Saturday, April 26, 2014

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Comfort & Food

I got to the hotel after midnight... flight delays.  Rather than venturing out to find dinner, I had an apple and almonds.  I had an early start the next morning, as I wanted to catch the sunrise.  To my delight, the beach was only a small block away from the hotel.  Even though I woke up at 5:30am, it was already surprisingly bright by the time I got outside.  The sun hadn't peeked out from behind the mountains, yet, though, so I was alright.  I started running down Copacabana beach.  The first half is pretty cambered, which aggravated my left leg after a while and drove me up in the softer but flatter stuff up-shore, which has its own footing challenges.  I wore the Saucony Hattoris.  I got them in order to practice barefoot-style running, although I probably haven't totaled up a single mile in them yet.  I found a new use for them, though... walking shoes, when I don't want something as stifling as running shoes, but I don't want to go around in flipflops.  I decided to try them at the beach, too, since they were light and seemed able to dry quickly, in case they got wet.  This was about 5K so far...

My first goal was to get to the fort by Leme, but they were closed (I suppose it is early), so I went onwards to my second goal, getting to Sugarloaf mountain.  This was another 5K or so.  I have wanted to do hiking in Rio, but the national forest requires a cab ride, and the trail system isn't really designed for hiking without a guide, for whatever reason.  Therefore, I googled options and found out about trails around/to Sugarloaf.  I found some tips on where to find the hard-to-find trails and ventured forth into the road-less-traveled.  It was pretty epic and worth the feeling of adventure and the views. 

(on this beach, on the left side, take the paved path, to head towards Sugarloaf Mountain, which you can see in the background)

(when you get here, go uphill, towards the left of the picture, then aim towards the right)

The paths aren't well-marked, so it's hard to tell when you've gone as far as the trail is meant to go.  I went as far as I think I could go, though.  There was lots of scrambling involved.  The rock slopes were steep at times, so I got a good arm workout, doing crab crawls down hills and pull-up style moves up hills.  It was good training for the Spartan race, so I feel like I was making up for not exercising the past 3 days.  There was only a tiny bit of trail at the beginning that was runnable.  The rest was a hike at best, and somewhat-wall-climbing (not vertical, though - no, that'd be impossible) at most.

(this was as far as I dared to venture.  You can see how steep it was)

Once I got back down to the paved path, it was a relief.  The dirt paths had been a bit of a maze at times.  I came across some monkeys!  I had hoped to see monkeys during my trip to Iguazu Falls, so this fulfilled a wish!  My other wish - to see penguins in either Antarctica or the southern tip of Argentina.

(This was adorable - there were 2 babies clinging to the mommy's back.  There were about 4 other full-grown monkeys, too)

After covering about 8 miles of road, not including the hiking/scrambling adventure, with nothing but 1 small bottle of water and no food, I was eager to try to make it back to the hotel in time for breakfast.  I therefore shuffled over to the nearest metro station and rode close to my hotel, quickly washed myself, and went down for a buffet where I downed water, fruit, and eggs.  Then, on to the next adventure - exploring the city!  I had only done a driving tour through parts of the city during the last visit, so I wanted to take the metro in, and do certain neighborhoods on foot.

(on my last trip to Rio, I had forgotten to bring Paddington Bear.  He was excited to join this time.  The Escadaria Selaron was one of my favorite sites last trip - it's a long staircase up an alley, with tiles from all over the world)

(the Arcos de Lapa, which is an aqueduct that used to bring in water)

(even the planeride into Rio was spectacular.  If you use the Santos Dumont airport, instead of the GIG international airport, you land at a small airport that's right on the edge of the water, close to Sugarloaf Mountain, and you're only feet above the water as the plane comes in for the landing... it was cool to watch from far away on Sugarloaf last trip, and it was cool to see it up closer, on Flamengo Beach, on this trip)

(I also stumbled upon what seemed to be a Masters Club team.  Even though these were recreational people, it was amazing to watch them execute all of their moves with incredible precision... as good as watching a real pro game, up-close, as far as I'm concerned!)

My plan was to take the San Theresa streetcar into the San Theresa neighborhood, but unfortunately, they were closed... it might've been for maintenance, but I'm not sure.  Oh well.  I went back to the beach, to enjoy a coconut, an ear of corn, and the sunset.

After watching the sun set, I walked along Ipanema Beach, with my feet in the cold water.  It was a good way to heal my feet, which were a bit tired from walking around in 0-drop Saucony Hattoris all day. 

Before the sunset, I had seen a bunch of Stand-up Paddleboard stations, so I had determined that I would do this the next morning, despite the coldness of the water.

(in the past, I thought Stand-up Paddleboarding looked kind of boring, strange, and not that great of a workout, but it was actually very, very fun!  I fell into the water a number of times... gotta stay balanced)

(gotta love the Go-Pro, too!)

 After this, I took a shower, wandered around a crafts/hippie market for an hour, and enjoyed a traditional meal of Feijoada, which are black beans with meat and trimmings... I was mostly interested in the black beans and collards.

Then, a quick power-walk to the lagoon, where some of the Olympics events will be held.  

(Christ the Redeemer)

 Then, back to the hotel and off to the airport!  It was a very memorable and fun trip, a nice way to relax after 2 challenging weeks at work.


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