During our extended time in Rio de Janeiro, I had booked to do three shore tours. The first of these was on our first day in port on Saturday, and was a tour by jeep to the Tijuca Forest, the world’s largest urban forest, and to the Botanical Gardens.
We set off just after 9am, and already the day was very hot and humid, it being summer in the tropics. Rio is one of many ports that require passengers to take a port shuttle bus to the port terminal building, we then had quite a walk through the terminal, across a road and to a large old warehouse, now being used as a kind of coach station. There were several lines of coaches, all with their engines running to run their air conditioning, and also on the far side were taxis and minibuses – all of which made for a very hot and noisy environment complete with fumes to wait in. As there was no sign of our three jeeps, this is just what we were told to do, and in the Brazilian way, time ticked slowly by. After a while we were told that predictably the jeeps were delayed in the terrible traffic caused by the carnival and the Olympics preparations.
After around half an hour they decided we would be boarding the jeeps in a nearby street, so we walked around the block to the appointed place, which was fortunately in the shade. It was still hot, but at least we were away from the noise and the fumes from the coaches.
Around another half an hour later the jeeps finally arrived, and we climbed aboard and thankfully sank into our seats. On each jeep there were 9 passengers and a local tour guide who sat side on in the back, and in the front was the local driver and the ship’s representative. I’m not sure if I have mentioned the ship’s rep before, they are there to handle any problems that might come up, and when we are walking do so at the back of the group to make sure no one gets left behind. Also when reboarding a coach after a walk or free time, they count to make sure we are all present and correct before proceeding. It makes quite a nice ‘jolly’ for a member of the ship’s staff, usually one of the entertainers, lecturers or dance hosts.
After a short delay we then set off for the forest, just over an hour late – about par for Brazil! However we hadn’t got far before we hit the traffic jams, and progress was very slow for a while. We passed several floats for the carnival parked up by the side of the road:
Eventually we reached clearer roads and we made better speed, which made for some nice refreshing air through the open back of the jeep. The bumpy ride in the back of the jeep made photography impossible, but while stopped at some traffic lights I noticed this familiar figure – somewhat out of place:
We climbed out of the city and into the forest on roads winding their way uphill that were often very steep and narrow – it was clear why jeeps were used for this tour. After driving through the forest for a while, where it was blissfully shady and cooler than down in the city, we came to our first stop, the Taunay waterfalls:
You can see from the tiled map how the forest roads wind their way around, twisting and turning, which is what we did for a little while on our way to our next stop, the Chinese Lookout. This viewpoint is 380 meters above sea level, and gives wide ranging views across the south zone of Rio de Janeiro, including the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf mountains, the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, and Ipanema & Leblon beaches; although when we were there it was very hazy, and Christ the Redeemer was hidden in cloud on the top of Corcovado:
There is a Chinese style pavilion here, inaugurated in 1903, thought to commemorate the Chinese who brought tea to the area:
We then drove in convoy down steep twisty roads to the Botanical Gardens, located back on the edge of the city:
The gardens were founded in 1808 by King John VI of Portugal, and opened to the public in 1822. Covering 54 hectares, they contain some 6,500 species. From the entrance to the gardens we could see the Christ the Redeemer statue, and an interesting sundial:
We then spent about an hour on a guided walk around the gardens, viewing many different species of trees and plants:
This was the first of the monkeys we also saw on our walk, from the second picture I wondered if he was auditioning for a part in Gremlins:
Continuing our walk we came across a group of different monkeys:
In the orchid house, there were some lovely blooms:
On leaving the gardens, conditions had cleared and we had a better view of the statue:
We then drove back to our ship in the waiting jeeps. As expected, once into the city our progress was very slow due to all the traffic and pedestrians from the carnival. On the pavements and in the parks all of life was there to see:
At one point, when we were stopped for traffic lights, I became aware of a sudden commotion at the back of the jeep. Some guys walking in the road had reached into the jeep, and tried to grab the camera belonging to the fellow passenger sat in the rear-most seat. Fortunately the local guide, who was sat opposite him, spotted what was going on and used her water bottle to fend them off. It all happened in a couple of seconds, and served as a reminder how vigilant we must all be at all times in these parts.
We finally got back to our ship some 2.5 hours later then planned, hot tired and hungry. As it was long after lunchtime, but even longer before dinner, a call was needed to room service to solve the latter condition.
In conclusion it was a very interesting tour, with much to see and photograph of a different side to Rio than that so often portrayed. It was lovely to see the monkeys around in the gardens, and we were fortunate that the monkeys around in the city did not succeed in spoiling the day.