Rio de Janeiro, perhaps the most iconic city in South America. It has two geological landmarks, Corcovado - a granite peak upon which a giant statue (38 meters!) of Jesus overlooks the city, and Sugarloaf Mountain (another vertical granite peak?) that sits out in the water. One can ascend both, the former by tram/escalators/shuttle bus and the latter by cable car.
It rained on one of our 2.5 days in Rio. What is there to do on a rainy Rio Monday? Well, not visit museums, apparently. Globally, museums are closed on Monday. Supermarkets seemed also to be closed, and we never did figure out why. The next day however, the clouds parted as we arrived via cable car at the first peak of Sugarloaf, and the sunset sun beamed down on Corcovado, creating an unbelievably glorious scene. The second photo features the Bay and Beach of Bogafoto. The famous beach of Cococabana (same name as in that Barry Manilow song, which was actually about a night club) was sadly not lit. Guidebooks insist that you check out the view from both Corcovado and Sugarloaf, but to be honest, I much preferred Sugarloaf, perhaps because it sits in the water, has cable car access only and has a cute name - and Corcovado is so high up that the details of the city become too small to appreciate.
Rio has a convenient subway system, and lots of buses. It was decently easy to get around, and felt relatively safe, assuming you're a city person. Cococabana beach, incidentally, was not covered in Victoria-Secret-esque bodies. The people there had body shapes of every shape and size and age, none too bashful to wear lycra. But that's the other thing - the beach was incredibly crowded. If you've always pictured an empty long stretch of sand with an umbrella here and there, well add a couple thousand people far more tanned than you, and a hundred soccer balls. Lots of beach soccer.
Unlike Sao Paulo, Rio almost completely lacked people of Asian ethnic background, except a handful staffing roadside eateries. I fully expected a bus load of Asian tourists at least, but no. Sao Paulo has a huge Korean and Japanese immigrant population, but more on that later.
I just returned today, and am still digesting the experience. I do have many photos to share... stay tuned! Oh yes, these were taken with the Canon 400D (rebel) and a Tamron f/2.8 28-75 (or something) - it did an OK job. Photos needed much enhancing in saturation, crispness, contrast. I was missing my other camera bodies and lenses dearly, but I prefer not to flash my pricey equipment around in unfamiliar places.