Exploring South America – Part I

Sightseeing in Rio de Janiero. After flight delays from Aeros Argentinas from Miami to Buenos Aires, the outgoing trip did not go as smoothly as hoped. Arriving a day late in Rio, Brazil’s second largest city, we hit the ground running. First on the list was Corcovado Mountain, complemented by samba drums, Italian singing on the trolleys and offer spectacular views of jack fruit trees and tropical plants, we arrived at the impressive art deco sculpture of Christ the Redeemer. Anticipating a tourist trap, Corcovado was an enlightening experience. A Brazilian mass in Portuguese was underway, and the visit turned out to be a moving and spiritual experience beneath the colossal figure of Christ.

Next up, Sugar Loaf Mountain was another must see with breathtaking views of beaches, yachts, and beautiful waterfront villas.

Brazil’s beaches were packed with sun worshipers from Ipenama to Copacabana Beach with colorful sun umbrellas, beach chairs, tan bodies, and bikini clads girls of all ages. With the beaches in close proximity to the city of Rio, beachwear was the norm. Beach goers would flit from beach to the streets, hotels and shops, all flaunting their sun tans, and flip flops with half naked men running around with just their shorts on. It is worth noting that Brazilian men and women are uninhibited when it comes to disclosing their bodies.

Rio would not be complete without visiting the Shanty towns (Favelas). Our tour started from the top of the hill with a view to die for and a walk down the entire hill providing a sense of what it was like to live in a rent free districts with piped in electricity, water and sewer. Although rents are free with excellent views, living on the hill slopes is not without its dangers. Living nestled in mountainsides leaves exposure to potential landslides during heavy rains. There are no home inspections, no architectural drawings, and no construction safety laws to speak of. The residents live at their own risk. Navigating down the favela was not straightforward or easy. It was uneven, crossing over manholes, dirt, steps with varying heights, twists and turns made more precarious by corridors shrouded in semi-darkness.

In stark contrast to the favelas, there were views of the luxurious hotels and expensive condominiums for the rich and famous along the waterfront. It is curious to consider the living quarters between the rich and poor side by side. Rio is a city of contrasts, the high mountains and miles of beaches held together by the synergies and diversities of Brazilians without class distinctions.

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