Rio is a special place of unique natural beauty. It’s hard not to fall in love with this place right away, and want to come back. The plumbing doesn’t seem to struggle here either, and we are thankful for that.
Our second match is later today up at the Estádio do Maracanã (Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina), but it’s not until 7:00 PM so we have some time to be “turisticas” for a few hours. Being a Sunday and all, our tour guide Marcos recommended against going to either Corcovado, the site of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue (a.k.a. the “Christ”) or Sugarloaf Mountain for the cable car ride. Instead we drove up past the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden) and up to Parque Nacional da Tujica, home to one of the largest urban forests in the world (Floresta da Tujica – 15 sq. mi.). The park is set among the dramatic Carioca Mountains, which are heavily forested and soar skyward in the most unusual, but beautiful “monolithic” shapes.
Our destination was the top of the Pedro Bonita, a monolith that requires a very steep and winding drive through the forest, followed by a short hike. The top of the Pedro Bonita is a popular “jumping off point” for hang gliders, and we saw exactly why as we peeked over the edge.
When the wind is just right (and unfortunately it wasn’t that day), the hang gliders launch themselves off the edge of the Pedro Bonita and make it all the way across the forest to their landing spot on the beach in Leblon. As you can see from the photos above, it’s important to be accurate with your distance, given the tall buildings, and then the Atlantic Ocean.
While enjoying the view here we heard a high-pitched “screeching” sound from the edge of the clearing, and found the cutest marmoset monkeys hanging out (no pun intended) in the trees. Our favorite one is shown below.
We took a different route down the mountain, allowing us to stop at Joatinga Beach, which is only accessible from within a gated community. Since all beaches in Brazil are technically public, they must let you pass through if that is your declared destination. The beach is surrounded by rocky cliffs, with beautiful homes perched up on top. The little cove is completely under water during high tide, at which point sunbathers arrange themselves on the flat parts of the rocky outcroppings above.
It was almost time to start making our way up to the arena, so we made a quick stop at one of the many “BB Lanches”, a counter-style place (i.e., no tables and chairs) with delicious sandwiches—empanada style and fresh juices. Given how yummy these were, and taking into consideration Carlie’s “every two hour” eating requirement, we took a few of these with us in a “to go” box.
Getting to the match didn’t take nearly as long as we thought, and Marcos dropped us off as close as he could to the stadium ramp. We agreed to meet up at this same spot after the match, and off we went.
Argentina has a great soccer rivalry with Brazil, the two nations having produced some of the greatest players of all time and general fielding the strongest national teams in South America. If you like one it’s not possible to like the other (think Red Sox – Yankees, and multiply that by 1,000). Brazil has Neymar and Argentina has Messi. Before that Brazil had Pele and Argentina had Maradona, and so on. Being the host country has certain advantages in terms of this rivalry, since it provides a unique opportunity for Brazilians to attend Argentina’s games for the sole purpose of taunting and booing them, and they did so mercilessly.
For Bosnia-Herzegovina, this is their first time in a World Cup Final, and given their political history this is something very special for them. The section we were seated in was decidedly “Bosnian”, and while the Argentines in the crowd far outnumbered them, they were loud, proud and received a strong “assist” from the Brazilians, as explained earlier.
We met a nice group of Bosnians in the row just in front of us, and I’m certain they woke up unable to speak the next day, given the 2-hour workout they gave their vocal cords. We felt so bad for them when they scored an “own goal” for Argentina in the 3rd minute. Everyone watched with disbelief, but the fans recovered quickly, their team fought hard from end-to-end, and made them proud. I will be surprised if they don’t get 6 points out of their next two matches with Iran and Nigeria and finish 2nd in their group. Then it gets tougher where they will likely meet up with France.
And what can you say about Lionel Messi. Right before he scored their second goal the Argentines had started what seemed like a stadium-wide chant. It went something like this, phonetically: “Ohhhh-lay, o-lay o-lay o-lay, Meh-see, Meh-eh-see (lather, rinse and repeat at least 10 times). The chant died down, eventually, and Messi literally scored just as it was fading out.
After the chanters realized what had just happened (and had the opportunity to properly celebrate), all they could do—and they did—was bow down repeatedly, with arms fully outstretched toward the field, in honor of the mythical figure in light blue and white stripes that had just performed this miracle on grass.
Final Score: Argentina 2 – Bosnia-Herzegovina 1