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|Queen Elizabeth 2 - 2003
South American Adventure - Part 1
Unfortunately the weather overnight was bad - rumoured to be Force 11. We slept through it all, went to breakfast early, and reported for our tender tickets. It was no surprise to be told by the Captain that the weather was too bad to visit Port Stanley. Certainly there were heavy seas, and it would be hard to anchor and for tenders to be used safely. Although the weather was cold and windy it was fine. There were a number of seabirds following the ship, including the local black browed albatross and the similar sized great petrel. There were also flocks of Cape pigeons. It reminded us of New Zealand. Being Remembrance Day, we attended the Interdenominational service. We had previously passed across to the Captain a copy of the Falklands Hymn; perhaps he will be able to use it when QE2 visits next year. Several passengers had wreaths and there was a special ceremony for them on the aft deck.
Because of our early departure from the Falkland Islands we were ahead of schedule, and we were fortunate to find our berth in Rio de Janeiro was available early. It was still light as we collected our pilot, and began the slow entry past the famous beaches, around the Sugar Loaf with Corcovado in the background, then past the airport to the port. The sun was setting as we reached our berth.
The next day we were going to visit the Corcovado, then have lunch, and finally visit the Sugar Loaf. The trip began with a drive through Rio, past the Sambadrome where the famous Carnaval is held. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer and completed in 1984, it contains 82,000 seats and tourist tickets cost from US$250 upwards. Rio is hilly and so is riddled with many road tunnels, up to 2 miles long. We passed some Favelas, the slums on the hillsides.
Corcovado means the Hunchback and is the name of the mountain. Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) is the statue. The mountain rises straight up from the city to 709 metres. The statue stands another 30 metres high. It was designed by Heitor da Silva Costa and finally completed in 1931 by the french sculptor Paul Landowski, thanks to some financial assistance by the Vatican. To reach the statue there was a 20 minute ride by rack and pinion mountain train through the forest. Then there is the choice of a short climb up steps past souvenir shops, or else the new lift and then the escalator. The views from the top were spectacular.
We got back to our coach and continued through tunnels and alongside the lagoon - the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas. We continued by the edge of the Botanical gardens, and past the Jockey Club into the area of Tijuca. Lunch was served here at a typical churrascaria restaurants, Tourao. For a fixed price you collect a buffet starter and salad. BBQ meat is then served from skewers at the table. Finally there is a dessert and cheese buffet to follow. The restaurant was just one street back from the Barra da Tijuca beach which is 18km long. There were lots of nice houses and condominiums with gated entrances.
We went through a small tunnel and then were on the beachfront road. The famous beaches were all on the South Side of Rio. There was usually hang gliding from Pedra Bonita to Praia do Pepino, but it stopped since a recent accident when a double dive went into the hillside. Nestled into the hillside behind the Hotel InterContinental is the Favela Rocinho, the famous slum area. Nearby is the Hotel Nacional, presently empty. It is an unusual round shape, and was designed by the Brasilia architect Oscar Niemeyer.
We drove along the Sao Conrado beach, and past a Golf Club, reaching the famous beaches of Leblon, then Ipanema and finally Copacabana. Soon it was time to pass the Princesa Isabel monument, and then the first of the giant shopping malls, Rio Sul, We drove through the Parque do Flamengo, glimpsing the monument to those who fell in WW2, and the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, before reaching the cable car station to go up the Sugar Loaf.
The journey by cable car is in two parts. The first cable car is up to Morro da Urca, then there is a short walk to the second cable car which goes to the top of the Sugar Loaf. The views were good, but it was not very clear visibility.
At the top we had to wait for half an hour to come back due to a sudden thunderstorm. In spite of the protestations of our tour guide, the cable car was firmly closed until the risk of lightning had passed. We were all safely inside the building, while the rain poured and the lightning flashed around us. Of the five coaches, only the first two managed to get up the cable car.
We expected it would then be a short journey directly back to QE2. But our destination was the Metropolitan cathedral of St Sebastian, a huge concrete cone with 4 spectacular stained glass windows. There were delays in the construction work and the area was used as a car park in order to earn money to complete the work. Pope John Paul II said Mass here on 4 September 1997. Nearby is the aquaduct - Arcos da Carioca which was constructed in 1750 with 42 arches.
After dinner we went up on to the Sun Deck Heli Pad to see how the South American Barbecue and Deck Party was progressing. There were lots of people, all sitting or lying on loungers, with all the staff normally in the Lido providing the service. It was good that the weather had stayed kind after all the showers during the day. Because of the long day excursion we had deliberately avoided the evening excursion to the Samba show at the Plataforma nightclub. Those who went did say that it was excellent.
We had nothing planned the following morning, and we awoke to a dismal grey day. We noticed that the naval vessel moored just behind us was flying the Union Jack, and it quickly became clear that it was HMS Lancaster. We decided to try to go and look at the ship, but the local soldiers were preventing anyone getting close. It was then announced by Captain Heath that there would be a new type of helicopter (a Merlin) giving a flying display for the Ambassador on HMS Lancaster, and that we would all get a good view if we went onto the aft deck. In the event, it was a short simple display, ending with the traditional nose drop to bow. We had as good a view as the real customers behind, and there was much waving from everyone.
During the morning a barge had sunk alongside. The afternoon was spent standing in the rain on the port side of the ship with camera and video, watching the antics and workings of divers and other port workmen. There were eventually 7 small boats and tugs alongside an enormous floating crane. The problem was that the barge had a small crane on top when it sank, and that crane was now below the barge. The first priority was to get this crane, and that was eventually achieved. The three divers had a very difficult job. We had heard that it was a full sludge barge, so there were concerns about polluting the area, and it was an unpleasant environment for the divers. Eventually two wire loops were placed under the barge, and the crane managed to lift it. One of the wires snapped in the process of getting the barge alongside the floating crane, but when we left Rio the barge was secured by 3 ropes alongside the crane. We heard rumours later that the barge had dropped into the bay again.
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