More Pictures

February 19, 2010

We just updated the ‘In Pictures’ section of the blog to include Pipa, Fortaleza and what we have of Jericoacoara so far.  I think Scott’s photos are just beautiful.

Yesterday afternoon, after lunch, we decided to go walk around the other side of the beach, around a small point in a direction we hadn’t gone yet.  The sand there was totally different, much redder and more coarse.  We cross the beach on that side and started climbing some trails that were webbed like red veins over a small mountain on the other end.  The ocean was down below on the left and the trails continued to snake through short little plants and giant cactuses for about an hour.  At one point Scott said he felt like a knight walking through these big open areas with no one around.  Eventually we got a lighthouse, painted bright white, and our destination, a famous rock with a hole in the middle where waves crashed through.  It was prehistoric looking and beautiful.  We came back a different way, and saw the mounds of white, moonish dunes the whole way back.

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.

Floresta da Tijuca

August 7, 2009

I spent the day walking around Rio’s Floresta da Tijuca with a friend of mine from class.  In the middle of this chaotic, buzzing city, it’s an 80,000 acre National Park that opened in 1961.  It’s one of the world’s largest urban forests, filled with rivers, and formed on one of the oldest rock massifs (no hyperbole here, promise).  It looks prehistoric, with gigantic trees and swinging vines, twisting roots, and plants with leaves as big as surf boards.  There were monkeys (we heard them but didn’t see them), and weird, disgusting rodents, about the size of cats with pointy snouts and raccoon tails.  We saw some gorgeous butterflies, white and black and pink and yellow, as we walked up the main road, straight uphill.  It was cloudy, but I think on a clear day we could have gotten some killer views of the city.  At certain turns there were old, beautiful fountains built into the trails–gurgling water over blue and white tiles down into baroque basins.  An odd and sort of erie juxtaposition with the wildness of the rain forest.  The whole park was mostly empty, and much cooler than the city below, almost a different climate than the baking beaches.

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After thoroughly wandering the forest (we were very careful to stay on the paved roads and beaten path) we left the floresta and walked for about 15 minutes to find a bus stop.  It was a cool area of Rio that I hadn’t yet seen–for a while there was just more forest, then gates that hid manicured hedges and fancy houses, with favelas in the distance.  We got to a place with a preschool and a college of some sort and found the bus stop.  We got on the bus that was headed toward Barra da Tijuca and rode through a favela, past some little boys playing with kites, through daily life of lanchonettes and hanging laundry to the main street leading into downtown Barra (which everyone describes as looking like Miami, but it’s a tough comparison).  The wealth differences in Barra are almost more apparent than anywhere else, so intermixed.  After lunch, the Barra Express bus brought us back to the beach, curving around on the cliffs so close the ocean–looking brilliant in the afternoon sun.