Sugar Loaf

Pulling into Rio de Janeiro (January River), Brazil afforded a great view of among the most unique topography I’ve ever come across. The main city was founded within a large natural harbor with a narrow opening to the ocean. Both the French and Portuguese attempted to settle the area, with the Portuguese easily fortifying the opening to the bay. The Portuguese empire moved its headquarters to Rio after Napoleon invaded the Iberian Peninsula, affording Old World riches and architecture to litter the city. Today, Rio is famous for its beaches which we saw riding in, particularly Copacabana and Ipanema neighborhoods. On a mountain top overlooking the city is a 40 foot statue of Jesus, Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) that we could actually see riding in. However, Rio is in the grip of rapid, massive urbanization as the population continues to move in from the countryside into cities looking for jobs. Without housing construction to meet population, shanty towns have gone up everywhere, called favelas. There are miles and miles of favelas and are areas of high crime. We pulled in at a commercial pier downtown. I was immediately struck by the high amount of grafitti, EVERYWHERE. There was literally nothing NOTJesus! tagged by rather colorful and artful spray paint, including churches and gravestones. Once liberty call went down I went out with a few junior officers and explored Copacabana beach in their winter. We enjoyed drinks and a sunset on top of a hotel, then headed to a few bars and restaurants, running into American and European tourists. I was surprised by the open prostitution and drugs around, but brothels are legal in Brazil… Portuguese as a language is interesting but not too difficult to communicate with others if you are polite. We tried hard not to be ignorant Americans, but did have to point to pictures at times when ordering. Also, the local Brazilian beer was not that good. The next day Tim, my roommate, and I woke up early to take a white water rafting tour out in the countryside. It was an hours ride, but saw many favelas on the way out. The rafting tour was neat, as the rapids were mildly tough but fun. The guides were nice and liked to splash us. After rafting by old coffee farms, we went through a jungle area and saw actual monkeys in the wild, pretty crazy. That night we had a required Wardroom function at a high class brazilian steakhouse. Jesus Again!The servers kept bringing mounds of different cuts of meat, as much as we could eat. Hanging out with 80 officers got lame, and we took a cab back to the ship to pass out. The next day we got to play real tourist and visit Jesus. A group of four took a cab up Corcovado Mountain to see the famous Cristo Redento (Christ the Redeemer) statue overlooking Rio. Pulling into the city I was able to make out the statue on the peak. Unfortunately for us the clouds were low that day and hung right around the mountain peak, but we got to see Jesus up close, which is not one large chiseled rock, rather a mosaic pieced over a frame. In search of food, we made it doBrazil Boardwalkwn the mountain to Ipanema beach, an area much nicer than Copacabana. At a nice micro-brew pup we ate some fried cheese dish, then had coffee in the local style, instant… not all that good considering they grow the beans everywhere. Maybe Americans are the only ones obsessed with drip coffee. After walking the boardwalk we headed back to the ship for an evening reception for Brazilian Naval officials. While preparing to aide the captain with the evening handing out gifts, I suddenly and violently became ill. Then sick. Something I had out in town had hit me, and my last day in Brazil was spent with the toilet. Eventually I crawled down to medical, who gave me two IV’s to hydrate me and stop my stomach from discharging everything. I was not the only one on the ship to get food poisoning, and we suffered together, though I thought my insides were trying to come out. I was weak for two weeks after that blow.