The view from our hotel room / Ipanema Beach, Rio
Rio sucks. Or more specifically, the road to Rio sucks as well as the tourist trap known as Christ the Redeemer, and the person who stole our money. They all suck. But the beaches? The beaches were fantastic and the only thing that saved our trip to Rio.
To celebrate the Brazilian Independence Day last month, the kids skipped school, my husband skipped work, and I skipped a day of doing absolutely nothing and we headed to Rio for a four-day weekend. The drive from Belo Horizonte to Rio generally takes six or seven-hours, but being that it was a holiday weekend and that traveling with two small kids required us to make more than a few stops, it took us nine and a half hours. The trip started off pretty well. No major incidents and no major traffic. But then we hit Rio.
Just outside of Rio, everything went to hell. First, my three-year old puked all over herself and her car seat. It was disgusting to say the least. If you’re ever in Brazil and you need a hose, you can find them hiding under a small circular lid in the ground in the parking lots of most gas stations and shopping areas. And if you’re in Brazil and drive from Belo Horizonte (BH) to Rio, you will most likely need to hose someone/something off at some point. A friend of mine who lives in BH and also spent the weekend in Rio with her four kids just told me today that she had been warned that lots of kids puke on the drive to Rio. It’s like one long twisting and turning road through mountains. Thankfully, my five-year old wasn’t bothered, but my three-year old puked on the way home as well. I doubt we’ll be going back to Rio any time soon, but Dramamine will definitely be on our list of things to take with if we do.
Once my daughter and her car seat were cleaned off, we hit the road again, and then BAM! We spent the next two hours creeping along on the very congested highway leading into the city. To make matters worse, we were running out of gas and there was no way to exit off the high way since we were on a VERY long bridge. My husband wasn’t concerned at all, but I seriously almost followed in my daughter’s footsteps and puked as I watched the needle dive further and further in to the red zone. It was totally stressing me out. Even though my husband is a mechanical engineer, I didn’t trust him when he said we had a good forty minutes before we needed to worry. After all, he is a man and they just don’t seem to care about much. And besides that, we hadn’t moved very far in the last forty minutes so there was a good chance that we would only be a couple of miles up the road when the 40 minute mark hit. In the end, we were OK and managed to get gas before we stalled, but I could have done without the two hours of added stress.
According to the GPS, we were 14 minutes from our destination. Actual travel time to destination? Two hours! I would have hated to have been the person waiting for the ambulance or cops to come help me. Amazingly, they managed to squeeze their way through without killing the snack vendors that roamed the highways.
While in Rio, we went to see Christ the Redeemer. I would NEVER recommend this to anyone! It was a HORRIBLE experience. We took a taxi from our hotel to the train station where we purchased tickets to get up to the top of the mountain. What we failed to realize when we bought the train tickets is that they were for the next available train – 2.5 hours later. So we managed to waste away 2.5 hours with nothing much to do. There was a small playground so that helped us kill time, but we spent a good hour or so just hanging out on some church steps. And that’s where things went really bad.
With two little kids and tummies that don’t stay full for long, my husband went and bought some water and cookies for the girls. This was all good, until we finally went to catch our train and my husband realized that his wallet was gone. He’s not sure if he left it behind when he bought the snacks or if he was pick pocketed, but thankfully he did manage to get it back (a woman found it on the ground in front of her snack cart and picked it up) – but unfortunately the BRL $300 (about US $150) that was inside was gone. We really couldn’t complain since at least all the credit cards and his ID were still in place. So we blew it off and didn’t let it ruin our day. We got on our train and headed up the mountain.
But then the kids got hungry again and even though there is a concession stand at the top of the mountain, we were screwed because they didn’t take credit cards. So there we were, stuck at the top of a mountain with two whinny and hungry kids and no way to feed them. Add that to the annoying crowds of people crammed into a very small area – half of who are laying on the ground so that they can take a picture of their friend standing with their arms spread out like Christ the Redeemer and the statue in the background making it nearly impossible for anyone to move around – and you get one really crabby family of four who spent the better half of their morning waiting to get UP the mountain only to now be dying to get DOWN the mountain. I kind of felt like Karl from An Idiot Abroad when he visited Christ the Redeemer and commented:
“I sorta think from a distance . . . Jesus, top of a hill, lookin’ like he’s about to bungee jump, you pass it, you go, ”There he is. Great. What else are we doin?'” - Karl Pilkington
Thankfully, after a very long wait to take the train down the mountain, we headed back to our hotel where we ordered crappy room service because my kids were too crabby to take to an actual restaurant. We spent the rest of the evening and the next day at the beach where we should have just stayed the entire trip. I’ve decided that all future vacations will revolve around relaxing on the beach. Happy kids and a happy mom trump one of the seven wonders of the world any day.