Around 6 years ago I first travelled to and around South America and apart from a suspect border crossing between Venezuela and Colombia the only other time that I felt genuinely uneasy was in Rio De Janeiro - mind I don't think wandering the streets of Copacabana alone after dark (looking for a McDonalds) helped.
With these memories to hand and the well documented safety issues that surround the so called 'city of God' I was a little apprehensive about the first stop on our tour.
After a very long trip starting on Monday morning at Huddersfield train station then down to Gatwick via the megabus, extended with a 10 hour stop over in Porto to save pennies we finally arrived in Rio at 8pm on the Tuesday evening.
We decided to aim for a soft start to the hostel/backpacker life by staying in the friendlier Ipanema neighbourhood and opting for a double room in the first hostel - shared bathroom though as we aren't made of money!
Even this I think was an eye opener for the both of us....something we'll need to get used to.
Unfortunately bad luck struck on the very first day in Rio! After spending the morning exploring the nearby beach and trying to blend in with the locals but failing miserably with our February English tans we were just about to cross the road when some kid on a bike tried to grab Georges necklace!
I had spotted him as he had made a few passes before but thinking nothing was on show and with nothing really of value in our backpacks I thought I was just being paranoid. Fortunately he failed with his snatch but as we hurriedly crossed the road to escape a couple of accomplices then decided to follow/circle us also on bikes until George handed me the necklace which obviously then meant the prize was too much like hard work! The guns we're looking pretty big that day to be fair!
Nevertheless it bought us back down to earth and more importantly neither of us were hurt but it did make us extra weary for the rest of our time in Rio and also knocked our adventurousness a bit which meant we went extra gringo and didn't veer off the main path again which is a shame in what could be such a wonderful city.
The following day we decided to play it safe and go on an organised walking tour of Lapa, famous for its white aqueduct arches which are now used as a tram line. Arguably the biggest draw to the area now though are the 'seleron steps', a colourful staircase made up of thousands of hand painted tiles all created by Seleron himself and made famous by a Snoop video a few years back. The secret, if they ever were?! Is definitely out on these though as you literally could not move there let alone get that all important selfie!
We didnt really need the assistance of the walking tour for this area however the previous days incident and the fact one of my friends had been suspect to an attempted bag snatch here a few months beforehand meant it was money well spent to get us out and about again.
Georgina, in her bid to tick off all seven wonders of the world (now 2 remaining) was naturally most excited about visiting the big guy that watches over the city. The original plan was to skip the tourist buses and hike up from park lage however when you're on edge about safety you can pretty much find a dodgy story about any activity and after reading that there had been some petty crime on the trail we decided the tourist route was for us. However not to be complete lemons we found out that if you caught the subway to largo de machado then you could catch a minibus from there. This turned out to be a very pain free process, with the minibuses leaving almost immediately in each direction leaving us to enjoy the spectacular views fro my above Rio!
Rightly or wrongly the incident on the first day in Rio had a lasting effect on our time there, we just couldn't relax. With that in mind we bought forward our departure and booked a bus down to Paraty a few days ealier than originally planned.
Twice now I have been to Rio and twice now I have left not quite feeling the magic that others feel when they take a stroll down the famous Copacabana beach. Hopefully we got our bad luck out of the way early and rest of Brazil will show us what the country is all about.