A 25,000 kms drive around South America - Oct/Nov 2001

Starting and finishing on Copacapana Beach, Rio de Janeiro. Driving 25,000 kms through six countries: Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Uruguay. One hundred cars: fifty classics and fifty 4x4's.

Rio de Janeiro

We said goodbye to the Mitchells, the Pelly-Frys and Colin after breakfast.

We took a taxi to the Santa Teresa tram-stop, but were dropped off at the Metropolitan Cathedral dedicated in 1976 to Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of Rio. It is an astonishingly ugly cone- shaped building, designed by Edgar de Oliveira da Fonseca. It has 4 huge stained-glass windows and is very tall and impressive, but rather sinister.

There was a special service taking place with some sect or order with many in the congregation wearing red sashes and others bearing flags. As they all filed out of the cathedral, a man with a beautiful voice sang a hymn or religious song and a lot of people joined in. It was powerful and very moving.

We walked to the Bonde or tram station and waited quite a while for the tram to Santa Teresa. There was a lot of shunting back and forth to make room for the trams coming in the opposite direction. It was a bumpy ride with locals hanging on the side of the tram, which is free. We got off at what was supposed to be the centre, but there was very little in the way of shops or restaurants. We walked quite a way and became very hot, so went into a bar for a drink - Bar do Mineiro - and ordered lunch. We were feeling over-heated by now, but the lunch was very good - salad, chips and fried fish. Ronnie Biggs used to live in Santa Teresa, but we didn't discover which house. We took a taxi back down and tried to visit the Candelaria, a church, but it was closed.

We went instead to Praca 15 de Novembro, named after the date of the Proclamation of the Republic in 1889.

The square, which has many old buildings, including the Imperial Palace.

The area was rather seedy and as we went back to the hotel, it was raining heavily. We walked around the Antiques Fair next door, then went to the Copacabana Palace to say goodbye to the Marklands. We gave Paul a Rio numberplate and had a drink with them and the Moffatts.

We went on to Nicky and Steve's in the evening to see the lighting of an 82 metre high Christmas tree in the lake. We met some of their Brazilian friends, including their Portuguese teacher. We walked over to look at the tree and listen to a concert. Then we went to the Wheelers' friend Graham's flat, also overlooking the lake and the tree. The tree is  a huge illuminated structure towering above the lake. There were very impressive fireworks.

We left to go to the Samba School rehearsal, but were not sure where it was. The concierge couldn't help us, so we didn't go in the end. I was very disappointed, although I don't think Tim was. Instead, we went to the Garota de Ipanema restaurant where they wrote the song about the girl.

We had a late dinner there which was very good, although it was really crowded. We met the Robinsons and went back to the hotel.