Rio de Janerio
Elaine Doll-Dunn

Caipirinha (kampi.rijne), the Brazilian National Drink, made of lime, cane sugar, ice and Cachaca (hard liquor made of sugar cane)… it goes down waaay too smoothly. Local lore has it that when you have one, you smile. After two, you begin to dance, three, you speak Portuguese and four…you forget everything. I never spoke Portuguese, but I did do some dancing.

Rio de Janerio hosted my fifth continent run... a lovely party. It was not carnivale time, but who could tell? A group of about 70 from Marathon Tours arrived at the city to run a marathon along the beaches of Copacabana and into Ipanema. The weather was perfect (Brazil has but two seasons…winter and hell. We were there during the winter.) Temperatures at 75 and 80, a cool breeze off the ocean, what’s not to like? Daughter Erin traveled with me and we ran together. Calculated move on my part, at 5’9” with a mass of flaming curls, I never had to worry about finding her in the crowd. Plus we chose to dress alike so we could stay connected… they called us "The Barbies". Tiny waist? Empty heads? We didn't ask, I’m sure it was our signature pink outfits... .traveled light, just one color.

Elaine on Copacabana Beach with a local, Bruno

Or hotel was right on the beach so we walked right onto the fabled Copacabana sidewalk and into the water. Dressed in appropriate South Dakota / Nantucket beach wear, we were decidedly overdressed… tantamount to a turtle neck compared to most of the decimated suits (I thought thongs were sandals!). Fun stuff, who cares about the body beautiful in that kind of sun, sand and Caipirinha?

And speaking of Peak Experiences... we visited Christ the Redeemer on the top of Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city. (That required a tram journey; acrophobia is just a word.) Christ the Redeemer (Portuguese: Cristo Redemptor) is a statue of Jesus Christ; considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world and the 5th largest statue of Jesus in the world. It is 98 ft tall, not including its 26 ft pedestal, and its arms stretch 92 ft wide. It weighs 635 tons and is located at the peak of the 2,300 ft mountain. A symbol of Brazilian Christianity, the statue has become an icon for Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. It's made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, and was constructed between 1926 and 1931.

The next day we experienced another “peak” experience. Swaying up Sugar Loaf Mountain in a cable car, we made a brief stop at a vantage point approximately 700 feet above sea level where we captured unparalleled panoramic views of the city, Guanabara Bay, the Rio-Niteroi Bridge and Corcovado Mountain. We then ascended to the peak of Sugar Loaf for breathtaking views of Copacabana Beach, the Santa Cruz Fortress and the beaches of Niteroi. Yes, I was afraid, but it would have been criminal to have not experienced the splendid view and the nearly tangible eerie silence of being so far above the beautiful world. I felt sorta like “Google Earth”!

We flew to Argentina the next day to visit the fabled Iguassu Falls... largest in the world. I have never seen so much water! Power, majesty and a fearfully awesome presence...all framed by beautiful rainbows one on top of another. We chose not to go on the boat, but got just as wet with spray as did those hardy souls who paid an extra $100 and were not as close as we were. The boat looked mighty fragile to me... I took my chances with the ubiquitous Quati (mischievous raccoon-like critter), the potential of meeting a panther or leopard and the very real consideration of sighting the deadly coral snake. No such luck…got very wet, very cold, a few bruises from the narrow board walk railing and LOTS of great pictures on Erin’s camera. She shot, I hung on.

Our hotel was the epitome of elegance, situated in a national park and on the edge of the rain forest. Birds of every sort, Quati rampant (they love tourists and their goodies!), but we missed seeing either panthers or leopards... did see a coral snake before he saw us, always good.
Outstanding adventures all, paramount among them… a trip through the slums being rehabilitated after the ousting of the drug lords, the short journey into Paraguay, the Brazilian Barbeque with food for the masses and an amazing show focusing on South American dances and Latin music, sunning in the sand and sipping from a cooled and cored coconut… nice recovery option.

I loved the people and places, delighted in our two guides… Wagner in Brazil and Joao in Argentina... history is so much more fun from a local, and the insights delightful. Learned that “Tudo bem!”, With two thumbs up and a big smile, is Portuguese for ‘all and well’. So “Life is good” “How are you?” “I’m Fine!” and whatever else you wanna say that means good stuff.

So, South America? Tudo Bem!!!!!!

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