April 13, 2007
Today was a clear day so I decided to go to Pao de Acucar, or Sugar Loaf Mountain, the famous 395-meter mountain that sits in Guanabara Bay and overlooks the southern half of the city. I rode the city bus once again through the horrendous traffic for over an hour just to cross two neighborhoods and ended up arriving with only an hour left before sunset.
The first cable car went to Morro da Urca. The area was quite large with a park, restaurants, a helipad, and a movie theater. There was an interesting movie about the history of the cable cars and how people dreamed for many years about being able to go to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. The mountain is so famous it was even featured in the James Bond movie Moonraker, where Bond and Jaws had an epic battle on the way to the top.
I walked to the other side of Morro da Urca and took another cable car to the very top. There was another gift shop where one could buy a $1000 hand-carved stone parrot statue or a $1 postcard. There was also a small park with monkeys running all around. But the big attraction was the view of the city. Rio is located in a unique setting because there are beaches, mountains, and Atlantic rainforest (Tijuca is the biggest urban forest in the world) all within the same city. Pao de Acucar seems to be located in the perfect place, where one can put aside the nastier parts of the city like the high levels of violence and ridiculous traffic and just enjoy the view.
The sun was blinding as it was going down behind Rio, but I still got to see Corcovado Mountain, Copacabana Beach, Guanabara Bay, and the Santos Dumont Airport before dark. After the sunset, the city lit up in a dazzling display of colors and lights. It was clear at that point that every inhabitable part of Rio was lit up, with patches of darkness where the forest still remained. Many people say that Rio de Janeiro is the most beautiful city in the world. I don't know how you could say it tops Paris, but it at least gives it a run for the money.
The photo album for this entry is here.