Today we went on the Rio city tour. Costing R$150 made it quite expensive but it included all transport, entrance fees and English speaking guide. The tour captured the highlights to be seen in Rio including landmarks like Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf mountain and the Lapa Steps. There were some spectacular / interesting / boring sights to behold and I will go into detail in the following paragraphs. Our tour guide was friendly and all but her accent was rather strong so made it difficult to hear her speak. I did try catch her on camera when she gave the low-down but havent played it back yet so dont know how good it is. Anyways, on to the tour highlights!
Christ the Redeemer
One of the most famous landmarks in all of Brazil, the Christ the Redeemer (locally known as Corcovo) statue towers over the whole of Rio. The bus ride up to the statue was not the most comfortable one as a large portion of road consists of stone tiles from a previous age. If you are suffering with constipation, take a little ride down this road. The rest of the road is very narrow and winds up the side of the mountain with 180 degree turns. A fun and scenic trip. Once at the top, you are greeted by a stack bar and the entrance to the statue.
We took the elevator up to the base of the statue. What a sight! He is massive (ok, not as big as the statue of Liberty or anything) but still an impressive sight. It takes some creative aerobics to be able to squeeze someone in a photo with it in the background, especially considering the landing is packed with tourists. Got a picture of me and Christ but will upload it later to my Facebook album. Great views to be had from the landing and lots of little curio shops on the way down. Definitely something to be done. I was told afterwards that there is in fact a little church in his base, but didn’t manage to find it.
I was not exactly sure what we were supposed to be seeing here. We all jumped out of the bus, got told about a tram accident that happened about 7 months ago which killed 9 people and that the trams were then taken out of operation. Walking down the street was like any other street in Rio at this time. Street parties with music, drink sellers and dancing. Got taken into a curio shop which after 10 minutes, were lead out of and piled back into the bus. Didn’t get the point really.
Lapa is the name of an area of Rio (which was actually the same area we stayed in for the Carnival). Not from our hotel are the aforementioned Lapa Steps. They are just steps leading up an alley way but what sets these steps apart and defines them a tourist attraction are the hundreds of thousands of tiles covering every coverable surface. Tiles from all over the world (alas, I could not find Kenya) are mixed in with crazy colours and patterns. The tour guide didn’t give us time to walk all the way up as we were running late at this point which was a bit disappointing but the general impression had been made.
Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro
The Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro was just up the road from our hotel also in the Lapa area. The Mayan temples were the inspiration for this cathedral and has been designed like a pyramid. There is only the ground floor which gives you about 50 meters to the roof. The 4 sides are adorned with stained glass windows which stretch from floor to ceiling and there are various sculptures of Jesus and Mary inside. The outside structure is boring concrete however, view the cathedral at night and it comes alive. It is covered in LED lights which morph and warp into other colours making it quite the spectacle. Could be seen from the roof of our hotel. This was just a 5 minute stop on our way to the famous Sugar Loaf.
A fantastic way to end the excursion. In order to get to the top of Sugar Loaf, 2 separate cable cars must be taken. Got some good footage of the assent which will make it’s way onto YouTube at some point. Once at the top, we were given 20 minutes to walk around and take in the sights. I went exploring down the back end of the mountain and discovered a beautiful area shaded by bamboo with picnic tables littered about. Would be a great place to have a meal with someone special. Caught a glimpse of an incredible blue and black butterfly which was bigger than my hand. I don’t know whats happened but I rarely see butterflies these days so this was nice. Grabbed some shots or Rio below us the headed back to join the others.
Back at the main landing I was greeted by some form of monkey. It was the size of a squirrel and from behind could be mistaken as one however when it turned around, I was met with a cute looking Gremlin. It was a most bizarre monkey I have seen to date. There was s snack bar here (which is probably what attracted the little guy) and a helipad just off to the side. Helicopter tours are available with the longest one lasting 60 minutes and costing just over R$1000 so a tad expensive. Sugar Loaf is a definite must-do when in Rio. It cost R$53 for the ticket to the top.
Rio is steeped in a most interesting history. It is usually quite interesting going on a city tour in any city / town and Rio de Janeiro is no exception. With some of the most famous monuments in the world, the biggest festival in the world and some of the most infamous beaches in the world, Rio is a definite must-visit for anyone looking to do the South American visit.