Another request – this time from Cunard – any possibility of joining the Queen Victoria on a sector of her world cruise? I had four days’ notice. Was flown over to Miami to join the ship in Port Everglades. It was then over to Barbados where I got the chance to swim with some turtles; and do the very Caribbean thing of strolling along a coral-sand beach, the warm sea lapping round my ankles, sipping a glass of rum punch (courtesy of the crew of the catamaran we were on).
But that particular bay was devoid of people as it was part of a hotel complex that had gone bust. So pure bliss. The ship headed for South America, cruising down to Rio de Janeiro – the stop here undoubtedly being the highlight for me.
Next, Montevideo, Uruguay before sailing on to Buenos Aires where I was able to take a guided tour round the city – to include a stop at the cemetery with its amazing collection of mausoleums including that of Eva Peron’s family – before flying back to the UK that evening.
Image 1: the ship sailed into Rio early on Friday 24th January just as the sun was rising. I had expected something dramatic but the sight exceeded all expectations. A magnificent harbour backed by mountains.
We slid past the base of Sugar Loaf Mountain coloured pink by the early rays of the sun; while behind it, in the distance we could see the stretch of coast that was Copacabana beach and that sector of the city it fronted, the backcloth of mountains behind it. Stunning.
Image 2: This 2310 ft mountain with its 125 ft high statue of Christ the Redeemer was visited later in the afternoon via a funicular railway.
Images 3 and 4: we had forty-five minutes to spare before going up Corcovado Mountain, so our guide decided to drop us off in the middle of the Ipamena district for a spot of shopping. Er … No thanks. I discovered we were only a block away from the beach front. So I scuttled down there to find myself padding along the edge of the sea, surrounded by a throng (or should that have been thong?) of lithesome tanned bodies – exhibiting the best of beach chic ie wearing barely anything – with me sticking out like a sore thumb in chinos and short sleeved shirt. Way out of my comfort zone and baking.
This two-mile stretch of beach is marked by posts which demarcate where certain groups of people congregate. I walked past Posto 9 which I later learnt is known as Cemeterio dos Elefantes due to the handful of old has-been hippies and artists who gather there. So I didn’t feel too out-of-place even if my beads were only ones of perspiration.