We were nearing the end of our 3 month cruise of the South Pacific and South America when we arrived in the early morning sunlight at the spectacular harbour of Rio de Janeiro, framed on one side by the Sugar Loaf mountain and  the other by Corcovada with the giant Christ statue at its peak.

The passengers, mainly Americans, were all eagerly waiting to go ashore as soon as we docked. They were a very energetic set despite the average age being 70+ and despite them having been dancing until the small hours.  Many of them were going on one or other of the shore excursions arranged by the Cruise staff, others were going off to explore the tempting array of goods in the shops.

We had little to do when the passengers were ashore so four of us, Suzy, MSMF, Gunnar(a junior officer) and I  set off on a sightseeing expedition. Rio stimulated the whole gamut of emotions, from the wonder at the opulence of the shops and restaurants and the mansions of the wealthy to the horror of the poverty in the shanty townlets clinging to the hillsides outside the city. Many of the  flimsy homes were just a collection of zinc sheets held together by a wing and a prayer. It did not seem possible that there could be such a contrast, I believe this is also present in other parts of the world, but I have not seen them.

We left the shanty towns behind and went up to the magnificent Christ statue. It was awe inspiring just to stand there by it and look over the water to Sugar Loaf. It really felt as though it was guarding the city, but I did wonder was  He also guarding those shanty towns?

When we went for a meal we saw huge roasts of meat and could have made a meal from the “samples” we were offered before we ordered! 

We had to go back to work in the early evening, but the boys promised that we could go shopping next day (luckily we were there for two days instead of the usual one day stop)

The next morning we went off clutching our heavy purses. The Americans were very generous tippers anyway, but the day before we arrived in Rio many of them had given us double tips, so Suzy and I felt very wealthy and decadent. It was such a novel experience after her years as a student and mine in nursing!

We bought the very reasonably priced leather goods and semi-precious jewellery. We got even better bargains as we got an excellent exchange rate by paying in dollars which were eagerly accepted by the shopkeepers. We were no doubt breaking some sort of currency laws but I hope after 43 years the authorities will take a lenient view.:)

We also bought very smart bikinis and spent the afternoon on one of the famous beaches (I cannot remember whether it was Copacabana or Ipanema, I think we visited both.)

Back to the trusty Bergensfjord where crew were scurrying back on duty and the passengers were straggling back, including the small group of intrepid explorers who had left us in Chile to travel overland to Rio.

It was sad to steam out of Rio that evening, only two more stops now before we arrived back in New York.

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