Dare-devil Diego and Geronimo Gude learn to fly, then join the Circus…

After a 25 hour bus journey from Iguazu (I’m really not exaggerating!), what did I want most in the world when I arrived in Rio? How about…

– an amazing apartment overlooking the beach, complete with its own hammock
– a hot shower in my own bathroom with fluffy white towels
– a big cuddle from one of my bestest friends who was waiting for us
– a very large G&T

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Yep, that was pretty much the perfect start to my 30th birthday week in Rio. We quickly nick-named David “Diego” and he and I put in some long hours, sitting in the blazing sunshine, sipping fresh coconut water, working on our tans, while ogling the cute Brazilian boys in their tiny pants. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it, right..? Our friendly local beach attendant, “JC”, furnished us with chairs and umbrellas and made sure we were never short of a coconut (he pronounced it coconoot) or an ice-cold beer.

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Adding to the excitement of the eye-candy, were the waves, or more accurately, baby tsunamis. The waves on Leme beach are hugely powerful, insanely high and break very close to the sand. This meant that getting into the water was a challenge, especially in a bikini as skimpy as mine. I almost lost my bottoms completely on three separate occasions – they were around my knees and I was clinging on to them in a desperate bid to stop them being swept out to sea! Aside from this lack of dignity, there was an element of real danger. Even strapping lads like The Gool were thrown completely off their feet and sent tumbling, head-in-the-sand underwater, with Diego bruising his ribs and surfacing at one point to find a small local boy clinging to his leg like a limpet.

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After a full day on the beach we hit a samba club, with a Barry White look-a-like singing non-stop and a very crowded dance floor. This is where The Gool fell in love with caipirinhas.

On Thursday we decided that we really ought to see more of Rio than just the beach, so in the morning we took a favela tour. These are the most dangerous parts of Rio, the slum areas which were, until recently, completely controlled by drug-dealers (some of them still are). It’s not recommended that you enter a favela without a local guide, so we signed up with a company that gives back to the community by funding schools and other local projects with the tour profits. It was a real experience. After watching “City of God”, I was expecting the favelas to be dirty, scary places with guns everywhere and little amenities, so I was surprised to find the first that we visited, quite peaceful and rather domestic, with a church, paved streets, running water and electricity (albeit rather higgledy piggledy wiring), the second was a little more hectic, but neither threatening nor intimidating and actually much nicer than a lot of the places we stayed in Bolivia! I wanted to stay and shop (they had Havaianas for £3), but our guide whisked us away…

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The two things that struck me were, firstly, the optimism that our guide had for the future of his city (Rio is set to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, both of which have prompted the government to invest heavily in the city and of course will boost the economy enormously) and secondly, the extraordinary resourcefulness and ingenuity of the local people. The people living there seemed to be doing everything they could to better themselves. Children spend half the day at the (not very good) state school and the other half at a youth group or community school where they can use computers, read books (which are expensive and not easily available to most) and learn to make crafts and artwork, which are sold to raise funds. We saw some amazing pieces on a local stall, made from recycling what to us would be rubbish, for example hats made from plastic bags that had been woven together and bags and belts made from metal can ring-pulls. Another example of entrepreneurship was a company called “Moto Taxi”, set up by local lads with scooters and motorbikes who charged people a few Reals to go up or down a steep hill in one of the favelas. One local group had even appropriated an old, abandoned hotel to use as their community centre. It was a rather inspiring morning.

That afternoon we headed up the mountain on a funicular to see “the other JC” – Christ the Redeemer and were pretty blown away by the scale of the statue (he looks ever so small from a cab in the Centro) and the amazing 360 views, including Sugarloaf mountain.

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Friday was of course the big three-oh for me and “Dare-devil Diego” and I had decided to go hang-gliding over the city. We were pretty nervous while we waited to be picked up, not about the flight itself, but about the take-off, which basically involves running off a platform at the top of a mountain! We needn’t have worried though; our pilot was very experienced and calmed our nerves. The flight was I think as close as a person can get to being a bird. It’s quiet and smooth and the views of the whole city are fantastic. Circling over the beach before landing, flying low over sun-bathers and swimmers was surreal and I didn’t want it to end so soon.

In the evening we headed out for a few drinks and a spot of dancing at a club called The Week. The night was circus themed and had acrobats, jugglers and dancers putting on a spectacular show. The Gool hit the caipirinhas and got his groove on. Check out the end of this video – Kevin and Perry ‘ave it LARGE…

On our penultimate day in Rio, we went to Maracana stadium to watch a match between local Rio underdogs, Fluminense and Sao Paulo hot-shots, Palmeira. We were sat with the Fluminense fans, supporting them (which was easy to do, as the team flag is red, white and green, like a sideways Italian flag). “Gool” means goal in Portuguese, so we felt right at home. The atmosphere was totally tribal, with samba drums and chanting. Here are the highlights (Fluminense are playing in their white away strip):

Finally, before heading back to Iguazu, we took a trip on the tram in Santa Teresa, which is a beautiful part of the city – full of gorgeous old run-down houses, covered in creeping flowers and brightly coloured graffiti. We stopped for lunch at a place that served traditional Brazilian food and tried some manioc flour with olives and pumpkin, grilled goats’ cheese and beef in a milky sauce with onions, which was all delicious.

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More pics here (with much thanks to Diego Bailey).
Love Gude x

16 Comments so far

  1. David on November 12th, 2009

    Hello lovely people!

    I feel like I am famous as I have made it on to the pages of your blog. The very blog that I have been reading with such interest and envy for so many months. Who needs Heat magazine when there is TeamGool 🙂 I have only just stopped laughing at the latest blog title and you tell the story of our rather fabulous week very well. Those waves were awesome and even though I thought I was about to die, I would give anything to be back on that beach with you guys right now.

    It was an absolute pleasure to celebrate your 30th with you. I had THE most fun with you both.

    It looks like the good times continued after I left you. Glad you enjoyed the football and Santa Teresa looks well worth a visit. I guess I’ll just have to make a return trip so I can check it out next time.

    LOVE the vid of Diego and Geronimo flying like birds. Another inspired choice of sound-track too. The Week vid was a real giggle even if it does suggest I was a little more drunk than I chose to remember.

    Ahhhhh…. Happy happy memories!

    xxx

  2. Mum and Dad C on November 13th, 2009

    Great blog. P’raps it should come with a strobe warning!! The flight looks amazing but the platform looks sooo short.  Hope you are still having a wonderful time. Pouring here at 7am. 🙁     xxxxxxxxxx

    Another super episode of TG adventures. I fancy the gliding but not the run off the edge. Will have to look out for  cachaça but summer seems a long way off atm. D XX

  3. Nunk 'n Nizar on November 13th, 2009

    That is Rio as well as Argentina on our list now. Waves sound wonderful, canI (Nizar) take my bodyboard??? Keep up the good work, and keep the bulletins coming.

    Much Love,

    N’nN

  4. Anonymous on November 13th, 2009

    Amazing!  Most jealous about the hang gliding, dying to try!  Glad the birthday was fab, more very belated 30th celebrations when you get back please!

    Miss you, hope you’re both well xx
    Shaida

  5. Hayley & Sam H-G on November 13th, 2009

    Again what can we say apart from oh wow!  I can’t see how you could have topped your 30th Birthhday and what a place to have it, it looks amazing! So jealous re the hand gliding, I have always wanted to try it and more so now after watching you and David! I would also like to say thank god one of the Gools can dance, unfortunately you have the one that can! Sam just sticks his hands up like they are guns and flaps around like a chicken, lol! 
     
    Anyway pleased you had a fab birthday and hope all is well with you both! 
     

    Loadsa love
    Sam, Hayley, Murphy and a 24 week bump x x 🙂

  6. Ivana on November 13th, 2009

    Oh boy. what a great way to spend a birthday and to spread it over a week too! We feel so lucky to be able to share in your fun, it is very addictive catching up with your adventure. The flight looked amazing, but take-off was something else I wonder if anyone changes their mind at the last  minute? LOVED the club video too, thanks for the laugh.Keep having fun,lots and lots of love,Ivana and MIck

  7. Karen & Jessica on November 13th, 2009

    Glad you had a great birthday!  I wonder if Jessica would like to hang glide?  Must persuade her, ‘cos it looked great!  She didn’t seem too keen after watching the video – may be I should wait until she’s a little older.
    Jessica says Uncle Ikey looks a bit drunk when he dances!
    We had lunch with Nana and Grumps last Sunday, along with Sharon and Ivan etc.  It turned out to be a very enjoyable day – with Nana teaching me to cook things for the first time (at my age!) – even Grumps managed to stay awake!
    We both miss you loads and love to catch up on your news.
    Lots of love
    Karen and Jessica
    xx

  8. mum H-G on November 14th, 2009

    I could feel the sun and hear the noises just reading your blog! please don’t make us wait so long between chapters. It’s a catch 22, if you spend time writing you won’t have time to do things and if you go off and do things you won’t have time to write!
    What a wonderful experience going up Sugar Loaf mountain and the hang gliding was something else. I feel butterflies every time I watch you leap into the unknown, where are you taking us next? xxJ and C xx

  9. Gude on November 16th, 2009

    I think if you change your mind on the runway you’ve had it – that’s how accidents happen.  The instructor was very clear that the only thing we had to do was run, but that we MUST do that and not stop! 
    One guy before us had a stumble and his take off looked a bit scary – he had a big drop when he went off the end *DONT_KNOW*
    x

  10. Gude on November 16th, 2009

    You?  Drunk?  Never  😉
    x

  11. Gude on November 16th, 2009

    A short platform is a good thing – less chance of falling over or getting nervous and panicking!  Definitely best not to look down at take off though!
    x

  12. Gude on November 16th, 2009

    Apparently some places will let you do hang-gliding together – so 3 people including the pilot.  Might be less scary, but you’d all have to get your take-off run in step, so could also be tricky!

    Uncle Ikey is a better dancer sober – we went for a tango lesson last night and he picked it up very quickly.  Tango is difficult…
    x

  13. Gude on November 16th, 2009

    I’d rather have you looking forward to the next installment than thinking “oh no, here she goes again”!  😉

    Glad you are still enjoying it though.  Have you seen that Ise has done an ABOUT page?  x

  14. Anna Rona on November 18th, 2009

    You ran off a cliff???? Whatever next…. 😉

  15. Karen & Jessica on November 25th, 2009

    We hope you are still ok.  Jessica is getting excited already about Christmas and looking forward to putting up our decorations next week.  The advent calender is already out and waiting to be opened.
    And, as you would expect, her Xmas list is very long!!  Your Christmas will be wonderful this year!  Brings back memories of last year at your parent’s house Gude.
    Lots of love
    Karen and Jessica
    xx

  16. Gude on November 27th, 2009

    We are still okay!  New blog post coming asap AND more crazy videos!  😀

    I am excited about Christmas too, though it won´t be the same without family around us, we will be with friends, so that should help with my home-sickness…  We have sent some very small Christmas gifts for family home via my parents, so expect Nana and Grumps to pass on yours once thay have seen each other.

    Lots of love to you both xx