So the itinerary plan was to head off to see the sailing at the marina. However as I have travelled lots so far due to the ridiculous distance between venues, an hour taxi to see dots in the ocean didn’t appeal to me. The others therefore got up early and headed off. I did wake up a bit upset that I’m on my own again as I thought we’d maybe do breakfast or something before they headed for the 1pm start. But never mind. I decide to head to Sugar Loaf as the others have done it already yesterday and their pictures look great albeit a tad cloudy yesterday. The sun is shining so looks promising. Taxi seemed easiest so off I head. He doesn’t speak English so I get my google translate out and all is good.
It’s not too expensive, about £20 for the cable car up. You can trek up the first part but I think I’ll enjoy some lazy time and enjoy the view.
The cable car is in two sections. You get out at a middle station (sounds like a ski resort) and can check out the views, eat, relax whatever you want before getting on the second cable. I have met some very colourful Americans in the line. I ask them what they are here to see and realise they are a Christian group. So I get the chat about their beliefs, a free pin badge with the Olympic rings represented by fish and I am told what each colour means. The bit I remember is black is for sins, red is Christs blood, green is the growing of life after sins! I mean very interesting and they didn’t shove it down my throat. Although when they asked am I a Christian and my response was yes but not practicing, she didn’t seem to understand. They go to all the Olympics and hand these pins and bibles out trying to spread the word.
I manage I sneak away and into a cable car without them. The views are awesome already. I stop at middle station, take some photos. The selfie stick is very handy today. Sugar loaf is the view as we have not crossed over the water yet. The view is already spectacular. The deep blue ocean spread far and wide, the golden beaches curving around the bay’s. The marina with the array of expensive boats bobbing about. The city looking much cleaner from up above, hustle and bustle of the traffic and tourists stretching around the hills and bays. And then the amazing iconic Sugar Loaf mountain in all its splendour. A mix of rock and green from the trees, connected to land only by the wires of the cable car. A picture of natural beauty. The top cable car view is equally spectacular as you see over the marina, Copacabana beach, little beaches in alcoves you wouldn’t know are there, the mountains in the distance and just a view to remember.
At the top there’s a huge poster with pens available to write your name in. So obviously I had to. Then you just peruse at your leisure. I wander down some steps into a forest area, notice signs saying don’t feed the monkeys as they are a danger to natural species. As I sit for a bit of a snack out they pop, bold as brass, trying to get in my bag. I mean they look cute but what a cheek.
I wander around a bit more and can see the Olympic sailing and windsurfing going on. An American man and his wife are sat watching so I ask for some details. Bless him, he chatted away about how the blue were men’s and green women’s windsurfing. There were two sailing categories I only remember Finn? And he has binoculars so could see the flags of who was competing and winning. GB at one point. I take some pictures, zoom into the beach where the girls are watching and just then sit and watch for a bit.
Time to head back down, and I decided that I am going to buy some hockey tickets for this afternoon as GB women are playing and the stadium was half empty. I don’t rush though and go to the little museum section to learn about the mountain and cable car. In the 1050’s ships that sailed to Rio would come across the mountain as their first view point and it would welcome everyone to the area.
In 1808 painters portrayed Sugar Loaf in all pictures painted so it started to become an iconic view. Then throughout the 19th century it became an icon with the cable car being built in 1912. A photographer climbed the mountain to photograph the views from Sugar Loaf and once this is available for everyone and it becomes a huge tourist attraction. There is an old and new cable car on view as you reach the top. The newer cable moved quicker and therefor made the mountain more accessible to tourists.
So history lesson completed, off to hockey. Now I know it is a ridiculous journey to the Olympic Hockey centre I can plan better and leave plenty of time. It’s quicker this time as I chose a slightly different route, and it’s saves me a whole 45 mins. Express train from central Rio which is absolutely manic but fun to experience. It’s a locals train and not new like he Metro. There are locals selling food and drinks on the train, shouting in Portuguese just like a mobile market. The train goes past favelas as we start in Cental Rio, one of the toughest areas I have seen. On the long walk from the station I meet some random Brits and they are family members of one of the players (Owsley) so I chat along with them. The army has their marching band out which is an awesome sound and more Christian groups try and preach to us but we manage to move along quickly!
So into the ticket office and lovely jubly I have a ticket but I have my selfie stick with me as it was a godsend up sugar loaf mountain. But you can’t take them into Olympic venues, so I am asking a chance I get a lax security guard and can bet it in, I’ve even taken it apart so one piece is on my camera case as the other in my bag. No such luck. I’m told I can go out and put in my car or something. Now that is a long way to go to save a selfie stick. I try a different security section and have now hidden it in my shoe under socks (I have my shoes with me in case I get cold feet). Nope, he made me empty bag out. Damn it, but good security is good today! So I have to throw it away. Ouch!!
Ah well I’m in and with time to spare, so off to get a beer and add to my cup collection. The purchase of food and drink is ridiculous. You queue to buy a ticket for whatever you want, the card machines only accept visa, some don’t work. Then you have to queue again to get the food/drink and it’s not always available at every vendor. Madness! They have no Sprite so it’s just beer today. I head to the Olympic logo for some photos, sit by the big screen to watch some swimming and then get chatting to another random Brit. She’s a volunteer and never seen hockey. Very chatty, very enthusiastic and she tags along with me over to the match.
As I have a superior ticket we can head over to the dug out side of the pitch (no one checks your tickets for sections or seats here, you can literally try and sit anywhere!) and there we find a huge GB crowd. Great. We join them by sneaking into the bottom row of them all, and see the family of the players. Sam Querk (one of the players), boyfriend turns up in full GB suit, hat and drum. Let’s go GB let’s go, let go GB let’s go, let’s go GB let’s go. Chanting as we speak! Such a good atmosphere. I recognise a lady from the Venus Williams match as she had a cap and flag. I ask her if that was her at the match and yes I’m correct. How funny, small world!
The girls play great and we win. So much fun, and I teach my fellow Brit the rules as we go along. Lovely crowd. At the end of the match an Argentinian boy comes over to me to ask if we can exchange my GB hand flag for an Argentinian t-shirt. I just can’t bring myself to hand it over so say no. Karen, the lady I’d seen at the tennis says she has some spares so she will meet me tomorrow and replace, she couldn’t cope with the boys little sad face!
Karen, my fellow Brit friend (can’t remember her name) and I retire to the long journey home and it seems much quicker when you have company. However the volunteer we were directed by sent us a bloody long way round. I know the normal route but he said to walk to a different station, just a five minute walk. Well, it was a 20 min walk, down a badly lit, unmanned road and I didn’t feel safe at all. We also had to ask for directions as it wasn’t a signposted route! The volunteer had been very excited to speak English but completely bloody wrong! We made it at least and I’m glad there were two of us! As we get off the metro we bump into some volunteers that Karen knows. Karen came out here to volunteer but hasn’t been given a shift, even though she was cleared. So she’s just watching instead. One of the volunteers she knows I recognise as I volunteered with her at the hockey in June. Small world meeting in a random street in Rio. She is a bit shocked though, when I say I’m here on holiday not to volunteer. Bless her, we had to joke with her that people do go on holidays and don’t always work! We head for some food as I’ve had a few beers and not eaten all day and head into Bobs burgers. Well, it’s a very cheap version of McDonalds. More Wimpy like and just not worth the calories!
Well the girls were asleep when I got home at 11, and still asleep when I got up for water polo at 8am so it’s becoming rather an individual trip for me and a couples trip for them. So water polo at the Olympic park. I’m getting pretty good at the travel now, so although it takes a long bloody time you get used to it. I’m late as it was a 9am start. But I’m just going to enjoy the atmosphere and see the games and venues. I get in and head to the aquatics centre which is the other end of the park but it’s all shut! Bit concerned as although I’m late it only 10am? I eventually find out it’s not at the aquatics venue but another swimming venue at the end of the park I just bloody came from! A lovely driver of a buggy let’s me take a ride over though, result! The water polo is in the same centre as the diving as when I sit down I suddenly see the diving boards at one end. A water polo match has just finished and it was a Brazil one so lots of people about and lots smiling. I get to see two matches including America who are pretty good. GB aren’t in it this year. It’s a brutal match. One of the girls would be swimming along with the ball, stop to throw and suddenly she’s dunked under water. Hilarious. They have a sin bin area at the corners of the area, marked with red swimming ropes, and I think they get 2 mins. Substitutes are done by diving in before the player coming off has come out the pool. The GK has a different coloured hat, other than that anything goes. Well clearly not deliberate dunking but tactical dunking maybe? I’ve been told under water is just carnage and it’s best not to know what’s going on under there.
So I enjoyed my first water polo spectating and decide to see if there’s any tennis tickets available as Murray is playing. It is sold out so I literally loiter (with my GB flag around me) around the ticket entrance (it’s in the Olympic park so I’m already in), then wander to the box office and low and behold I get offered a ticket for face value. About £50. Fab. In I run, and take a seat ad spot Karen down the front. So I work out where they are sat and head down. Big GB crowd, 8 in total. A couple, both teachers, (the Hardmans) on their honeymoon, what a fantastic idea, and who have half their face painted each. Three lads from Manchester, two are teachers. Karen, a school sports coordinator, her flat mate Charlotte who’s volunteering, and now me. We are literally front row, behind the players seats. Couldn’t get closer if you tried. The Hardmans are asked to kiss for the camera so the two halves of the Union Jack create one flag. And the camera is on us a lot. The group all have data available out here and suddenly their phones are buzzing with messages saying we are on TV. How funny. Great atmosphere, we are very loud and Andy wins! And to top it all off he heads over after the match to say thanks for the support, signs some autographs, has some selfies and is really humble. What a day!
I have basketball tickets for tonight with the girls. I kind of want to stay at the tennis as Nadal is playing and it’s about an hour away at the same park as the hockey! But it’s good to see different venues and spend time with the girls so. So I do head off albeit a tad later than I should of. Lindz texts me to say they are late but there, where am I. I’d forgotten the long walk as well so was an hour late, but enjoyed the marching band en route. I also decided to use my mobile to call the parents. Think the bill will be huge as both mum and dad chatted for ages, 20 min call?? Eek! My aunt had seen me on TV and called my mum to see if it was me!!
So I eventually got to the basketball, grabbed a beer in a new sport cup for my collection, found the girls and watched some basketball. China v Turkey. Michelle is funny. I don’t support either, just enjoy being neutral but she was torn between China as she loved being their recently and seeing the Great Wall, and loves the people. But also Turkey as she met her youngest sons dad in Turkey and although no longer with him wouldn’t have her son if it wasn’t Turkey. So she really struggled to decide and I actually don’t know who she ends up shouting for. Great match, Turkey surprisingly good! We don’t stay for the complete second match as all knackered and hungry. The food in the Olympic venues is shit, and expensive for what it is, so you end up not eating all day. Good diet!!
We head back, Michelle’s hip is hurting so get on a different route back, a train line right by the venue and saves that bloody long walk. How annoying that they don’t tell you to go there!!
We find a restaurant near our apartment and enjoy some proper food. I think it’s my first proper food for two days, the Bobs burger doesn’t count! Nice to spend time with th girls this evening, although I see my new tennis friends saw Heather Watson as well after I left as they snuck onto number one court.
When I check social media, Facebook was full of posts saying I’ve been spotted on TV again, it’s hilarious!! My friends have started a #wheressam game.