Given our extensive set of photo shoots in Europe this summer we decided that in Brazil we would focus solely on race walking and take a token One Dress shot to count Brazil in the county list. It sounded like such a nice, simple and non-painful plan.
Our trip progressed relatively smoothly. If anyone is interested in our initial impressions of Brazil please see our initial story on racewalk.com. Given the exorbitantly inflated Olympic hotel prices we rolled the dice with Air BnB. We selected our place from very few, affordable rooms near the race walking courses, near being 15km away. Yes, Rio is a very large place. To say we brought the luck of the Irish with us is an understatement. We rented a room from an apartment with the family still living there. Carla, Rodrigo and their two children Pedro and Valentina were amazing. Without a huge agenda and the family on holiday for the Olympics, we spent a lot of time with them. What an amazing treat to see how a kind-hearted, local family lives. We went to the mall together to take care of our cell phones and had dinner out so Valentina could have pizza. For all New Yorkers out there, don’t worry, it’s not competition. The next day, we photographed the Men’s 20km race walk. Our host family was kind enough to drive us to the course. You can see the photo story here.
Had we stayed in one place, we would have had a relaxing next couple of days. However, the roar of Iguazu Falls was calling to us. We booked flights for that evening and flew from the race course to the apartment, then called an Uber to get us to the airport. All that rushing and then we crawled at no faster than 5 miles an hour (when we were moving at all) until we were within 10km of the airport. We now know, this is not uncommon at any time, day or place in Rio. Thankfully, it let up then and we successfully made our flight. I worked feverishly on the photos of the race, while Jennifer compiled results so we could publish our walking photo story before heading to the Falls. We didn’t finish it that night, but got it done by 11 AM the next day. We hired a cab and transformed into OneDressOneWoman mode.
From the first moments riding in the cab, it was obvious that town felt much more third world. We decided to pick up an extra country and headed to the Argentina side of the falls first. The drive was an extra 15 or so kilometers, but the real loss of time can be hopping the border. We arrived at the park, under bright blue skies and traversed the well-maintained, not over crowded, completely handicap-accessible trails. These iron paths took us where no human being deserved to be, right over one massive waterfall after another. The sound and the force of the falls is fierce and awe inspiring. We walked back over the trail and grabbed a few shots shown here:
Our cab picked us up, completely exhausted and brought us back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. Then we repeated the drill heading to the Brazilian side. However, it was a very different experience. Even though we arrived before they opened, the line was extensive. Once we got through it, we had to wait for a shuttle which took us to the trail head. Seeing the areas we had walked the day before, but from across the river, really showed the grandeur and enormous scope of the falls. With 2/3rds of the falls on the Argentina side, we covered the trail quickly and went back for a photo shoot at the best location. Unfortunately, blue skies were not our companion and we were left with a very gray mush. At least we got the one day.
Now knowing our way around, our trip back to Rio went without a hitch. After a relaxing afternoon, we went to Marius Degustare, the best known rodizio in Rio with Carla and Rodrigo. While we probably should have done a wedding dress shot, I was planning on making Jennifer work hard at the races and didn’t ask her to distract from a fun even with a wonderful couple. The restaurant didn’t disappoint. The meat and seafood were plentiful and high quality for rodizio standards. They also had caviar and homemade chocolate truffles on the dessert bar. Yes, you can count Rio in the places not to visit if you care about your diet. One stand out of the evening was the realization that purses are physically tied to your chair to prevent them from walking off. So while crime isn’t as rampant as some American swimmers falsely claim, it is something to be constantly mindful about.
However, it may have been the urinal that was most impressive. Ice, yes, I’ve seen before, but fruit in the urinal, that’s a new standard!
With a few days left, our host family suggested a local hike to the Pico do Tijuca. We took a quick Uber to the trailhead and followed a local guided group up to the top. I think it is safe to say we are not in the hiking shape. We struggled more than we should have, but paced ourselves with a sweet woman from NY that was clearly challenged by the trail. When we arrived at the top, unfortunately haze was everywhere. So we took a shot, because of all the effort getting there and proceeded down. When we exited the trail, our next adventure began. How to get home, without a cell signal. We grouped up with a few friendly hikers with the same dilemma and walked out enjoying the conversation. Our phones, still challenged by Brazil, did not connect to the internet, but a quick hop spot from one of the hikers solved our problem.
Lunch was interesting because we were visited by the locals.
We once again planned to have an easy day and do virtually nothing before our big race day on Friday. Both the men’s 50km with John Nunn ( a former athlete of mine) and the women’s 20km with Maria Michta and Miranda Melville ( two walkers I am very fond of) were racing. Over 6 hours of photos and videos awaited. However, instead of relaxing by the pool, when Rodrigo showed us photos of another peak, Pedra do Telégrafo, that was only a 30 minute walk, how could we refuse?
Let’s just say, it wasn’t an easy 30 minute walk, or an easy 60 minute walk or an easy 90 minute walk, but an intense 90 minute hike straight up. Even the car strained getting to the parking space. By the time we crested our hopes were completely dashed by a 3 hour or more line waiting to pose for the “money” shot. If we were alone, there would be no way we would ask to go in front nor could we have command of the language to explain what we were doing. Carla and Rodrigo jumped to the rescue and coordinated a stealthy, but polite slide to the near the front of the line. To smooth thing over, we offered professional photos of those at the front of the line who gave us their spot. While everyone was posing in intricate ways, no one knew to use a flash with the sun behind them. I don’t think I saw a single photo come out properly. We set my camera up and gave instructions to a nervous Rodrigo on how to point and click. When it was our time, I jumped, literally, into position and held on for dear life. Of course, we are exaggerating a little. The allure of this peak is the easy access to a photo that looks more dangerous than it is. The peak is an interesting commentary on social media. There are truly no secret spots any more. Before Facebook and Instagram, no one knew of this location. Now there was easily a 5 hour wait as we left. Hopefully, the kind people will email me so I can send them their photos.