After a super long (but definitely worth it) day yesterday, it was so nice to be able to sleep a few extra hours this morning! I flew from Foz do Iguaçu (IGU), the airport on the Brazilian side of the border, to Rio de Janeiro (GIG). I arrived in Rio around 1:30pm with a very tight schedule for the day: my only goal was to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue, but my flight back to the United States left at 8:30pm, giving me approximately five hours until I needed to be back at the airport.
I left my luggage at the left luggage counter in the airport (bless every airport/train station with left luggage, it makes life so much easier) and grabbed an Uber straight to the base of Christ the Redeemer. I found Uber to be pretty cheap in Rio which was super helpful for my crazy day. I arrived at the base of Corcovado Mountain, where I then took the Trem do Corcovado to the top. If you buy your tickets in their app you get to board early (which I did) so I had a view in the front of the “train”. It is an almost hundred year old system that takes you up the mountain and into the clouds. When you reach the top, you are literally above the clouds.
After climbing a few stairs (or taking the elevator if you are in a time pinch) you reach the top with a view out over Rio and are right at the base of the Christ the Redeemer statue. It was so cool to see in person - it is giant and such a unique sight. There were so many people, but also it’s peak tourist season. I walked around for a bit taking tons of pictures of the city, the clouds, and of course the statue. The statue is so tall that there are mats on the ground that you can lay on to try and get a picture of the entire thing. There is also actually a church in the base of the statue, which I had no idea. It is very small, but it’s there!
I met a cool new friend from the U.S. who I asked to take my picture. She had always wanted to visit Brazil, saved up, and made it happen! I really enjoyed talking to her on the train ride back down the mountain, and am very jealous that she’s headed to São Paulo - next trip, I guess! After reaching the bottom I grabbed an Uber to get a quick dinner. I also really wanted to see Copacabana Beach, but was running short on time. So as a quick fix I asked my driver to drive along the beach on the way to dinner, which worked perfect! I got a great burger, fries, and a brownie shake to go, and called another Uber to the airport.
There was, of course, traffic. It made the ride a bit more expensive and made me worry for a few minutes, but I eventually made it to the airport with an hour and a half before my flight. Not ideal, but I speed walked and arrived at my gate as boarding began. I was flying back to the U.S. on an American Airlines family pass (I’ll call it flying non-rev), which depending on the day can be an awesome experience (inexpensive business and first class seats) or a nightmare (getting stranded without a confirmed seat). Today was one of the more stressful days, but it could have been worse.
I made it on the flight, but had a middle seat in coach. Not ideal for an eight hour flight. I had no idea the flight from Rio to Miami was eight hours - longer than it takes to fly to Europe from the east coast! I was so tired, though, that the seat didn’t matter. I was between two nice ladies and, other than the people the row behind me who didn’t know how to turn off their light and kept accidentally calling the flight attendant, the flight was fine. I slept on and off for a few hours, arrived in Miami at about 4:30am, and then had to walk forever to immigration and customs (in Miami definitely take the train to reach immigration and customs!!). After finally arriving at immigration the process took about two minutes (thank goodness for Global Entry). However, I quickly realized the rest of my day was going to be more complicated than I had planned.
The flight I was going to take to Charlotte had filled up, and I was worried that the direct flight to Birmingham might do the same. I had also reached the point of being so tired after a month and a half straight of travel that I needed to keep moving. Collapsing in the hectic Miami airport didn’t sound like fun, so I called my dad and we began searching for every option. It was about 5:30am, and the Miami airport was packed with people, which was not ideal. After looking at every option out of Miami, and then Fort Lauderdale, I finally found an option! It was out of West Palm Beach Airport (PBI) in two hours, and it would take an hour to get there.
I never thought I would think an $80 Uber would be worth it, but in this instance it was. I fell asleep and woke up an hour later in West Palm Beach. The airport was nice, small, and best of all, empty! The flight to Charlotte was uneventful, and once I was in Charlotte I was excited to find a Chick-fil-A that was still serving breakfast because it was still so early. My flight to Birmingham was then, of course, delayed. I decided to change to a different flight that was scheduled to leave at the same time as my now delayed flight, and boy was that the right call - I got first class and when I landed in Birmingham my original flight in Charlotte still had not left (this was an instance where flying non-rev definitely paid off).
I landed and found my family actually on time at the airport, waiting in the terminal, which I don’t think has ever happened before - they must have missed me after a month and a half of the Caribbean and Latin America, I guess! I’m definitely glad to be home for a few weeks so that I can rest and get ready for my next trip where I’ll be headed to Cuba!
31 countries down, 165 to go.
Read about my first day in Brazil here.