Cheering for our team
Our flights to Rio meant another night in the sky. It hadn't been easy getting flights here that were affordable with the Olympics on so the night flights were the only option. In the end we spent 14 hours in 4 countries to get there but by now the kids are pros at this and we all had a bit of sleep and got to Rio in pretty good nick. The only dramas were the boarding passes we got for all 3 flights. The first was fine with all of us sitting together but the following two we had been seated individually all over the plane. Night flights in South America with a 7,9 and 11 year seated by themselves! It meant I had to queue at the gate prior to each flight and try get us new boarding passes so we could all sit together. One of the flights I managed to get me and the kids together but Rach and Toby after 3 seat changes were a few rows back. Bonus for Rach though who got to sit beside the parents of Devon Manchester the NZ hockey goalie.
The taxi ride to the apartment was like a movie scene. After 10 mins in we could see Christ the Redeemer on the hill, Sugar Loaf mountain and then in front of us was Cococabana beach. The sun was shining and the beach was buzzing. Our apartment was right on the beach at the Leme end of Cococabana. We were 500m from the Beach Volleyball arena and to the other side of us was the set for the NBC USA Olympic morning show.
The apartment itself is pretty average but we booked it 9 months ago and got it for a fraction of what the NZ Olympic Travel team had suggested we pay for accommodation with them.
The purpose of coming to Rio was solely to see some of the Olympics although we still wanted to check out the sights. We only had tickets for 3 events as booking them in NZ you had to use the official ticket seller which left us not being able to buy for sports which NZ didn't have an allocation for. However now we were here we managed to pick up tickets for another 4! So we added tickets to beach volleyball (A must see for Rach!) A NZ men's hockey game and a women's football match.
Our first day we wandered the beach down Leme along Cococabana, across the Fort and into Ipanema beach. It's a stunning stretch of beach and was teaming with people. Even though the Olympics hadn't started it was packed with people from all over the world. We even managed to get a glimpse of the Olympic torch as it was doing its last run down Cococabana beach before the opening ceremony that night. The poor athlete carrying it at the time was shrouded by 20 armed police with riot shields. The kids were funny with their comments about the dress code of lack of it in most cases. Particularly Bella who as we were walking along would say "Mum - that guys's wearing undies in town" or "I can see her bum - that's gross". No amount of explanation made it okay in her eyes. As Peter Williams had written in an article soon after arriving in Rio "There's way too much flesh, although not a lot of it finely toned." At the end of our walk we found the NZ House and collected our tickets - Hockey NZ Men, Rugby 7s Women's finals day and Mens Day 1, Swimming, Beach Volleyball and Women's Football.
A fraction of the security detail escorting the Olympic Torch
For the next 4 days we got our quota of sport, probably going to too many events. Although the transport to and from the events was good it still took a long time to get around. The day we went to the swimming and then football we spent 7 hours on subways, trains and busses! The other days it was a 4 1/2 hour return trip. Only the beach volleyball was something we could just walk from our apartment to. Out of all the events the swimming was great, the women's final days at 7s was awesome despite loosing the final, the atmosphere was terrific. Also the night session of beach volleyball and for Holly and I the Women's football was amazing - 43 000 at a women's football match watching Brazil play - perfect! The entire set up for the Olympics was really good. Loads of volunteers to help you along the journey. Not once did we fear for our safety despite what the papers lead us to believe. The night Holly and I went to the football is was a 10pm kick off. That meant getting home on the train and subway at midnight and then a 20 mins walk getting us home just before 2am. I was really nervous about getting my wee girl home safe that night but needn't have worried as it was such a great atmosphere and loads of volunteers and police to make the journey safe. The only negative at the games was the lack of food at the venues. If you were lucky you could get a hot dog. You weren't allowed to bring in any food and you weren't allowed out of the venues once you'd gone in. The first day we had nothing to eat for 8 hours while getting to and from events and then watching them. That combined with the heat and long walk to the venue meant it was a challenging day all round. Not as we'd planned it but once again the kids showed their amazing ability to cope when things didn't go to plan. In the end we took some snacks to the games and ate on the train before getting there.
Football fan at the Olympic stadium with a crowd of 43000!
Never short on security - on our way to the 7's
Watching the boys in black
Holly accosts the kiwi mascot for a selfie - some of the local Brazilian supporters were calling him Zika
Holly scores and interview with TV1's Jack Tame
Two of the lovely locals we met
Quality food has been a challenge for us in Rio. We were pretty quickly over pasta and pizza. I'll leave Rach now to tell the story of our Dinner at "Mabs" one night. Remembering we walked past the place as it looked a bit scody but she wanted to eat there! Rach - Well if truth be told it was 5pm we had missed lunch and I wanted to eat anywhere. This place had an outdoor courtyard and looked no worse than many we had seen. For me it was sit down and eat before I fall down or the kids kill each other. It wasn't till we'd ordered and had been sitting there for 10 mins or so that we noticed there seemed to be a disproportionate number of tables with only men and also tables of only very dressed up women who were seemingly making pretty regular approaches to the mens tables. It became a bit of an "eat the not so great food really quickly and get out of here". As soon as we got back to the apartment I checked our what Trip Advisor had to say - probably a bit too late but it says it all “Hookers Galore -2 of 5 stars - Reviewed 26 January 2016 - Packed with tourists and hookers, not excluding some transvestite just out the door. Given the scene, this is not a family place at dinner. Food is average."
Impromptu game of footy with some local kids - Holly and Toby sent Bella to go and ask them if they wanted to play
Post game hot and sandy
Outside of the games we visited Sugar Loaf mountain on the cable car and a up to Christ the Redeemer. Both amazing landmarks in the city which gave you spectacular views and were the real "wow we're in Rio moments". With having such a busy games schedule we didn't have much free time to get around the city and explore. Even our trip to Christ the Redeemer we had to do on a cloudy day where the ticket office stamped your entry as "No Visibility'. Fortunately for us Rach insisted we give a try an by the time we got to the top the cloud had lifted and we got to see the big guy as well as the stunning views of the city below.
The view from the top
Christ the Redeemer
The American Basketball team visited on the same day
View of the city - you can see the rowing course below
Some of the funny moments we've had here have been on the public transport. Its' not been easy spending so much time mostly standing up on the packed trains but each day something amusing would take place. The amount of people selling stuff on the transport is amusing. Mostly snacks and water but even IPhone cases and toothbrushes! Each guy with a box and a loud voice walking up and down the carriages.
We've meet some nice people along the way - locals mainly stopping for a chat. Each one wanting to know if we're having a good time. Having the kids with us opens up new world - people wondering what the hell we are doing in this part of the world with three young kids. Also coming back late at night from events we've managed to have a few chin up competitions on the trains with some Aussies and Brazilians. The kids have also put on a show where Holly was behind Toby using her arms as his - quite impromptu and came about because there was no room so Tobs was sitting on Holly's knee. They got a round of applause and had a local woman in tears of laughter. They've had many locals offer them food and some even buy them a packet of cookies on the train. They also struck up a friendship with some Japanese supporters and shared snacks and selfies with them. We've been collecting the olympic souvenir cups - the downside Matt and I have to drink the beer for the kids to get them. The kids have been determined to try and get as many as they could so have been swapping any double ups with others. I've admired their confidence in approaching people who don't share their same language - it's funny to sit back and watch.
The week we have had was amazing. Our first Olympics and its been great to feel part of it. There have been some long days and the getting around has been tiring. The kids have done well though. Amazing how a packet of Doritos at 10pm can lift the spirits!
May we have a holiday snap with you?
As we sit and reflect on our long journey home we chatted about what we were most exited about. The list came out as follows: Flushing the toilet paper instead of putting it in a bin by the toilet. Our own beds and for the kids their bedrooms. Real milk and real cheese and for me Coffee. Hard to believe that with coffee being one of their biggest exports they don't drink it and therefore don't make good coffee.
As another chapter closes in the adventures of the Watson 5 we can honestly say we have had an amazing time and a big thanks to Matt for putting in the time and research to book us this amazing experience. We've clocked up 39445kms over 20 flights and all returned happy and healthy. We'll post another blog of funny pics in the next few days but until then Adios or Tchau as it is in Brazil. Thank you for reading our blog it serves as our travel diary but we love all of your feedback and comments. See you on the next adventure!