Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wandering Rio

Brazil, described as an "intense dream" in its own national anthem, is a place unlike any other I've visited.

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Having been briefed by our security services on what not to wear, where not to go, and how not to get kidnapped, I was entering the country geared for an onslaught of intense poverty and crime. Instead, I found Rio de Janiero to be a very metropolitan city full of vacationers from both Brazil and Europe. Not to say Brazil was without poverty and crime, there are still several favelas run by armed drug gangs in Rio, but I would rate it above Jamaica in terms of being a pleasant place to visit.

While my trip was mostly work, there was still a bit of time for play. Right after landing we ventured up a winding road past exhausted hikers and bikers until we reached the Chinese View. I assume the name comes from the Asian-inspired gazebo situated at the lookout point. It provided quite the view of Rio. It also happened to be the least-foggy day of our entire visit, so I'm lucky we stopped there first.

Chinese View Panorama

(By the way, it was here at the first stop when I started clicking several quick shots to later create a panorama that I discovered the M8 does not like to take more than 5 shots in rapid succession. I didn't lose any photos, but it did lock up on me. I made sure to pace my shots after that and never had another issue.)

Next it was off to Ipanema. I looked for the girl from Ipanema, but all I found were tourists. While the water was beautiful, my preconceived notion of beaches lined with perfect Brazilian booties was shattered.

Ipanema

There were some obvious cultural differences between Brazil and the U.S. The first thing I noticed as we moved through town was that everything was covered in graffiti. But it wasn't just gang tags and Jenny's phone number, it was some nice art.

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The second big difference was that at all-you-can-eat buffets, or self-service restaurants, you had to pay by the weight of food you ate. Where's the fun in that? In the United States we're all about beating the system by eating more food than we pay for. I guess in Brazil you have to beat the system by enjoying the most-expensive but lightest food possible. Who wants to eat an entire kilogram of lettuce? Then again, a kilogram of cotton candy might not be so bad, but that was only an option on the street.

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We managed to summit Sugar Loaf, a mountain named for the fact that it looks like a pile of unrefined sugar, right as the sun was setting, which made for some great photos. I took the opportunity to run both the Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 and the vintage Leica Leitz Hektor Wetzlar 135mm f4.5 through their paces.

Sugar Loaf

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I owe a big thank you to our hostess and guide throughout the trip. Whenever I asked her what I was eating or drinking, the only answer I got was, "Very typical. This is very typical Brazilian food. You try." That turned into a running joke, so by the end of the week, EVERYTHING was "very typical."

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Wednesday afternoon we took the train up Corcavado to see the Christ the Redeemer monument.

French girls

It was crowded chaos around the base of the monument with everyone trying to get enough room to pose with their arms outstretched in front of the statue. I stepped on a lady who had laid down on the sidewalk behind me attempting to get the perfect angle.

The Brazilians have really cashed in on the Jesus statue. You can get anything from a Jesus snowglobe ...

Jesus Snow Globes

... to authentic Jesus sandals.

Jesus Sandals

But the most exciting part of Corcavado was the fact that several monkeys showed up to say, hello as we were waiting to take the train back down.

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Shooting monkeys was the hardest part of the trip. They were constantly moving, and I'm still not super quick with the rangefinder focus. Plus they have a tendency to keep the sun behind them. I'm guessing this is a natural defense mechanism that makes them harder to see in the trees, but it also makes them extremely hard to photograph. I have way too many shots of monkey sillhouettes.

Thursday I made it to the botanical gardens, but I'll save that for another post. I'll sign off with this view from the roof of our hotel on Copacabana.

Copacabana at night

Abrigado, Rio.
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