December 6 - 13, 2005 - Rio de Janeiro

Welcome to the fourth phase of the Around-the-World driving expedition of the World of Wonders Project.  Kim & Don welcome to join us as we travel in our specially equipped, satellite-linked expedition vehicle as we drive along the southern edge of South America in the Patagonia Region.

Our latest odyssey started one week ago when we arrived in Rio de Janeiro.  We took advantage of the first two days to see the city that we were too rushed to see when we left in September.

Rio is a beautiful city, ringed with gorgeous beaches and offshore islands and with such outstanding sights as Pao de Azucar (Sugarloaf Mtn.) and the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue.

The day we arrived, we spent the afternoon visiting the famous communities of Copacabana and Ipanema.  We wandered the streets taking in the scene which included wealthy Cariocas (the name for people who live in Rio), shopping for the latest fashions, teenagers with surfboards, fishermen selling their fish and mending their nets (right on Copacabana beach), street kids begging for change and of course, tourists.  Rain cut short our plans but we got a good walk around this part of the city.

The next morning we were up early to take advantage of the walking tour outlined in our Moon Publications Handbook.  We took the subway to the center of Rio and began our tour.  We saw the Teatro Municipal, a beautiful building patterned after the Paris opera house and the historical Biblioteca Nacional (the library).  We wandered through the Lago da Carioca which is a pedestrian area packed with people and vendors. 

We continued walking and went into Saara which is a longstanding neighborhood bazaar.  Because of Christmas, the area was packed with shoppers and at times we had difficulty maneuvering through the crowds.  We ducked into a "self-service" restaurant which is similar to a buffet, but you pay by the kilo.  This gave us the opportunity to try many wonderful dishes and everything we tried was very tasty.  

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After lunch we took the bonde tram to the Santa Teresa section of town.  On our way to the Bonde Station, we stopped in for a look at the Catedral Metropolitana - an ugly inverted cone shaped modern church.  However, when we walked inside we did a big WOW!  Each side of the building has huge 60 meter high stained glass windows stretching from the doors to the ceiling.

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The bonde is the last of the historic street cars that once crisscrossed the city.  We wandered around Santa Teresa and then headed over to the Cristo Redentor and took the cog train up the side of the mountain.  The Cristo Redentor is a famous 38 meter tall statue of Christ with outstretched arms.  It stands on a hill overlooking all of Rio and the view is absolutely magnificent.  We spent an hour and a half just oohing and aahing.  Leaving the statue, we made our way via bus back to the subway station and then back on a bus which dropped us only 2 blocks from our hotel!  What a great day.

The next morning we headed off to the Bandeirantes part of town where we had left the Fuso for safekeeping.  It was a long and expensive taxi ride, but we got to see even more of the city.  Arriving at the campground, we found the Fuso in good shape and set about getting ready to hit the road once more.  

Friday morning arrived and just as we were ready to get going, we discovered our refrigerator had stopped working.  We checked the circuit breaker and nothing was tripped.  Hmmm.  Checking the fuse on the refrigerator, we discovered that it was blown.  We set about replacing the fuse and it also immediately blew.  Uh oh.  After extensive checking and testing, we came to the conclusion that the computer contral board must have blown.  OK, well it looks like we'll be using ice to keep things cold until we can contact the refrigerator people and obtain a replacement.

Finally hitting the road in the late morning, we stopped to email the refrigerator people and pick up groceries.  Then it was a challenge to find our way out of Rio, but we did it with only one wrong turn and finally found a spot for the night in a little community right on the beach.  The snack bar owner let us park next to his building and we had a quiet and relaxing night.

The next three days were a blur of driving, but fortunately the roads were much better than what we found in the north.  Unfortunately they have also mostly been toll roads and the tolls have added up to almost $100 US.  But you get what you pay for.  The scenery has been absolutely spectacular ranging from beaches to mountains and the rolling hills of agricultural areas.

Today we have finally arrived at our first destination of this expedition, Iquazu Falls.  The falls lie on the Rio Iquazu at the intersection of three countries: Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.  The falls themselves are divided unequally between Argentina and Brazil, with Argentina getting the lion's share.  We are looking forward to our visit here.


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