Wednesday 6 December to Friday 8 December 2017

Wednesday is a travelling day.  A coach collects us and once again we travel by road across the border as we will be taking a domestic flight within Brazil from Iguaza to the capital Rio de Janeiro.  Obviously this simplifies the security arrangements somewhat.  In Brazil the airport is one side of the city and our hotel is on the seafront at Copacabana so we get our first taste of the local traffic which is pretty dense and so progress is far from rapid.  Our destination is the Porto Bay Hotel.

Disappointingly our bathroom has a leak – probably from the air conditioning unit – with water running down the bathroom wall.  We report this as we leave  the hotel to go out for dinner.  Having looked for something local we dine at Alfaia.  The menu is based around cod with eggs and potatoes in various forms!  So simple but nice.  We had been warned by our guide that typically the arrangement is to serve essentially a double portion and to share.  If one orders a main course each you get enough for four to eat unless you specifically go for a small version!  Turns out to be plenty!  Jackie has the local tart to finish, guessing slightly from the descriptions but we are able to advise other fellow travellers who have chosen the same restaurant

Unlike Buenos Aires Jackie feels a little uncomfortable and we walk back to the hotel along the beach front.  There is no sign of any overt threat – merely a feeling of unease.  On our return we are told the leak has been fixed – a speedy inspection shows two things – the water is still coming down the wall and the ceiling hatch into the space above has been removed and not replaced with various displaced insects lying around!  We are not “amused” by this and we arrange to repack our cases so that we can be moved to another room tomorrow whilst we are out.

Thursday is a busy touring day.  In the morning we do the tour to the Christ the Redeemer Statue.  This is reached via a nice little railway – the Corcovado Rack Railway.  No doubt that it is a very large statue and we are very lucky in that the views down onto the city are excellent as it is clear today.  The statue opened in 1931 and underwent restoration work in 2010.  The railway dates back a lot further to 1884 under steam haulage; the current electric traction was implemented in 1980 but continued the use of three phase AC supply which dates back to 1910, surprisingly at only 800v 60 Hz.  There are two overhead wires, unlike other AC systems.  This is our third cog railway in just over a year – Mount Washington and Budapest being the others!

Photographs of the statue and the railway are here.

Our coach then proceeds to take us past both Ipanema and Copacabana beaches stopping briefly at the latter.  Just a few photos of Copacabana beach are here including looking up at Sugarloaf mountain.

After lunch we head to the heights of Sugarloaf mountain – two cable cars are needed to reach the top.  The Sugarloaf name derives from the cone shape applied to sugar at the end of the refining process to enable shipment.  This continued until the end of the 19th Century when granulated and cubes started to predominate.  The current cable cars are third generation from 2009 – the originals came into use in 1912 and they were replaced in 1972.  One example of each of the earlier versions is retained and included in the photos which are here.

Returning to the hotel we have been moved to a room without a leak and we are a few floors further up – to a slightly smaller room!  So much for the upgrade that had been suggested.  Not at all well handled by the staff on the front desk – an offer of an upgrade is made – but by then we are already “unpacked” again.  At least there is no leak.

In the evening we go for a rodizo – the Brazilian version of a mixed grill if you like.  The Churrascaria Palace is undergoing refurbishment during our visit and did not look impressive internally – until we saw the food.  A superb salad bar and then the meat just keeps coming.  Huge ribs being wheeled around on a trolley, slices of other beef, some Aberdeen Angus, spicy sausage and ever more.  All excellent.  They give you a pair of tongs and we do not understand why – until they slice meat off the main joint and you latch on to it with the tongs before they finish slicing.  Also some decent wine – but the meat is definitely the star.

As we have not been sleeping too well we decide not to do very much on Friday – the weather is not bright (at times the statute disappears into the cloud), it rains on and off (we have already been soaked at least once in Buenos Aires) so we spend the day reading and listening.  In the last couple of days I have been unable to send emails from my main account on my phone – yahoo is rejecting them from accessing the smtp relay.  I decide to contact plusnet and ask them to setup the email I have never used since moving back to them as ISP.  This is all organised using the online chat arrangement – half a world away – and the guy on support is envious of our warm weather!  I can then configure my phone to use the plusnet smtp; I can send emails again!  Must remember to sort it out properly once I am home and can talk to people.  [PS Once home I found Yahoo to be the cause as it had “upgraded” and you cannot talk to anyone – took far too long to resolve].

We do wander out in the evening to eat (the hotel breakfast is actually good but we have been by others told that the dinner is not outstanding).  We wander a little way in the other direction to the previous two nights to a middle Eastern style restaurant, Amir.  This provides some variety and a lighter meal than last night!  Time to repack.  This tour has been quite a bit different from those we normally take in that there have been no communal meals and with a lot of the travel in airplanes and not on the ground the group have not had much contact time.  We have also not partaken of some of the optional trips, so have spent more time apart from the main group.