Vacation Day 22
Friday, February 13th
Rio de Janeiro, Day 2
Todays first order of business was the disembarkation process. One of the things they wanted us to do before we put out our baggage last night was to put a coloured tag with a number on it on each bag. Mine was black 2 this time. When the process begins you are usually called off the ship by the colour of the tag and the number on it. The process usually starts around 8:00 AM. Nobody gets off until everyone is paid up or has made arrangements to pay up the onboard expenses. On all the other cruises I have been on they always seem to need to page a few people to confirm the payment arrangements before the disembarkation process can begin. Everyone must have been good. None of these calls were made this time.
The order that people are called off usually has to do primarily with who they need to get to the airport first for the earliest flights. There were almost no flights that left Rio before mid-afternoon. Most of them left between 7:00 and 11:00 in the evening. So, this was not much of a problem with this cruise. Since they want everyone off the ship by 10:30 at the latest, what do they do with all those people who leave on the later flights? Well, they give them a half day city tour and then deposit them in a hotel (with their luggage) to wait until the appropriate time to be transferred to the airport.
As a result of all this, there was a lot of uncertainty about the order in which they would do this, at least among the passengers. I am sure the Front Office on the ship that organizes this knew exactly what was to happen. The Samba post cruise package that I was booked on did not require any specific timing so I, and I think many of the other 40 people who were on this package as well, figured that we would be near the end of the process. So, it was quite a surprise when the very first announcement made was for everyone on the Samba post cruise package to disembark first. The way it was announced was confusing in that they called the group name and not the colour of the baggage tag that we had put on our bags. I suspect that the baggage tags were for everything going to the hotel and not just our group. The baggage went by truck and not with us on the bus.
We had also been warned to make sure our passports were available as they would be checked once on shore. So everyone had them ready. The gangway was on deck one and my cabin was on deck one (at the opposite end mind you) so I gathered up all my carry off stuff and headed off the ship. This happened at about 7:45 AM. Once scanned off the ship for the last time and on shore, the woman who would be our tour guide for the next 48 hours met us and had us wait in the terminal building until most everyone was there. Some people did not get the call to get off because they did not use the tag colour and number and as I said above I suspect nobody thought we would be the first off. There was no passport checking in the terminal either. As it turned out they Brazilian immigration officials had done the processing on the ship yesterday before the ship gave us our passports back last evening. A nice touch I thought, although it would have been nice if the ships people had told us that.
Once most of the people were together they took us to the bus using the same route as yesterday. A group of 41 is a nice size as it requires only one bus and everyone is together. Everyone had piles of things they had carried off the ship and space was at a premium in the bus though. They put as much under the bus as they could and our guide introduced herself. It was some unusual name that I do not remember now. She also introduced our driver Philippe and the on board police officer for this trip. The police office was only there for this day. I suspect the reason he was there was because of all the carry on things that had the bus full of all sorts of valuable things like, in my case, the laptop computer.
Once everyone was accounted for and everything was stowed away as best it could, the bus left the pier and the ship for the last time and headed off on this mornings tour. The plan had been to do Sugar Loaf today but there were some cruise ships coming in tomorrow and they were expecting 55 bus loads with over 3000 people at the various major attractions tomorrow so they thought it would be better to do Corcovado Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue today due to the limited space at the statue and access problems to the statue. This is what we did. The plan was to start very early tomorrow and do the other ones before the crowds arrived which we also did, as you will see tomorrow. For now, on with the rest of today.
The various mountains and hills that Rio is built around are all part of Tijuca National Park. It is considered to be the largest (and maybe the only) urban national park in the world. Here is some history of the park as displayed on the english portion of a sign at the top. The Portuguese part of the sign has much more detail but since most of us cannot read it, I will provide only the english part here.
To get to the statue we took a funicular or cog wheel railway up to the top. The top is 2,330 feet high. It took a half to three quarters of an hour to get to the lower funicular station from the ship which is on the back side of the mountain below and behind the statue. There was the Friday morning traffic and some road construction near the station to deal with.
The tour guide needed to buy tickets and when she got them they said that we would need to wait until 10:30 to go up. It was only 9:15 now. This was probably because it was a group and they wanted to keep it together. As things turned out we got to go up on the 9:30 train. (They run every half hour.) There are not many pictures during the trip as the route is enclosed in heavy forest most of the way up. Here are the first group of pictures (finally!).
|This is the only still picture I have of the trains. I have some video but I cannot use it here (yet).||
Inside looking out to the south.
As you will see, the remnants of yesterdays and overnights rain are around. The sky is still cloudy and I doubt the rain had stopped too long before we left the ship. Once we (being our group) get to the top we came up behind the statue. Here are some statistics. The view point is at approximately 2300 feet and the statue stands 125 feet above that. The first group of pictures will be the view from the statue. The second group will be of the statue.
Looking north to north west. The soccer stadium is the round white roof centre far left.
|Just to the left looking north to northeast. This is the centre of the city with the port in the upper centre.|
|A closer view of the central part of the city with the Rio - Niterói bridge in the distance. The island was Brazil's equivalent to the United States Elias Island in New York harbour where immigrants were once processed.||An even closer view. Just left of centre you can just see the MS Amsterdam, that we left a couple of hours before, docked at the cruise terminal.|
A wider view a bit more to the left of the previous ones.
|Wider and further left again. All the water in this picture is part of Guanabara Bay, Rio's harbour.|
|Further right again from the previous one. This shows the Ensenada de Botafogo which is the small bay centre right of the picture. It is very polluted. It is part of Guanabara Bay. The mountain or hill if you wish, centre right, is Sugar Loaf. The harbour entrance is the narrow opening near the centre just to the left of Sugar Loaf.||A closer view of Sugar Loaf. Most of the water on the right side of this picture is the South Atlantic Ocean. The buildings around the base of Sugar Loaf are part of the Brazilian military. The part of the city shown in the lower part of the picture is the Botafogo area. .|
|This is Copacabana Beach, the best know and most expensive of the beach areas.||This picture show how fast the clouds were moving around. This one was take six minutes after the left one. It shows basically the same area but wider.|
|This is the Ipanema area with the famous beach at the top. The lagoon in the middle is called the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. The lagoon is salt water and is connected to the ocean by a short canal which they must keep dredged, or it silts up and causes all kinds of problems. There was a city workers strike one time and the canal did not get dredged out for a short while and the fish in the lagoon started to die because the water was not getting refreshed the way it should. .||This is a similar picture, actually taken before the left one. You can see a bit more of the beach in this one. The race track on the right is the Rio de Janeiro Jockey Club. It is where all the rich and famous of Rio hang out. If you anybody in Rio you need to be seen here. The São Conrado area where tonight's hotel is located is behind the mountain centre far right. This area is enclosed by mountains and cannot be seen from here.|
A final view showing the biggest part of Tijuca National Park. This is the view from directly behind the statue. Not really much to see.
Now that we have seen what can be seen from the statue, here is the statue. First is the english history from the sign attached to the statue. Again, there is much more detail in the Portuguese portion. The same logic applies here as above. So, here is the english portion of the sign. This one may be a bit more difficult to read than the other one but if you look carefully you should be able to make it out.
Here are the pictures of the statue that the sign above is talking about. This is probably one of the best know landmarks in the world today.
|This is probably the best picture of the statue I have. The dark areas are likely moisture from rain that has not dried yet. It was still very humid although not too hot. The grey sky, along with the grey statue, made it a challenge getting a good picture of this. I will admit to having to do some work with Photoshop to get this one (and the other three in this group) to look this good.||
As you can see may people posed with the statue in the background.
A closer view of the upper part of the statue.
Just to give you an idea of how it looks from the back.
This is the viewing area where most of the harbour and Sugar
Loaf pictures were taken from.
The statue is behind me and slightly to the right.
The picture with the people posing in front of the statue was taken from roughly this spot.
After an hour up here we took the funicular down to the station where the bus picked us up. Here are a few pictures taken on the way down.
The forest with some shanty town houses (I think) up on the side of the hill.
Another view as I came down the funicular.
From here we took the scenic route to São Conrado where the hotel is located. Here are some pictures along the way.
|This is the lagoon you could see from the statue. This is the far left coroner of it when looking at the left of the two pictures taken from the statue.||Another picture of the lagoon, along with a window reflection, a bit further around the lagoon from the left one.|
As close a view as we got of one of the shanty towns.
Sometime around noon we arrived at the hotel. As I mentioned above the poor hotel staff has to deal with a pile of people coming and going on a day like this. The Brazilian tour guides and some of the passengers did not handle this part so well. Here is what happened........
When we arrived there were no rooms ready. Not too surprising
because the hotel's check out time is noon and the check in time is 4:00PM.
Many people thought they should be able to get rooms right away. These people
are familiar with North American hotels who will often allow early check ins
as rooms become available. The Intercontinental Rio has a policy that nobody
checks in until all the rooms are ready (at least for the group checking in,
if not everyone). This agitated a lot of people, most of them thinking that
since we were there early we should get the rooms as they became available.
Management of the hotel finally came to the ballroom where we all were and
told us the rooms would be available at 3:00PM and not before. They would
come to this room with the keys and give them out here.
There were still people who were not happy with this because they wanted to do other things. The Brazilian tour guides only aggravated the situation by going and asking questions of other hotel staff and coming back with different answers. They were only trying to help but in the long run they made matters worse. So some people went to a near by, and very espensive apparently, fashion mall, which was about the only place we could go unescorted to because of a large shanty town nearby. Apparently people from this town tended to prey on anyone who even remotely looked like a tourist and robbed and or assaulted them. Others like myself stayed in the hotel and played a game called triominoes. This is dominoes only using triangles instead of rectangles.
Just before 3:00 the staff of the hotel showed up with the keys and in rather chaotic fashion handed them out. If you wanted your luggage delivered to you room you could have but it probably would have taken them will into the evening to deliver it all. During the wait most of us had checked to make sure that our luggage was there. They had it in a room next to the room we were in. It was ok if you wanted to take your own up which is what I did.
In the end things happened exactly the way the hotel staff said it would. I am not sure that the policy they have makes sense but it worked they way they said it would and all ended up being well. It seemed a bit dicey for a while but I do not think it ever really was.
The room I ended up in was 733 which was on the highest floor with regular rooms on it. The rest above were special business rooms. For a change a person (me) who booked a single room actually got one with a half decent view and not a courtyard with a brick wall on the other side or the like. Here are the first pictures taken out of the window of the room before I figured out how to unlock the balcony door and go out to take better pictures which you will see over the next few days.
|The Beach where pictures were taken yesterday, when I did not realize where the hotel was, is down by the group of buildings near the centre of the picture.||
Here is a similar picture taken a bit more the the right of the other one.
So ended today. Tonight I would sleep on land for the first time in 21 days and tomorrow Sugar Loaf and other scenic things.
Created: Saturday and Sunday,
March 7 & 8, 2009 at home.
Last updated: March 8, 2009 6:00 PM