Floresta da Tijuca: Part II

August 24, 2009

Andrew, Amy, Chris, Jaime, Scott and I ventured into the Floresta da Tijuca again today.  This time we set up a tour through the Claridge Hotel (where Amy and Andrew are staying), so we didn’t have to wander around trying to find the views, trails, or buses on our own.

I’m not sure what I expected of our guide, but I was absolutely confused when she greeted us this morning.  Sort of small and trim, with thick, dark hair, frosted orange lipstick, and very white sneakers she led us to the van.  Her English was stilted and the emphasis was on all the wrong syllables, but these things happen in Brazil and we took off to the Floresta.  We drove up through Jardim Botanico and into the park.  Our first stop was at a man-made waterfall.  She asked if we wanted to jump out and take pictures, standing on a bridge, looking at a concrete wall that created a cachoeira. Hmmm.  We went from there to the Chinese Vista, which was actually incredible. We could see both the Corcovado and Sugarloaf, along with the whole sweep of Leblon and Ipanema, the lagoa, Botafogo Bay, Niteroi.

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We drove around a bit more and into the Floresta proper, pausing for our first hike–a short trail between the entrance and the welcome restaurant.  There was a real cachoeira there (pictures on my other blog post about Tijuca), and we saw the same raccoonish, snouty rodents.  We continued again to a better trail, which we hiked along, through the Mata Atlantica for a little while.  We got to another sort of gurgling pool, and she led us off road, about 20 feet to the other side of the shallow hollow, over mossy rocks.  It was funny to move six people over treacherous ground to not see much of a different view or go very far.  It was a sort of an “um, so we’re here” moment.   DSC01850

At the end of that trail we arrived at a restaurant that smelled like smoky feijao, or the kitchen houses in Colonial Williamsburg, and we realized that our van was not there.

Our guide stopped a jogger to see if he had seen our van and he suggested that maybe the driver had gone to a different restaurant.  She had left her cell phone in the van (dumb) and started up the road to go see.  She was walking fast and we followed her, our ideas about her abandoning us in this prehistoric forest growing more elaborate.  She left us at a semi-pretty outlook and vanished around a bend.  We waited, growing hungry, trying to figure out what our next move should be.  Should we have followed her?  Should we have walked in the direction we assumed was the exit?  It was hard to know.  The stories of tourists lost in the Floresta circled through our heads.

After about fifteen or twenty minutes we started walking toward where our guide had gone.  Five minutes after that, she pulled around the corner in the van with the driver clapping and laughing.  Sorry, she apologized, explaining that the driver was waiting at the other restaurant, which, she said, was much more famous and beautiful. (Great!  Are we going there? we asked.  No.)  Oh! She said as we were driving out of the park, I saw a monkey, too!  That’s so great for you.

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