could have gone further into the Bay of Botafogo, where the prestigious Rio Yacht Club is situated but we'd received mixed reports about the welcome and ambience there.  Instead we spent a pleasant day and night recovering in Urca.  Being weekend there were lots of small boats coming and going.  A couple in one slowed down to take a good look at the bright green float on the end of our anchor tripping-line.  It probably would have disappeared if Rachel hadn't been on deck to shoo them off!

JC supervising the evening traffic in Botafogo bay

On Sunday afternoon we moved east across the Bay to the highly recommended Clube Navale Charitas.  It's a big sailing club with good facilities.  We were able to tie up to a pontoon with reasonable shelter and good security.  The only downside was that we had to catch a bus into the town of Niteroi and then a ferry to get to Rio.  During weekdays there's a fast catamaran service from the nearby village of Charitas, a short walk from the Club. 

We had a couple of overcast days so set about exploring the centre and getting our bearings.  There is much more to Rio than the views from the Sugar Loaf and Corcovado (Christ's statue), the Carnival and the beaches.  There are many fine buildings, museums, cultural centres and, of course, churches galore to visit.  In the National History Museum we found answers to questions the guide books skip, particularly with regard to the evolution of the country's borders, from an arbitrary line of longitude (370 leagues west of the Cape Verdes), agreed between Spain and Portugal in 1494, to the creation of Uruguay in1828.

We started by exploring the old quarter, in downtown Rio, near the ferry docks . . .

 . . . and explored the centre, finding many agreeable 19th century buildings, including the Municipal theatre . . .

 . . . and some less easy on the eye.  The cathedral is said to be more attractive inside (it could hardly be less!)

A front passed over on Tuesday night bringing cloud and showers but by Wednesday lunchtime the skies were clearing so we took a chance and caught the cable car up the Sugar Loaf mountain (half price for Paul, being 'idoso' - aged).  Our luck was in: the haze had been cleared and the views were superb.  Being mid-week we didn't have to jostle with many other tourists.

This view explains the name - imagine a metre high wooden version, in which refined cane sugar was 'matured' for a month

Yes, we really were here!  That's the Atlantic Ocean behind.

We looked back over the wealthy suburb of Botafogo, where the posh Rio Yacht Club has the prime water frontage . . .

 . . . and seaward again, to the pristine Copacabana beach

The next day Susy, a member of the Clube Naval Charitas who likes to help visiting cruisers, drove us up a hill aboeve sao Francisco, to see the views from the Niteroi side of the bay: More breath-taking stuff, although the haze had reestablished itself again. 

Rio from above Sao Francisco.  Lynn Rival is at the end of the third row of yachts, at the CNC yacht club 

Afterwards we took a bus across the bridge that spans the bay, arriving in northern Rio and then making our way through the city as far as the Botanical Gardens and later the ocean beaches of Ipanema and Cocacabana.  By this time we were becoming experts on Rio's buses and returned to the ferry terminal on the 123, which appeared to be driven by a close relative of Ayrton Senna!

Yes, it's the cannon ball tree.  It looked like 105mm calibre

We jumped off the bus at the wrong stop - ended up at the up-market Copacabana beach . . .

 . . . but we walked back to Ipanema, where the 'no swimming' flags appeared to have little effect

Finally, it was time to make our way up the well-trodden path to the Corcovado.  The rack and pinion train ride up is marvellous and so are the views but the crowds, even in wintertime, are enough to be off-putting.  We were glad we went but not sure if we'd bother again.

Another hazy day but from 740m altitude there's a good view of Sugar Loaf, with Niteroi on the far side of the bay

Never mind the view - it's THE place to have one's picture taken. 

While in Rio we were able to catch up with Peter and Halina, who we met while they were on holiday in Campinho.  They treated us to lunch at the Albemar restaurant which is located in the last remaining part of what was an enormous market complex.  The exterior of the building looks shabby but the views are great and the food excellent.  Afterwards we visited the nearby Naval Museum, which covers the history of Brazil from a naval perspective, and the development of the Marinha do Brasil (Brazil's navy)
, all excellently presented with English translations.  It was a high ranking English officer who set the navy up in it's present form.

Downtown Rio, with the unprepossessing but excellent Albemar restaurant on the waterfront

Susy suggested we visit the Museum of Contemporary Art in Niteroi.  It is housed in one of the many buildings designed by local architect Oscar Niermayer, famous for his modern architecture across Brazil and particularly in Brasilia.  It's a striking building, a cross between an airport control tower and a water tower, with great views but not really to our liking.

Said to be Niermayer's best work, but is 'best' meaningful in the context of water towers and control towers?

At least form follows function in his more pleasing design for the Charitas ferry terminal

We loved Rio and look forward to coming back again next year.