Our stop in Rio continued…
On our fourth day, we decided we just hadn’t done enough walking (yeah, right) so another trek was on the cards. Less strenuous than the previous day and upon a recommendation from Shela at the hostel, we took the bus to the edge of the Tijuca National Park. Supposedly only 15 minutes up the path into the forest we’d find some lovely waterfalls where we could swim and relax. It seemed like an excellent idea, and a nice and short walk. Well we managed to miss the turning first time round for the waterfalls, so walked up, up and up for about an hour, hoping they would be just around the next bend. After the hefty climb up to Christo the day before, my legs were not thanking me for the unnecessarily long walk. We walked all the way up to the Chinese View, another peak in the city with a lovely view, but it was about three times further than we intended to walk.
On the walk down we paid a bit more attention and found the spot where you can access the waterfalls. We climbed up through the trees and pulled ourselves up large rocks to find the waterfalls (to our credit on the way up, they were pretty well hidden), and even despite the tired limbs it was very much worth it. I felt like Peter Andre in the 90s as I splashed about under the falls. It was bloody freezing, but the rainforest was humid and sticky, so it was great.
With soggy bums, we walked back the way we came and stopped for a beer in the adjoining neighbourhood, Horto. A nice relaxing end to another tiring day.
For our final day in Rio we visited the bohemian and arty area of the city called Santa Theresa. We had originally intended a trip into Centro to visit some museums, many of which are free on Sunday’s, but we were advised not to as there are hardly any police on the streets in central Rio on a Sunday, so it can be a little bit dodgy. This seemed bizarre and initially we were a bit annoyed, but I think it actually worked out for the best as this was one of my favourite days.
Santa Theresa is a district up high on a hill, not far from the Selarón steps, and the climb up from the metro was a little confusing. It looked pretty much all residential, and we weren’t sure whether we were heading in the right direction. We came across a man stroking a cat on the street and he asked us if we needed help. After the warnings about the streets being a bit dangerous on Sundays, I was a bit wary, but he was lovely and told us to keep on going as we were nearly there. We got to the top and wandered along the main strip, following directions to the Parque das Ruinas, an old, abandoned mansion in the heart of Santa Theresa which is now a cultural centre with music and drama performances at the weekend. The views from the ruins were beautiful, and with a nice, cold beer (you can see a theme developing here) we listened to a Brazilian quartet play some jazzy tunes in the sunshine. The atmosphere was so relaxed, even more relaxed than Rio had been already!
We then decided to treat ourselves, and went to one of the most well known restaurants in the city, Espirito Santa. Set in a lovely restored building, with a lovely balcony, Espirito Santa serves traditional Amazonian cuisine with locally and ethically sourced ingredients. I had a shrimp and mango salad (interesting and delicious combination) and enjoyed the sweeping views from the terrace. Like the rest of Santa Theresa, it had a warm, relaxed and romantic atmosphere that will be difficult to forget.
For our very last afternoon in Rio, before we got the bus to São Paulo, we thought there was nothing more fitting than to go to Ipanema beach. The sun was less aggressive and we read and snoozed for a few hours before watching the sun go down, bathing the beach in a glorious pink light (the sunsets are so pretty that people frequently clap!).
We left Rio the next day with a heavy heart. The people were friendly, the food tasty, the weather gorgeous and the beer always ice cold. There’s not much more you could ask for really!