Arriving in Rio (August 2-5, 2016)
Welcome to our Rio 2016 blog! We started this back in London and not only was it a great way to keep in touch with everyone back home, it has also been a great way to look back on our trip years later. Our plan is to create a blog for each day we are here during the Olympics which start today for us with the Men’s Road Race (cycling) and then late night Beach Volleyball on the shores of Copacabana Beach.
The trip here was a close to perfect as you could want. All of our flights were on time and surprisingly comfortable. Before leaving Toronto we had a chance to hang out in the Air Canada lounge with what seemed to be tons of Canadian Olympians. We saw our local team (Women’s Basketball) as well as rowers, swimmer and, the highlight for us, our young tennis star Eugene Bouchard. We arrived first to São Paulo and were pleasantly surprised with how smooth customs was, all lines were open and it literally took minutes to get through. Even landing in São Paulo vs. Rio there were Rio 2016 volunteers there to greet us. A quick 45-minute flight to Rio with Olympians from Italy, Slovenia (sat beside a dude that does a sub-49 second 100m Freestyle — unreal) and Mexico.
Once in Rio is was a quick and easy cab ride to our Airbnb apartment. We found it without any trouble and it is bigger than expected. We have the wifi internet up and running now and have figured out how to make hot water in the shower (not as easy as one might think). We were super tired, fell asleep by 8pm and didn’t wake for another 14 hours!
The past couple of days we spent getting to know our neighbourhood, the transit system and visiting two of the major tourist attractions. Everywhere we go we have had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, including a ton of Olympians. All of them are here early too and checking out the same sites we are. It makes the experience that much better to see just how excited they are to be here.
Our neighbourhood is amazing. We are in Lapa and right on the border of Santa Teresa and a quick three minute walk to the famous Carioca Aqueduct bridge. We are also less than 300 meters from major grocery store, hardware store, bakeries, shops and bars. Everything we need is minutes away. The grocery store is quite the experience. Thirty or more cashier line-ups and it is rammed full with people. They even have an announcer chatting up specials live in the store. It is crammed as the Brazilians appear to shop every few days. Transit has been great. Google maps has a transit function and we are able to quickly punch in where we need to go and see various route options. We purchased a Rio Pass which gives us unlimited transit on all buses, subways and trains and it has been really convenient.
We had the chance to go to Christ the Redeemer statue and nothing prepares you for the view. You travel up a train/trolley that is over 100 years old, winding up the side of the mountain and through the thick jungle like foliage. It is slow going and the ride takes about 30 minutes. When you get to the top, the panoramic view of Rio is breathtaking and one of the most beautiful things you could imagine. Hard to believe the 100 foot statue isn’t the first thing you even notice. We went up at a great time, about an hour before dusk and stayed until it was dark. Side note, it is winter here and so it is dark by 5pm every night. Quite the change from 11pm back in Edmonton. The statue is incredibly stunning and large. The entire experience was one we will never forget. Had a great chat with some Olympians that live in the USA but compete for Nigeria. A 400m hurdler and a shot putter. Great guys and a blast to wait in line with them to get back down the mountain.
Coming back down the mountain in the pitch black with only the cabin lights on inside the train and the windows wide open, you might expect we would describe the swarms of mosquitoes trying to suck out blood and infect us with Zika. But…those stories are just for the media. We have been here for almost four days and have yet to see a single mosquito anywhere. They just aren’t here. It has poured rain at times, we have been in the bush and they just aren’t here. It is sad the media has portrayed it the way they have. Surely if some of the athletes or spectators that cancelled trips knew the truth, they would be here for this once in a lifetime experience.
Today we venture over to Sugar Loaf which is a series of two narrow and tall mountains right along the coast of Rio. You take a 65 person cable car to each of the peaks. The views looking back towards Rio’s city centre and along the shores of Copacabana Beach are second to none. We lucked out with our timing again and got to see everything in daylight, then watch a gorgeous sunset and hang out until dark.
Everywhere we have gone we have felt totally safe and welcomed. There is a huge police and military presence in the city and particularly anywhere near a tourist attraction or venue. Volunteers are friendly and helpful. The Brazilian people we have met are generous and kind and despite the news media we haven’t seen a single protester or resident seemingly the least bit upset about the games being here.
Tonight on our way back home the streets were noticeably quieter. Many people take time to spend time with friends and family here on a Friday night and based on how late they are up during the weekdays, we suspect it will be a very late night tonight. They don’t need fancy restaurants or flashy nightclubs here. For most a table with a few plastic chairs, good friends, music and some small cups to share some beer is all they need to smile and have a great time. They may not have a ton of possessions or beautiful big homes, but the people here seem genuinely happy to be around each other and know how to enjoy life.
We watched the opening ceremonies tonight at a local bar just down the street from our place. It was amazing to see that every shop and bar was full of people watching it too. All eyes were tuned into TVs as the country officially opened the 31st Summer Olympic Games. Our meal tonight and all of the local food so far has been fantastic and we’ve enjoyed trying new things and learning as much Portuguese as we can along the way.
Back to our apartment tonight and we’re super excited that after a few years of planning our first Olympic events will be underway.
More photos below.