My first shore tour in Rio de Janeiro, documented in my previous post L1602 – Monkeys around took me to a less commonly visited tourist side to Rio, the forest and Botanical Gardens on the edge of the city. I therefore wanted my second tour to see the more commonly visited tourist side, and it became a choice between a visit to the top of Corcovado Mountain & the statue of Christ the Redeemer, or to the top of the Sugarloaf mountain. From the title of this post, you can guess that I chose the latter, which I did on the morning of our second day in Rio de Janeiro, the Sunday.
While I was out on tour the previous day, for an hour of so there was apparently a problem with the port shuttle busses – they just stopped without notice, possibly due to a problem with police permits. The passengers were left stranded on the ship or worse in the port terminal building for some considerable time. The ship’s staff worked hard to ensure similar problems would not recur, and to our delight even managed to have the tour buses pick us up directly from the ship on the Sunday morning.
It was therefore a hugely improved start to my second tour, not least because there were now many more cruise ships in port, and the port terminal building was likely to be extremely busy. In addition this time I was back to being on a coach, with the advantages of a smoother ride, air conditioning and security from passing people in the streets.
Some of my table companions at dinner had done the tour to the Sugarloaf mountain the day before, and reported that the traffic around the city and particularly in the Copacabana beachfront area had been terrible – a panoramic drive through these areas is the start of this tour. I had been expecting the Sunday, a peak carnival day and with additional cruise ships in, to be even worse. To my surprise it was the complete opposite, and we sailed around the panoramic part of the tour at almost too fast a pace. The speed and somewhat dirty windows on the coach made it difficult to take decent pictures from the coach:
We then arrived at Praia Vermelha, where the cable car station is located to ascend the Sugarloaf mountain. Actually there are two cable cars to reach the summit. The first takes 3 minutes to get to the top of Urca Hill, 220 meters above sea level. Here there are viewing platforms, as well as shops and restaurants. The second cable car takes you on from here to the summit of the Sugarloaf mountain, 528 meters above sea level, again in 3 minutes. Standing in the inevitable queue for the first cable car, I could see the first and second cable cars ascending high into the sky:
As the queue snaked it’s way into and around the ground station, I saw what I hoped was no longer the cable car mechanism on one of the walls:
The ride to the top of Urca Hill was fine, with reasonable views to the ground below. However the cloud base had dropped, and waiting for the second cable car we only saw it as it appeared from quite thick cloud, and I wondered whether we would get to see anything but clouds from the summit of the Sugarloaf mountain:
When we reached the summit we found that there were actually some holes in the clouds, and it was a case of waiting for a gap in the right place to catch a picture of the city and its beaches below:
Our local guide told us that we had up to 15 minutes at the summit, and that we could descend when we wanted back to Urca Hill and meet her at a designated meeting point. I duly descended in time, and with my fellow tour members stood waiting at the designated meeting place, beside this original cable car and it’s bronze attendant:
However there was a clash of cultures, for while us British passengers had arrived on time, it was nearly 30 minutes before the guide appeared. She told us she always says a time way before she wants to meet up, as she is so used to how late fellow Brazilians always are.
She then told us we would not be leaving for the ground and our coach back to the ship for a further 40 minutes. This was all the more frustrating as the cloud was slowly but steadily clearing again, and if we had known we could have remained on the summit of the Sugarloaf mountain we would most probably have got some much clearer views. One more for the list of the delights of travel in Brazil!
With all this time to spare I took lots more photos from this lower level, including some of the local wildlife:
At last it was time to descend to the ground station, I managed to take this shot as we descended:
Back on our coach, we drove back to our waiting ship. Like yesterday the traffic and crowds had grown considerably ahead of the carnival that evening, so as well as spotting some interesting buildings and more construction work for the Olympics, there were people in all sorts of costumes to admire or wonder at too:
However as we paused alongside a newsagents kiosk, I was rather surprised at some of the magazines on sale:
We also passed what were clearly some very poor areas of the city, which to me registered more deeply having earlier seen the affluence of the Copacabana beachfront area:
Like the day before, we passed some carnival floats parked up beside the road:
Back at the port we had to fight our way through a heaving port terminal building, and onto a port shuttle bus to reach our ship.
Although I of course would have wished for clearer weather – that is always a gamble when you have to book tours so far ahead of time – and also better communication on timings from the guide, this tour did provide the complete contrast to the previous tour in Rio that I wanted, so I had definitely used my loaf. Once back on the ship, there was time for a late lunch and siesta ahead of my third, final and epic shore tour in Rio, which will be the subject of my next post!