Click here to see the last shot I took of India as we waved goodbye from the plane. It makes Mumbai seem pretty and tropical, doesn't it? Leave it to India to go out looking like paradise (I know better).
At some point on our first of three flights that would eventually deposit us in Rio de Janeiro, we flew over Iran, and I snapped a nice one of an anonymous city below us. All I know from our route map was that it was south of Tehran. The way politics are going lately, I probably won't see it from the ground anytime soon, but I guess I can kinda sorta say I was there for about two minutes.
Stopping in London's Heathrow airport was a big tease, since I love London and hate to be so close to the city without actually seeing it. Oh well.
Another 10 or so hours later, we were flying over land again and I got my first glimpse of Brazil. So green! So hilly! A brand-new country... in a brand-new continent! Hooray!
We made it to Rio's international airport, trudged through customs, got our backpacks, and were relieved to find our ride holding a card with Brendan's name on it. We'd booked a little studio apartment in Rio's Ipanema Beach way back in November and paid the landlord over the internet, but she hadn't been responding to our last few emails and we worried we'd be living on the street upon arrival. Luckily, she was legit and we happily moved into our home (with free Internet!!! OMG!!!) for the week.
In my opinion, Ipanema Beach is the place to be in Rio. Just south of the more famous Copacabana Beach, it's clean, it's kitschy in a 60s era kind of way, and there's a ton of bars, restaurants, and shopping to be had. Our apartment was in an unassuming building with a tiny little ocean view and my first kitchen in many, many moons. It was gold, Jerry, gold! To be self-sufficient again! I practically lived at Zona Sul, the local supermarket, the convenient and familiar likes of which I hadn't seen since Russia. Seriously. Brendan would have to make me pay up and leave or I'd be in there all day. The Zona Sul employees called me crazy behind my back (and then to my face once they caught on that I didn't speak a word of Portuguese).
One of Rio's most famous landmarks is the Corcovado, where a statue of Jesus looms on a mountain overlooking the city and surrounding coastline. Naturally, we had to do the tourist shuffle and get a picture of him, even though the trip ended up being about $40 USD (which in India would have been more like $4. See? There are things I miss about India!).
If you're ever in Rio, don't miss this little excursion. I always imagined the city to be a beautiful, tropical place, but it's really something special. From up at the Corcovado you can see a million miles in every direction. Amazing!
The week went by too fast, between my big fancy website re-design and afternoons spent people-watching at the beach (beforehand I worried about my buns not being up to Brazilian bikini standards, but they've got all shapes and sizes down there, just like any other beach). A little R&R was just what we needed before flying north to the city of Salvador, famous for having the most insane Carnaval celebration in all of Brazil. We're going for Carnaval. And I'm mildly afraid of crowds. So...yeah. You only live once.