From Sugarloaf Mountain to Cristo Redentor
With the Olympic Games having ended, we were left with time to take a look around the tourist attractions of Rio de Janeiro. A day and a half's excursion was enough to leave us with an eye-opening experience. Here is the second of a two-part travelogue on that experience.
If the first excursion was an eye-opener for us, the second one, a day-long tour of Rio de Janeiro's most famous tourist spots, was an experience of a lifetime. Unlike the first one, this was a daylong tour which shuttled through touching a number of spots and was operated by a different tour operator.
The tour started with an early morning ride to Sugarloaf Mountain. The mountain, which is made up of granite and quartz, can only be reached through a cable car. Apart from the cableway, the mountain is famous for the view of the city that it provides from its top. There are lavish cafeterias on the roof of the mountain, which could be a place for spending your day in a ravishing atmosphere.
Our guide for this tour was Gregory, a 30-something hard-working guide who made the day a memorable one for us. There were 13 tourists in the tour on total, who speak three different languages -- Portuguese, Spanish and English -- and Gregory hardly broke a sweat describing the backgrounds and histories of the places we visited in three different languages.
The roof of the mountain showcases a sculpture of Santos Dumont, a Brazilian pioneer in aviation engineering. With the Santos Dumont airport visible from the mountain roof, Gregory describes with a chauvinistic air: "Dumont is the real inventor of airplanes. It's only the Americans who credit Wright Brothers as inventors of modern airplanes, but the rest of the world knows it is actually Dumont who first invented engine-driven airplanes."
The weather was erratic as rain and clouds kept playing hide and seek with the sun continuously. Gregory's quick thinking, however, later saved us from further disappointment.
Coming down from the mountain, we were commuted to the beaches of Leblon, which is the most affluent part of the city. As the waves break against the pebble stones, surfers bring out their boards and enjoy a day's work in the waters.
Having spent just a little time there, we were taken to the iconic football venue of Maracana and then Sambodromo, the settings for the world famous Rio Carnival.
Gregory, in his own dedicated style, explained the history behind Maracana's name and the hard work that's put in by the samba schools during the Rio Carnival.
We moved to two more spots next, first the Saint Sebastian Cathedral and then the Mosaic Steps of Lapa. Gregory tells us the interesting story behind the Mosaic Steps. "Jorge Selaron, a Chilean artist, transformed the 215 steps of the Convent of Santa Teresa as a tribute to the Brazilian people," Gregory says. "But the sad part of the story is the Chilean, after being frustrated for a long time, took his own life on the steps of his most famous artwork."
That took us towards our last destination of the day -- Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer, as it is known worldwide. But we had fears that due to the cloud cover and the rain, we might end up seeing nothing of the world famous sculpture.
The trip to Christ the Redeemer took us through the Santa Clara neighbourhood. Gregory says it is one of the most creative places of the country as painters, writers, poets and people of other fields of art and culture come and enjoy their time as soon as evening falls. Gregory shows us the high quality works of art that don the walls and buildings of Santa Clara.
Our car wriggles its way up the Corcovado mountain as we are informed by Gregory that ahead lies the Tijuca rainforest, which is the biggest rainforest inside the city. At the end of the rainforest, we are picked up by a government-owned bus which takes us close to Christ the Redeemer. We walk a few flights of stairs before finally arriving at the pedestal of the sculpture to a violent cold gust. People get down from the car and start taking selfies with Christ the Redeemer in the background with his hands spread wide.
The cloud keeps hovering around, making it fairly difficult to fathom the full beauty of the sculpture, and also the view of the city. About one-and-a-half hours later, we come down slowly to wrap up the tours for the day. To our dismay, as we were moving down, the clouds suddenly disappear and Cristo Redentor becomes easily discernible. We go back with slight disappointment of not seeing the sculpture more vividly, but console ourselves that we did not cancel the tour in fear of rain.
In the end it proved to be an experience which one should never miss if visiting Rio de Janiero or any other city of Brazil.