11.06.2007 - 12.06.2007 32 °C
Somehow my travels in Latin America always seem to involve me hanging off the back of some random vehicle. This time it was a dune buggy i was trying not to fall off, as it raced through the streets of São Conrado. Soon we were tearing uphill along a road through tropical forest, which increased in gradient until the buggy was emitting an incredible rasping din (and several cubic metres of carbon monoxide per minute) as it laboured upward. Finally we reached our destination atop a hill overlooking the entire bay, with views all the way past Ipanema to Copacabana in the distance.
Here was a spot to launch both hang-gliders and paragliders, and today we strapped giant parachutes to ourselves and ran in pairs off the cliff. From our floating vantage-point the São Conrado bay was incredibly beautiful, surrounded in lush volcanic mounds, a long wide stretch of beach, apartment towers, huge mansions amongst trees and of course gigantic favela Rocinha not far away. We banked and soared high over the water and came to rest perfectly on a stretch of grass next to the beach.
Drinking soon followed on the beach promenade, coinciding with the pinkening of the skin of my English companions, and then my first swim in Rio. I realised, whilst stuffing my face full of all kinds of meat after dark, that i will miss the BBQ smorgasbord restaurants once I leave Brasil. I'll miss the sushi banquet appetiser, but most of all the rotisserie spits brought to the table with 5 kinds of beef and 3 kinds of pork cuts, and the venison, chicken, sausage and [sigh] chicken hearts.
News came of a 'Rave' party on Ipanema beach at night, so we walked half an hour to get there. Despite the flashing lights, fire juggling, plenty of glowing material and people waving their hands in the air like they were drowning in a pool of Chanel No. 5, there was no music to be heard. It turned out to be a shoot for a movie or soap opera, and pretty much a complete waste of time. I seemed to be the only person to see the funny side of it though.....
Copacabana, once a beachside paradise for the elite is now an overcrowded, overdeveloped and congested place, with one of the highest population densities in the world. 9 out of 10 buildings in Copacabana are at least eight storeys high. All of the boutique bars, shops and restaurants are now situated in Ipanema or neighbouring Leblon, along with the up-and-coming social elite of Rio and those that pretend to be. Copacabana these days is the queen of roadside stalls, typical food, souvenirs, all you can eat, and the ever-present homeless laid out on cardboard. Returned to the people, the area is now saturated with the aged and not-so-famous, who can be seen all over walking their little fluffball dogs (some wearing socks), to the shops for an Açai juice to go.