Great start to holiday! Took cable car to top of the Sugarloaf. Stunning panoramic views over the city and the irresistible beaches. Could almost imagine Amerigo Vespucci arriving in Guanabara Bay half a millennium ago, and staring up at this very granite outcrop. (Of course had he scaled the rock binoculars in hand he'd have seen it was not an estuary. The city could have had a totally different name!) Stayed up there an hour soaking up the sun till it beat my head into submission. Only damper was I felt like I was being watched all day. Military rule ended decades ago, so who is today's Big Brother?
What a fabulous day for lazing on the beach! Copacabana: exotic name for exotic location. White sand, cool water, cheap parasol hire, good book, smooth wine... what more could one ask for? Dozed off a couple of times but nothing went missing. After dinner decided to sample the night life. Groovy nightclubs! Danced the night away. Tried my luck in the casino: no luck!
Woke with a dreadful headache, and that niggling feeling I'm being followed. Spooky! Hangover finally abated around noon after several strong Brazilian coffees. Met a swell guy for a drink on the terrace and a game of tennis. Just heading for the sauna when his wife appeared. Whoops! Better luck next time? Bed early.
First in the dining room today! Headed for the Centro. Could spend weeks here! Took some fabulous pictures of the Palácio Tiradentes (what a great name for a parliament building: Tooth puller's palace!) Could kid my friends I took a detour to Rome. Not so taken with the architecture of Paҫo Imperial but learned a lot about history of Brazil before my brain started aching. Savoured delicious feijoada in a quiet roadside café. Metropolitan Cathedral offered a beautifully cool refuge in the scorching afternoon. What incredible windows! If the Egyptians had had glass would the pyramids have looked like this? That uncanny feeling of being watched was stronger than ever in there. Even found myself looking over my shoulder.
Oh what an ass I was! Should have listened to the old fogies who warned me not to set foot in a favela without a guide. At least I had the sense not to carry my camera or purse. Even so I got followed, jeered at, stared at, hissed at, pawed and pestered for money ALL MORNING! Narrowly escaped being mobbed by a crowd of ragged urchins. And I'm sure I heard gun shots not a hundred yards away. Not going back there in a hurry. Can't help thinking though, what it must be like to grow up there with the stench of human filth. Dodging bullets from the drug gangs. Playing in the sand that is also your toilet! I can't blame them for gawking. I intruded where I didn't belong. Funny enough, the spooky feeling never bothered me. Maybe Big Brother doesn't like getting his feet dirty?
Climbed Corcovado. Quite an achievement after the amount I've eaten the past few days! The views rivalled those from the Sugarloaf, but that wasn't what got to me. It was that enormous statue of Jesus. 'Cristo Redentor' they call it. Built to celebrate a hundred years of freedom from the Portuguese. One hundred feet tall and... and so what how many tons it weighs? It's his eyes. He can see the whole jolly city from up there! His arms are stretched out as if embracing Rio in its entirety. Perhaps. All I could see was his bloodied figure stretched taut on the cross on the hill outside Jerusalem, and I could have sworn he was crying.
Oh God! What are you thinking as you gaze across this city? Do you care about the kids who live and die in the filth of the favelas? Do you keep your eyes on the faithful worshippers in the beautiful cathedral or do you notice the cheating and debauchery in the casinos and nightclubs? Oh God! It was your eyes on me all week watching my every move, seeing into my soul. Oh God! Now what do I do? Are you going to stay on this hill, or are you going to come down and help me? Christ the Redeemer! Could you ever include me in that embrace? God on the hill, answer me!
Woke feeling fresh, clean, invigorated even! Headed back to that beautiful cathedral with a different purpose in mind....
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