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  • Writer's picturePaula Cooper

15 November Rio de Janeiro to Ilha Grande Brazil: Brash Busy Bustling Bawdy

It had to be done; early morning beach run. So, heeding warnings, I waited 'til a respectable 7am, valuables left behind; one lane closed, police highly visible, definitely as safe as possible, lots of fellow athletic enthusiasts including an open water swimming competition!

We decided to explore locally, finally unlocking the orange bikerio Boris bikes, with the  assistance of young Brazilian girls; app signal not useless gringos!  Cycling easy along smooth bike paths with three gears and functional brakes, dodging traffic, public and other bikers not quite such a doddle! Shady trees and breeze so welcome around the lake.

Spying botanical gardens we headed for an orange docking station close by the adjacent park, held up by a helicopter crossing! Slight mistake the park was the jockey club,  so a hot couple more humid streets before we reached the tranquil coolish gardens, more like an arboretum. Bathrooms and restaurant our first port of call; iced cappuccino revolting; cold water delicious!

We also visited the rose garden, waterfall, orchid and bromiad houses; the latter having personal reservoirs in their centres! The Instagram point clearly the massive tree spewing snow-like blossom!

Aiming to cycle back via a beach walk and roof-top swim, we headed to another orange bike rack. Bikes secured, bee line to Ipanema beach completely hampered by sheer volume of humanity. I have never seen a beach so full!

Docking bikes, double checking the app after shooing hopeful local lads away, we decided beach too crowded, waves too fierce, weather too humid to stop. Aiming to walk the headland Pedro do Arpoador we ran into a mass of scantily clad youth; thankfully wasting their vitality impressing each other diving, leaping, climbing, chatting of more interest than mis-adventurous  gringos (helped by a heavy police presence!) Scary the number of people! I’d already witnessed a helicopter sea rescue; swooping down dropping two first-aiders, followed by scooping up the rescued in a semi rigid fishing net style basket thingy before hoisting them all to safety. I expect the team had more work waiting!

A couple of wrong turns found us back on the streets heading for Cobacabana, all thoughts of beach expunged! It was a bank holiday Republic Proclamation Day, celebrating the creation of the republic of Brazil on 15 November 1889, which is clearly celebrated by all of Rio on the beach!

Allowing ourselves to be siphoned off,  we visited the breezy less frenetic Cobacabana fort; free as the military had run out of change! Securing a place on the famous cafe Confeitaria Columbo (serving delicious cakes since 1894) waiting list we walked to the cannon summit; where we’d been aiming for earlier!

Cakes over hyped, however hazy views back across the bay with Sugar loaf mountain just visible were definitely not.

The flavelas prettily perched on the hills in the background, you can see the appeal, no taxes, more breeze, great views, siphoned (free?) electricity, miles cheaper rent, but is that offset by gangs, (the city dominated by CV, MS-13 and PCC gangs) drugs, trafficking, lack of water? or proper amenities? The vast majority just go about life, making ends meet; hard  though carting chairs, touting for business selling dodgy cooked meats or tat, hassling tourists! Cobacabana, had a huge police presence, mobile phone footage assisting the war against corruption!

Eschewing all you can eat meat feasts, we opted to eat again in the hotel award winning Italian, repeating my birthday meal. Light entertainment watching some interesting street manoeuvres: my monies on drug collection and delivery or wierd street theatre!

Morning run

(Route; views; open water race signup; massive laden carts; open water racers)

First Bike ride in the morning

(Rio Bikes; Impanema beach; logoa Rodrigo de Freitas; helicopter crossing; Christ the redeemer)

Rio de Janeiro Botanical gardens

(Couroupita Guisnensis, local tree; capuchin monkeys with babies on back; D Joaã VI founder; turtles; orchids; bromiliads; stingless local bees and unique hive entrance; huge tree spewing snow-like blossom)

Walk to hotel after docking bikes

(Crowded Ipanema beach; Cobacabana military forte, views, cannon summit; Cobacabana beach still busy just before dark)

Simon's photos to follow or replace mine!

We stayed at Pousada Asalem, Ilya Grande, Brazil

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