Great Things To Do In Brazil: Hike The Dois Irmaos Trail

By Steve Nelson April 15, 2015 Rio de Janeiro has many trails that take you to the peaks of mountains in and around the city. One of the more interesting of them is the hike to the top of Irmao Maior, the bigger brother of the Dois Irmaos peaks that dominate Leblon and Ipanema Beaches, the iconic twin peaks of most Ipanema photos. Nothing better illustrates the contrast between the have and have nots in the city and the country than the half day hike to the top. The journey begins around the Av Niemeyer coastal road to the entrance of Vidigal, the boca (mouth) of a favela which sprawls over the lower slopes and can be seen twinkling away at night from Ipanema. The trail has only recently become popular again for visitors after the Police Pacification Project (UPP) set up in the favela. To be fair to the locals though, the trails around the mountain had been in use before this, as climbers opened up new routes up Irmaos Maior and Menor. From the main road, the trip to the trailhead can be done either hiking, or by a potentially exciting mototaxi ride. The steep, winding street takes you past the houses, shops, bars, churches, caged birds and colourfully graffitid walls, always accompanied by the music and commotion of day to day Vidigal. The beginning of the trail is one of the most unpromising in Rio! Passing between houses and through a playground, you enter the vegetation that still clings to the steeper hillsides that prevent construction. Inside the forest, twenty minutes of hiking takes you around the lower shoulders of the mountain until you begin a humid climb on to the slope that takes you to the top. From a viewpoint, Sao Conrado Beach opens ahead of you, with the sprawling Rocinha Favela directly below, the largest of Rios mountainside communities and perhaps the most notorious. Both are hemmed in by the peaks of Pedra da Gavea, Pedra Bonita and also Dois Irmaos. On clear days the colours of hang-gliding and paragliding wings circling down from the mountain to the sand make a colourful contrast with the blue sky, green forest and black rock-faces. Another 45 minutes through forest, low bush and up occasional rocks leads you up to the peak of Big Brother, at 533m almost directly above the Atlantic Ocean. The marker post at the highest point and the sloping rock a little to the front boast some of the finest views in Rio. The wealthy private condominiums overlooking Leblon are directly below, the high-rise buildings of Leblon and Ipanema spread out down the 3km extension of beach, their rooftop pools way down below you. Cristo, Sugar Loaf and the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon all feature in your panorama, with the mountains behind Niteroi visible way along the coast. The sounds of Rio beach and community life drift up to you on each side of the summit. The deep blue Atlantic fills the skyline ahead as well. Clear days on the Dois Irmaos Trail will leave you with many photos of all the different aspects of Rio life: the mountains; the rainforest; the lagoons; tunnels; adventurous activities; and of course the statue and beaches that have made Rio famous worldwide. Even if you caught the mototaxi up the hill, the walk down to Av Niemeyer is recommended to experience a little of Vidigal and Rio. You can grab an aai from one of the local shops or buy a beer in a rooftop bar with a wonderful view, all of which helps out the Vidigal community, which welcomes visitors who come to hike the surprisingly good Dois Irmaos Trail. You can visit Steves blog at http://are-you-ready-for-brazil.blogspot.com Previous articles by Steve: Great Things To Do In Brazil: Jaguar Hunting Great Things To Do In Brazil: The Anhumas Abyss Great Things To Do In Brazil: Snorkelling the Rivers of Bonito Great Things To Do In Brazil: Kayaking the Costa Verde Great Things To Do In Brazil: Swimming with Amazon River Dolphins Great Things To Do In Brazil: Favela Tour USA to Review Tourist Visa for Brazilian Citizens Around Brazil: Tandem Hang-Gliding in Rio de Janeiro Around Brazil: The Botanical Gardens, Rio de Janeiro Around Brazil: The Rio de Janeiro Marathon Around Brazil: Praia do Pontal, Macumba, Prainha & Grumari (Rio de Janeiro) Around Brazil: The Rio de Janeiro Marathon Around Brazil: Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro Around Brazil: Lapa, Rio de Janeiro

Brazil: Foz do Iguacu – Out of This World

By Jeremy Clark April 15, 2015 This past November I headed back to Brazil for my vacation, this was my eighth trip there. Since I was young, I have always been interested in aircraft, I must have built every plastic model not to mention a remote controlled plane which took me a year to build. When I picked up Timothy Goods book “Above Top Secret” in the early 1990s, I was fascinated by the subject of UFOs, not meeting ETs, but the craft themselves and their propulsion systems. So it was a natural for me to attend the UFOZ world UFO conference in Foz Iguau this past November. I must admit, if I was visiting Brazil for the first time, Foz Iguau would be a great place to start. The falls are out of this world, they dwarf Niagara falls in Canada where I come from. Also the park is immaculate and a great place to try eco tourism. The bird park is also a must, I am sure the makers of Walt Disneys Rio went there to create “Blue”. The conference was well organized and they had speakers from all over the world. There was a professor from Norway who explained the famous Hessdalen Lights and several fighter pilots who had actually encountered UFOs. If you werent a believer before, you sure would be after. It is kind of fitting that UFOs would be a subject of interest to Brazilians, considering their long affilation with aviation. Alberto Santos-Dumont was one of the first inventors of the aeroplane, with his famous 14 BIS. I always find that each trip to Brazil is always a big adventure for me, I always expect to run into Colonel Fawcett emerging from the brush, and I have never been disappointed.

Brazil: A Capixaba Carnaval

CapixabaCarnaval250 By Shaun Alexander March 16, 2015 “Where are you going for Carnaval?” Or, in other words, where are you travelling for Carnaval – that’s the most common question among Capixabas in the weeks leading up to Carnaval. Traditionally, people from Vitoria leave the city during the holidays, either to go to beaches within Esprito Santo state, up to Bahia or down to Rio. Indeed, I can testify that Vitoria (where I’m currently living in Brazil), has been a ghost town over the last couple of days as bars, shops and restaurants have shut up shop in line with the mass exodus. However, things could be changing. The local mayor has invested a lot of money in keeping people at home during Carnaval, and it is now billed as the first parade in Brazil – occurring a whole week before the parades in So Paulo and Rio. This year, the parade was bigger and better than it’s been in many years. Even Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, made it to the event and starred in a school’s parade. The thinking is this: within a short commute from the city are around a dozen top quality beaches. Meanwhile, there are loads of interesting towns nearby where visitors from other states in Brazil can enjoy some interesting culture. If the parade and local events can be improved, perhaps Vitoria can become more of a destination during the holidays. Indeed, the stunning beach city of Guarapari, just 30 minutes drive away, does steal some of the limelight, but Vitoria should be considered as a base. While I didn’t make it to the parade itself, I did make it to the street blocos. Regional do Nair was spectacularly good, with some 20,000 people packing out the historic Rua 7 Setembro in the old city centre. The bloco lasted for an entire afternoon and into the night. I made a short movieshowing the incredible atmosphere at the event. The thing with Vitoria is that its a great city in all the ways that Rio de Janeiro is great, but is smaller. It has spectacular beaches, breath taking views, natural beauty, tremendous food and friendly people. It’s basically a mini Rio without all the problems associated with Rio’s sprawling masses. It’s clean, friendly and has loads to do. Perhaps I’m biased, but I am an advocate for Vitoria. I think it’s time the locals stood up and started shouting about their great city. For my part, I’ll do my part to keep writing and sharing photos and videos of this cool city. Shaun is a Scottish journalist and blogger based in Brazil. Subscribe to his video blog about Brazil. He is on Twitter and Instagram.

Brazil: Introducing Belem

By Derek Lacrone
January 6th, 2015

Belém302c

Being outside around midday makes you feel like a vampire trying to get a tan, as the burning sun digs deep into your skin, make certain to bring your sol protecto (sunblock). And this brutal heat isn’t occasional, as the high temperatures are more consistent than the swift and tiny Brazilian feet that tear up the dance floor doing the Carimbo on the not so distant but sought after island of Algodoal. There is no hiding from the 24 hour 365 day consuming hotness and umidade (humidity) that never drops below 60%, often climbing higher than 90%. And right now the sky is dark with clouds – which happens regularly, almost daily during some months, to feed the luscious foliage of the Amazon rainforest – and the sun is setting, creating the illusion of a cool night yet it remains hot enough around the clock that a warm shower would be ludicrous. The rains are refreshing at times, but developmental planning here is an oxymoron as downpours of heavy rain frequently flood the streets during the rainy season, transforming the ruas (roads) into rivers and making it possible for you to kayak to your destination all the while hoping your car doesn’t get washed away from parking in the wrong spot.

Belem302b

If you search Belém, Para on the Internet, the top 10 search results will yield more articles about the homicide rate than anything else, labeling it frightening as one of the most dangerous cities in the world, falling inside the top 10 more than once. Despite all of this over two million people have flocked to this industrious Brazilian capital city and region in the state of Para, and for good reasons.

Northern Brazil is known for having more than the almost mythical açai branco. It also calls itself home to beauties such as the Portal de Amazonia, a gorgeous and lively place to spend a Sunday evening doing yoga or visiting the food vendors whilst enjoying an amazing sunset over the mouth of the Amazon river! Belém doesn’t brag, but it should, because some of the kindest and most welcoming people on earth, Northern Brazilians, live here, and having traveled to 9 different countries my sample size of culture and people is quite healthy. You only get one first impression and this region, without a doubt because of its people and unique atmosphere, has left a quite positive one on me. I have been bombarded by a purely genuine kindness and sincere curiosity since I arrived in Belém in September of 2014.

Belem302a

While foreigners do visit Belém, Para, they don’t come in droves or tend to stay for great lengths of time and typically see only a few places such as Ver-O-Peso, a wonderful market on the water, and Estaao das Docas, home to one of the most beautiful buildings I have seen (with a platform that travels lengthwise down the long building while a live band performs on top of it). There are however many more places to see here, one of my favorites is Mangal das Garas, a beautiful park to sit and enjoy the art that mother nature brings to our planet. Once inside this park you are greeted by serenity and wonderful creatures as well as a pond, with the option to visit an amazing butterfly conservatory. Very close to Ver-O-Peso and Mangal sits the Forte do Castelo, awaiting your arrival so that you can take pictures alongside old war cannons and visit the small museum which contains Amazonian history and artifacts of the indigenous people of the region. And make sure your host provides you with a Muiraquitao to bring you good luck on both this and future trips. This tiny engraved frog is a symbol of fertility and luck and usually comes in the form of a necklace.

Now, I must admit, I have been a naughty Gringo this holiday season. I myself have not yet seen everything this city offers, but, I have seen enough to know that you should spend at least a few days here, preferably with someone that knows the city because the bus system isn’t exactly… systematic, although finding a cab or moto taxi is extremely simple. And if you don’t know anybody in the area to show you around what do you do? If you haven’t used Couchsurfing before check it out online, there is a group that meets weekly and you are sure to receive a warm reception or at least solid advice by dropping a message to your local Belém CouchSurfing community.

All in all Belém is beautiful and so are its surroundings. Just a couple hours in different directions you find yourself on the wonderful sandy beaches Brazil is known for having or in the depths of the Amazon rainforest. A jungle excursion or a boating trip down the river will satiate those seeking adventure, while the acai is thick, the people are great, and the caipirinhas will provide you the ability needed to tackle the dance floors. Enjoy!

Around Brazil: Elevado do Joa, Rio de Janeiro

By Ricky Skelton
March 12, 2013

This is the Elevado do Jo in Rio de Janeiro, host city for the 2013 Confederations Cup, the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. The highway was built in 1971 to link Ipanema and São Conrado Beaches with Barra da Tijuca and Recreio, districts where many Olympic events will be held and where the Olympic Village will be. The concrete supports of the highway over the rocks and the sea are clearly corroding at the top, and the steel supports are rusting, and who knows what state the ocean wave-battered bottom end is in. Waves crash into the rocks every few minutes and some of the supports are almost at sea level.

This highway carries 112k vehicles per day. The Rio city government has just lowered the speed limit to 60kmh, with buses and lorries still allowed to pass over it, along with all those cars and bikes. There are plans for more temporary repairs before the big events take place, which will hopefully ensure that the supports stay upright at least until after the Olympics. More permanent repairs would take over a year to complete, so the city will not sanction them as such a busy time approaches.

Regular maintenance does not exist on this structure and various experts who have studied the bridge have already warned that the whole thing is in danger of collapse and needs to be completely rebuilt. Inspections are very difficult to do to check right inside the structure to see how decades of rain and seawater have affected it. Pools of lying water with no drainage could have been lying inside the points where the supports connect with the horizontal sections for years. These are the crucial points of the whole structure, where faults and corrosion could lead to structural collapse. The four year study undertaken by the civil engineers of COPPE at the Federal University in Rio could not gain access to open up the structure and check these important details. The opening of holes in more accessible areas of concrete is at least allowing them to get some kind of idea.

Now… with one huge tragedy in Brazil recently due to ignorance of security measures and cost-cutting, the government in Rio are prepared to risk another that could be far larger, and would lead to a massive drop in visitor numbers for the big events in Rio.
We have made our last journey on the old Elevado do Jo.

You can visit Ricky&rsquot;s blog at http://redmist-redmist.blogspot.com/

Previous articles by Ricky:

Around Brazil: Porcaria de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Holding Hands
Understanding Brazil: Statues & Self-Worth
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes Part II
Understanding Brazil: The Pub
Understanding Brazil: Protesting
Understanding Brazil: General Elections
Around Brazil: Oktoberfest Parade in Blumenau
Cultural Brazil: The Alambique
Around Brazil: Whale-Watching in Santa Catarina
Brazil: Tainha Time
Deported from Brazil? Part 2
Deported from Brazil? Part 1
Brazil: The President in Florianópolis
Swine Flu in South America?
The Best Club in Brazil…?
The Great Brazilian Animal-Off (Land)
Understanding Brazil: Giving Directions
Understanding Brazil: Driving
Understanding Brazil: Farra do Boi
Brazil: Catching Flu&rsquot;
Around Brazil: Garopaba
Understanding Brazil: Funerals
Brazil: Bernie the Berne
Around Brazil: Journey to the Amazon Jungle
Around Brazil: Crazy Town Ceremonies
Around Brazil: Crazy Town
Around Brazil: Manaus
Around Brazil: Santarem & Alter do Chao
Around Brazil: Amazon Swarms and Amazon Storms
Understanding Brazil: Playing Pool
Around Brazil: Gurup
Around South America: Peninsula Valdes
Around South America: Patagonia
Around South America: Montevideo, Uruguay
Around Brazil: The Amazon
Around South America: Bariloche, Argentina
Understanding Gringoes: Drinking
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 2
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 1
Understanding Brazil: The Kids
Brazil v Argentina: Buying Beer
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes
Around Brazil: São Luis
Teaching English in Brazil
Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?



Around Brazil: Porcaria de Janeiro

By Ricky Skelton
January 8, 2013

The period around New Year is the great unifying time in Rio de Janeiro, and the beach is the great unifying place, more than any other in both cases. Everyone is on the beach at midnight as the New Year begins, and everyone is equal on the sand, in the sea and under the fireworks. All types of people are there mixed together, from the rich Zona Sul types of European and Mediterranean ancestry to the poorer people of the Zona Norte and favela communities, often of African and indigenous blood, all colours and all backgrounds are united by one thing – they all leave their litter on the beach.

Copacabana Beach on 1 January apparently has the largest single regular clean-up operation on the planet, and this would be no surprise to anyone who has spent that night, or a Saturday or Sunday afternoon at the beach in Rio. The sand is almost covered in rubbish with New Year champagne bottles embellishing the general waste of crisp and cigarette packets, flyers, beer and soft drink cans, plastic bottles and bags galore. At the end of a regular afternoon you can find all these things and even occasional used tampons and nappies if you are lucky. The justification that it keeps somebody in a job, heard regularly from people across the economic spectrum, just doesn’t wash. People get paid to clean the streets and your car, but throwing your litter around in them doesn’t make any more sense either. Perhaps the poorer people don’t know any better and the richer people don’t take their maids to the beach to clean up after them, I don’t know, but generally if you see people taking their litter away with them from Ipanema Beach, they are almost guaranteed to be gringoes. Not always though, because only today a Brazilian mother and daughter were filling up carrier bags between them with other peoples’ litter, three bags full between them and they’d hardly left their canga.

This is not the behaviour of the average middle class carioca though, the only people you find collecting litter on the beach usually are the cata lata people. It has long been my feeling that those who collect your aluminium cans from the beach are generally the most respectful, courteous people in the whole of Rio. It feels like almost the only ones sometimes. Having watched the wonderful Waste Land film about the project of artist Vik Muniz in Jardim Gramacho, I had to expand this feeling to include people who collect litter all around the city. Jardim Gramacho was the city dump on the edge of Guanabara Bay in the Zona Norte, the largest waste facility in South America and possibly even the world until it closed in 2012. No surprise that Porcaria de Janeiro produces so much waste with the uncaring attitude of most residents to leaving litter in beautiful places and recycling none of it. Even the children’s games and the religious ceremonies of Rio leave litter everywhere. Kids leaving broken kites on every street, while the macumba rituals leave the beaches full of candles, bottles, plastic cups and containers full of food for the rats and pigeons to enjoy.

Hopefully, if and when Tiao and Zumbi from Jardim Gramacho enter into the political world of Rio and possibly even the Zumbi Nation of Brazil, they might help to change those attitudes a little. I won’t spoil the film for anybody but it is as uplifting as it should be depressing, and another of Brazil’s Great Films of the past decade or so.

In the meantime, the beaches fill with litter which blows into the sea, the turtles and rays are poisoned by it, the drains block with it and cause all kinds of storm chaos, flooding and maybe even contribute to the landslides that are becoming a regular feature of life around the state. A little more education (especially for the educated cariocas) and lot more recycling facilities would help. Rio is expecting a whole load of visitors from abroad in the coming years, and if the proud cariocas want to show the best side to their city and their state, then the first thing that they should do is to stop visiting those beautiful beaches and leaving them looking so ugly. A small step to help turn Porcaria de Janeiro back into the marvellous city that it once was.

You can visit Ricky’s blog at http://redmist-redmist.blogspot.com/

Previous articles by Ricky:

Understanding Brazil: Holding Hands
Understanding Brazil: Statues & Self-Worth
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes Part II
Understanding Brazil: The Pub
Understanding Brazil: Protesting
Understanding Brazil: General Elections
Around Brazil: Oktoberfest Parade in Blumenau
Cultural Brazil: The Alambique
Around Brazil: Whale-Watching in Santa Catarina
Brazil: Tainha Time
Deported from Brazil? Part 2
Deported from Brazil? Part 1
Brazil: The President in Florianópolis
Swine Flu in South America?
The Best Club in Brazil…?
The Great Brazilian Animal-Off (Land)
Understanding Brazil: Giving Directions
Understanding Brazil: Driving
Understanding Brazil: Farra do Boi
Brazil: Catching Flu’
Around Brazil: Garopaba
Understanding Brazil: Funerals
Brazil: Bernie the Berne
Around Brazil: Journey to the Amazon Jungle
Around Brazil: Crazy Town Ceremonies
Around Brazil: Crazy Town
Around Brazil: Manaus
Around Brazil: Santarem & Alter do Chao
Around Brazil: Amazon Swarms and Amazon Storms
Understanding Brazil: Playing Pool
Around Brazil: Gurup
Around South America: Peninsula Valdes
Around South America: Patagonia
Around South America: Montevideo, Uruguay
Around Brazil: The Amazon
Around South America: Bariloche, Argentina
Understanding Gringoes: Drinking
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 2
The Great Brazilian Fruit-Off Part 1
Understanding Brazil: The Kids
Brazil v Argentina: Buying Beer
Understanding Brazil: Mosquitoes
Around Brazil: São Luis
Teaching English in Brazil
Around Brazil: Lenois Maranhenses
Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?



Around Brazil: Tandem Hang-Gliding in Rio de Janeiro

By Steven Nelson
February 8, 2012

One of the most adventurous activities that you can do in Brazil, or anywhere else for that matter, is to take a Tandem Hang-Gliding lesson in Rio de Janeiro that has you taking off from the mountain and landing on the beach.

The flights are done as a first lesson in hang-gliding with a fully qualified instructor with many hours experience of flying in the area and elsewhere around Brazil and the world. Full safety instructions and practice take-offs and landings are done before you are strapped into your equipment. Helmets and safety harness are included for every learner, and videos make part of the instruction as you sign up for your lesson at the west end of São Conrado Beach in Rio. This beach is on the other side of the Dois Irmaos (‘Two Brothers’) peaks that can be seen in the background of most photos looking along Ipanema and Leblon Beaches, and in the shadow of the mighty Pedra da Gavea.

The take-off ramp sits near the top of Pedra Bonita, a 696m/2,297ft high mountain set in the Tijuca Forest National Park, and covered with Atlantic Rainforest on its slopes. There is a R$15 entry fee to pay to access the ramp inside the park, and this makes part of the instructions at the bottom of the hill. Once you have signed up, you and your wings will be whisked up through the steep, winding roads of Vila Canoa and into the forest. After you have climbed up the mountain to the ramp at 636m/2,099ft, you will begin the process of jumping off it.

As the instructor finalises the preparations of the wings, you will also be helped with the putting on of your helmet and safety harness, just in case your hands are not working as they should! The spectacular view, way down to the high-rise buildings of São Conrado may induce a few nerves at this point. A couple of practice runs at the top of the ramp give you the idea of how to take off and overcome any nerves. It really is quite simple, all you have to do is to run and look to the horizon. Most people can manage that!

The first moment of take off is of course the one that induces most adrenaline as your feet begin to run on fresh air and your stomach drops with the wings. You soon begin to soar high above the forest, circling above the hillside houses Vila Canoa and São Conrado, with the Gavea Golf & Country Club below you. Your eagle-eye views take in the spread of the Rocinha Favela, the Avenida Niemeyer leading to Leblon and the Joa Flyover and Tunnels that take traffic around the rocks to Barra da Tijuca.

If the winds are favourable, you can take the controls as you wind slowly downwards, before you head out over the clear Atlantic Ocean, swooping again to gain your landing course. Your final descent comes into the wind on the sands of Praia Pepino, with your legs unharnessed to enable you to run with the hang-glider. One final push and your wings rear up and pull to a stop, with your feet safely on the sand once more.

You will find the smile doesn’t leave your face as you discuss the flight with your friends, and look over the photos and video from the wing-cam with your instructor, who may well also be smiling. Your happiness is their spiritual food as they say.

Even if your first lesson is your only flight, you are guaranteed at leave one very special memory of your time in Brazil after your tandem hang-gliding experience in Rio de Janeiro.

Activity Information: Tandem Hang-Gliding Lessons are limited by the weather of course. Heavy rain, strong winds and low clouds can all mean that flights are not possible at certain times.

Weight Limit: There is a 95kg/209lb maximum weight limit for the tandem hang-gliding flights in Rio de Janeiro. If conditions are perfect, flights for slightly larger people may be possible.

Age Limit: 16 Years Old is the lower age limit. There is no upper age limit, and we’ve flown with senior citizens approaching their 70th birthdays! If people of advanced years can manage with no fear, then anyone below 40 years old has no excuses at all not to fly!

You can visit Steve&rsquot;s blog at http://are-you-ready-for-brazil.blogspot.com

Previous articles by Steve:

Around Brazil: The Botanical Gardens, Rio de Janeiro
Around Brazil: The Rio de Janeiro Marathon
Around Brazil: Praia do Pontal, Macumba, Prainha & Grumari (Rio de Janeiro)
Around Brazil: The Rio de Janeiro Marathon
Around Brazil: Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro
Around Brazil: Lapa, Rio de Janeiro

Around Brazil: A Guide to Rio de Janeiro

By Karen Austin
Just mentioning the name Rio de Janeiro conjures up romantic images of the Pão de Aucar and Corcovado, the beautiful bodies of Ipanema and Copacabana, the samba schools of Carnival, and the football fans that cram into Maracana stadium and almost bring the place down every time there is a game. And while Rio does have all these things, it is also much much more. Beyond the classic attractions are nooks and crannies and hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. The following list of attractions is a good start, but once you&rsquot;ve mastered the basics, make sure to ask the locals where they hang out, and discover the Rio beyond the guide!

First, places you shouldn&rsquot;t miss:

Corcovado"
  • Corcovado – Touristy? Yes. Necessary? Yes. Unless you hit a completely cloudless stretch, it’s hard to plan when exactly to head up Corcovado since the summit is often hidden by one stubborn cloud. The best strategy is to loosely plan your day and then head up if the weather is nice (i.e.: the cloud is gone) or reschedule if the view looks questionable. You can go up by taxi or by cogwheel train. The train is nicer as it passes through the forest and a taxi charges the same price per person as the train anyway. Take a cab only if you are pressed for time or the wait time for the train is too long. Near the train station is a Naãve Art gallery, which is worth a stop on the way back.



  • Pão de Aucar
  • Pão de Aucar – Everyone asks which view is better, from Corcovado or the Pão de Aucar. My personal opinion (please don’t tell the Tourism Bureau) is that if you can really truly only do one of the two, then choose Corcovado as the view looks out towards the bay and is particularly stunning (this picture of Pão was taking from Corcovado). On the other hand, if you are in Rio for work and are only free in the evenings, then head up the Pão de Aucar (the only one of the two open at night) and marvel at the inward looking view and all the twinkling lights of the city. Of course, the optimal choice is to head up Corcovado during the day and then go to the Pão de Aucar just before sunset. This way, you can enjoy the view in the daylight as well as at night.

  • São Francisco
  • São Francisco da Penitencia – Ever wonder where all the gold in the world ended up? Obviously, it didn’t all end up in this church (the rest is spread out in several other Brazilian churches in Salvador, Ouro Preto and Recife), but, by golly a lot of it did. São Francisco da Penitencia was built between 1653 and 1773 and is a stunning example of Brazilian baroque. Have a seat, be overwhelmed, and wonder what São Francisco, a saint dedicated to a life of poverty, thinks (Carioca Metro Station).








  • Confeitaria Colombo
  • Confeitaria Colombo – Confeitaria Colombo was the where’s where of the who’s who in turn of the century (XIX) in Rio. Head there either for lunch or high tea and imagine what life in upper crust Rio used to be like (Carioca Metro Station).





  • Ipanema
  • Taking a Walk/Jog/Stroll on Ipanema and Copacabana – Rio is about the beach, so take a walk, stroll or jog along two of the city’s most famous stretches. Stop for a refreshing agua de coco or cerveja gelada and enjoy people-watching. Sundays are particularly animated when one half of the boulevard is closed to traffic and the Hippy Fair is in full swing on Praa General Osório.



  • Eating – Rio has some pretty good eateries, so grab a copy of the Quatro Rodas guidebook or a copy of the Rio insert of Veja and enjoy a night of culinary delight – for all tastes and budgets. A particularly fun location is the top floor of Shopping Botafogo, overlooking Botafogo Bay and the Pão de Aucar. Nestled in on the eighth floor is a Japanese restaurant, an Italian cantina, and a rooftop pub – all good choices for gazing over the twinkling lights of the bay (Metro Botafogo).

  • Catching a Show
  • Catching a Show – There is always something going on in Rio, so check the weekly entertainment guide in Veja and catch a concert or show. You never know who will be putting in an intimate performance in one of the city’s locales. Otherwise, just pop into a bar or botequim and catch a local act.


  • Secondly, places worth visiting:

    Museum of the Republic
  • Museum of the Republic – Housed in the former presidential palace, the Museu da Republica and its gardens are worth a visit even if Getulio Vargas&rsquot; bedroom, bloodied pyjamas and single bullet on display are slightly on the macabre side (Catete Metro Station).





  • Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas
  • Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas – Tired of the beach? Head to the peaceful Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon in/behind Ipanema and go for a jog or stroll on the 7.2km pathway. At night the lagoon-side bars open making for a nice (if bizarrely isolated from reality) spot for a drink.

  • Shopping in Ipanema – Ipanema and Leblon are the premier neighbourhoods in Rio and boutiques and cafes are chock-a-block on Rua Visconde de Piraja and its cross streets. Enjoy an afternoon of window (or real!) shopping.

  • Garota de Ipanema
  • A Garota de Ipanema – Yeah, it’s touristy, slightly overpriced, and the career waiters seem to have an extra dose of surliness, but the Girl from Ipanema bar where Tom Jobim and Vincius de Moraes spent their days penning their music, is still worth a post-beach stop for a beer and petiscos.




  • Thirdly, places worth visiting if you have time:

    São Bento Monastery
  • São Bento Monastery – Slightly off the beaten track, the Mosteiro de São Bento is another site that ended up being a repository for colonial Brazil’s gold overload. Sunday mass comes replete with Gregorian Chants by the Benedictine monks that run the place. To get there, take the elevator at 40, rua Dom Geraldo to the fifth floor.

  • Candelria – Built between 1775 and 1898 on the site of Rio’s first church, Nossa Senhora da Candelria is an island of calm in a sea of traffic. It is also the spot where a group of off-duty plain-clothes police open fired on a group of sleeping street children in 1993, killing eight of them. Simple painted bodylines offer commemoration to the young lives lost. (Metro Uruguiana)
    Nossa Senhora da Glória – another colonial gem with beautiful white and blue Portuguese tiles, Nossa Senhora da Glória was one of the royal family’s favourites during their days in Rio. (Metro Glória)

  • Museums – Rio has tons of museums, many of which are worth a peek: the National Historical Museum (particularly if you are interested in learning more about Brazil&rsquot;s monarchy), the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of Modern Art to name just a few.

  • Botanical Gardens – Rio’s botanical gardens were founded by Prince Regent Dom João in 1808 in his attempt to Euro-ise Rio. The gardens house over 8,000 species of plants and trees, including a pavilion dedicated to orchids.

  • Floresta da Tijuca
  • Floresta da Tijuca – One the world’s largest urban parks, the Floresta da Tijuca is 120 km of Atlantic Rainforest, nestled in the middle of the city. The Visitors’ Centre organizes free hikes and excursions at a variety of levels of ease or difficulty. You won’t even be able to imagine that you are surrounded by a metropolis of eight million people!



  • Nice to visit, but be careful:

    Santa Teresa
  • Santa Teresa – The bohemian neighbourhood of Santa Teresa is perched on a hill overlooking Rio’s Baia de Guanabara. Formerly home to Rio’s elite, Santa Teresa is now home to ateliers, restaurants, cafs, and a couple of museums. Accessible by Rio’s famous streetcar or bonde (right), Santa Teresa is also infamous for high levels of assaults and robberies. If you go, do not take anything of worth, carry only your cash for the day, and stick to the beaten track, no matter how enticing and safe the side streets look.


  • And places to forget:

  • A Orla Noite – No matter how romantic it sounds, do not walk on any of Rio’s beaches past sundown. The side/boardwalk is fine. The sand is not.

  • O Centro no Domingo – Rio’s city centre, like most city centres in Latin America, is a place of business and commerce. On Saturdays and especially on Sundays, when businesses are closed, the centre becomes a lonely and isolated place. Best to keep visits to this part of town for weekdays only.


  • Slums and Skyscrapers


    Rio: Same City, Worlds Apart.

    Karen Austin has been living in Brazil since 2004 and is currently based in Recife.

    Around Brazil: The Botanical Gardens, Rio de Janeiro

    By Steven Nelson October 2, 2011 There are so many places to visit in Rio de Janeiro that the Botanical Gardens often get overlooked, especially by those who don’t have such green fingers. Personally I would recommend it for just about any visitor to the city, and most would find it rewarding. The gardens can be visited in a couple of hours, and combined easily with some of the city’s more famous sights, or perhaps with the Sitio Burle Marx gardens further out of town. On a sultry summer day in Rio, the shade from the tall palms and other assorted trees is more than welcome. The Botanical Gardens lie between the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon and the mountains of the Parque Nacional da Tijuca, which can always be seen through tree trunks and leaves while wandering around, including Corcovado with the statue of Christ the Redeemer almost directly above. The gardens are now neighboured by the Jockey Club, making the whole area one of the least developed in the city. It was even less developed in 1808, when King Joo of Portugal decided to inaugurate the gardens, soon after arriving in Brazil to escape a potential revolution at home. The original idea was to have a place for spices to become accustomed to Brazil, as they had after being imported into the Caribbean, with nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper having successfully taken there following introduction from the Spice Islands of Indonesia. Strangely despite the success of the gardens, Brazil still seems to be the only Latin country in the world that doesn’t have black or white pepper on every table. The gardens were opened to the public in 1822, the same year that Joo’s son Pedro had declared independence from his returned father’s kingdom. There are now over 6,000 tropical tree and plant species, with the 900 types of palm being possibly the most spectacular, including the centre-piece Avenue of Royal Palms, and the incredible colours of the Pau Mulatto trees This Amazon spruce sheds its bark completely between July and September, the bark being one of those used in Ayahuasca rituals, and the colours of the smooth trunk include bronze, green, orange and purple. The sight of the whole alley of pau mulattos in their annual Carnaval parade makes you wonder if you actually drank some ayahuasca before arriving at the gardens. The other essential tree to look out for is the pau brasil. This is the tree that is responsible for the whole of Brazil. Or for the name at least. The Portuguese explorers found the tree with its red resin being useful for dyes. It grew in the Atlantic Rainforest from Rio de Janeiro up to Rio Grande do Norte, including most of the original areas that the colonialists went ashore. The Portuguese cut down this 15m tall tree in thousands and thousands, shipping them off for sale in Europe in order to pay off debts to the English government of the time. They were the original reason for colonisation, before the sugar and coffee plantations had even been considered. The Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens also boasts an impressive Bromelirio and a colourful Orquidrio, as well as houses for carnivorous and cacti plants, the Sensorial Garden, and also the Fountain of the Muses focal point. Waterfalls and trails through the Atlantic Rainforest keep the scenery interesting, while the local wildlife colours the trees and grasses, and would hold the attention of young children, at least for a while! The turtles climbing over each other to catch some sun at the entrance are supplemented by enormous carp in the ponds. Visits from monkeys are common, including the cute tuft-eared marmosets, and the less cute howler monkeys – renowned for their piercing grunts, and also for throwing their faeces at other creatures that invade their personal space. Hundreds of bird species can be found too, including the vivid colours of parakeets, macaws, humming-birds (the more poetic beija-flor in Portuguese – the Flower-Kisser) and many different types of toucan. They are generally quite small compared to their Amazon and Pantanal cousins, but the yellow-breasted or black-beaked toucans, and the classical tucanuu are numerous in the gardens, flying from tree to tree for berries. Sightings of these wonderful birds and others are far more common in the gardens than outside, as they have become accustomed to the presence of humans over the years, and do not fly off quite so readily as in the forests. Their habit of taking flight at regular intervals, just as you have your camera set on them amongst the foliage, only makes them even more loveable. Personally, I think the toucans are worth the bargain R$6 entrance fee on their own, even if the gardens themselves might not appeal. They should though. The Rio de Janeiro Botanical Gardens are one of the most impressive in Brazil, South America or anywhere else, and should definitely be on the list of Things To Do in Brazil. You can visit Steve&#145s blog at http://are-you-ready-for-brazil.blogspot.com Previous articles by Steve: Around Brazil: The Rio de Janeiro Marathon Around Brazil: Praia do Pontal, Macumba, Prainha & Grumari (Rio de Janeiro) Around Brazil: The Rio de Janeiro Marathon Around Brazil: Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro Around Brazil: Lapa, Rio de Janeiro

    Around Brazil: The Rio de Janeiro Marathon

    By Steve Nelson
    August 23, 2011

    The Rio de Janeiro Marathon is a great way to see a great city. It includes parts that some visitors may never otherwise visit, and the marathon route certainly takes in roads of the city that would be suicide for a pedestrian on any other day.

    The marathon begins in the far east of Rio, at Praia do Pontal, the edge of the city before the nature reserves of Prainha and Grumari. From there, the route takes you all along the Atlantic shoreline of Rio, with just a few tunnels to pound through between the different beaches until the Finish Line at Flamengo. There are also the Half Marathon and the Family Run participants, with a total of around 10,000 runners in all on the middle Sunday in July.

    There may have been less though. With some classic Brazilian organisation, the Family Run changed date with only five days to go. Perhaps closing these roads on two separate days was deemed too sophisticated an undertaking, as it certainly wasn’t done properly that one time either.

    The Start Line especially was a Triumph of Brazilian Organisation, with the starting gate sending runners away from the city for the first 1.5km, around the corner at Praia da Macumba and back along the very same stretch, separated by barriers in the middle of the road. This gives a wonderful close-up view of the elite athletes, a little group of little East Africans and assorted other runners, all sprinting for the line as though the Starting Gate were the end of the race, not just something that they would soon pass under once more with another 40km remaining.

    The barriers separating the two sides disappear well before the start line, and this being Brazil, half the runners arrived after the 7.30am starting gun. This means that the Rio Marathon could well be the only marathon in the world where some people start the race with the genuine danger of being run over by potential winners. You can’t say that about many sporting events!

    I was actually passed by somebody running far too fast to be anywhere near me, so I guessed that he must have been a local lad with local time-keeping. This was somewhere along the Praia da Reserva section, closed to traffic, and nice and peaceful, with only waves for company. Entering Barra da Tijuca, this changed quite quickly, and really makes me wonder about Rio’s ability to organise a whole Olympics. With two lanes on each side of the road, and parking spaces between them too, you would think that the obvious answer would be to close one half for the marathon runners only, and split the other half into one lane each way. It would only be necessary for a couple of early Sunday morning hours until all the runners had passed.

    Brazil doesn’t like the obvious solution. The beach side was split in half, with cones and tape to separate thousands of runners from hundreds of passing Carioca drivers, some trying to find parking spaces for their day at the beach, others blasting their horns behind at being delayed for ten seconds. You all know how it is. Again, the Rio Marathon must be the only one where there is a genuine danger of being run over while actually on the course, by an aggressive driver deciding to cut through the cones instead of letting somebody park in peace. The shouts of porra and filha da p*** filled the fresh morning air.

    Still, the best part was yet to come. The buses still pass down that lane too of course, and one stopped ahead of me. Three bewildered passengers descended just in front, trapped between tape and bus, and with a road full of runners right past their eyes. They were trying to edge into the middle of the race, having nowhere else to go, trouble in front and behind, coitados. It was like an Alpine stage of the Tour de France if it had far more cyclists than spectators. I ran past laughing and resolved to stick to the beira-mar side of the lane.

    The tunnels through Pedra da Gavea to São Conrado, and the exciting Elevado do Jo were all great fun. Only runners, some shouting through the tunnels, a lovely breeze over the turquoise sea, and a classical music and laser disco for company. I didn’t expect that.

    Av. Niemeyer, the road that hugs the hillside around the coast to Leblon, was also good fun, especially for the long-boarder who was using the open half for some quality long skating down the hill.

    Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana are the parts where things begin to hurt a little, the run becomes a trudge, and there are more people crossing to the beach than running as the field spreads out. Lots of people clapping, lots of encouragement, which really does help immensely at that stage. Except the well-meaning Carioca shouting ‘Vamos Argentino’ at me outside the Copacabana Palace. Why do some Brazilians think that all foreigners must be Argentinean? Or perhaps from the USA once they know that you speak English. The best mullet in the world couldn’t make me look Argentinean. Do they only have the national anthems of Brazil, Argentina and USA for such sporting events in Brazil?

    The final tunnels through to Botafogo and one more curve before the very welcome Finish Line in the shadow of Sugar Loaf, and a medal given under the gaze of Cristo. Wonderful.

    A great place to end a great race. The only thing left to do was to relax in the shade of a tree and watch the medal ceremonies. Some more great organisational comedy, as the winner of the Women’s Marathon, Kum Ok Kim, had to suffer the ignominy of having no national anthem of North Korea to accompany her flag. No doubt somebody at this point was running around record shops in Rio, desperately trying to find a National Anthems CD, or to download one as quickly as possible. Ms Kim had to return later, alone, to hear her country’s anthem. Now bearing in mind that only 16 ladies finished in under 3 hours, you would think that the field of possible winners was limited enough to be prepared for the eventuality of one of the foreign winners requiring an anthem… Or perhaps to have a stock of them all.

    As with all Big City marathons, the Rio de Janeiro Marathon should showcase the best sights of the city, and this beach-side run is definitely as good as anything in the world. I’ll go again in 2012, maybe take things a bit more seriously this time. I’ve got a Personal Best to beat now in the Rio de Janeiro Marathon. If I beat it by an hour and a half or more, I expect to be standing proudly on the Winner’s Podium saluting the flag as they play the national anthem of Argentina.

    You can visit Steve&rsquot;s blog at http://are-you-ready-for-brazil.blogspot.com

    Previous articles by Steve:

    Around Brazil: Praia do Pontal, Macumba, Prainha & Grumari (Rio de Janeiro)
    Around Brazil: The Rio de Janeiro Marathon
    Around Brazil: Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro
    Around Brazil: Lapa, Rio de Janeiro