Rio de Janeiro Day 1

Today in Rio de Janeiro we did a free walking tour and went up Sugarloaf Mountain.

We planned to go on the Centro and Lapa Free Walker Tour, which started at 10:30am at Carioca Square (just outside the Carioca metro station). We woke at 8:30am, ate the included breakfast at Jabaga Hostel (watermelon, bananas, vanilla and chocolate cakes, rolls, bread, cheese, two types of cereals, coffee, milk, juice), and then headed out around 10am to drop off laundry and take the metro to the meeting point for the free walking tour. The woman working at the hostel gave me a card for a laundromat, but said she knew no details on price. We took a plastic grocery bag of clothing over to the laundromat. It would be R$44 to get this small plastic bag of clothing washed in 2.5 days – meaning we would get it back the day we leave! Hence, we took our clothing bag back and carried it with us to the meeting point for the free walking tour.
After some confusion trying to find our way from the metro station, we got to Carioca Square – the meeting point for the free walking tour – at 10:50am (20 minutes after the meeting time). However, we saw a group walking away from the square, led by a girl in a red shirt, so we asked to join. Of course she said yes, and off we went.
Our first stop was a historical bakery in the Centro. Then we visited the original royal housing and the royal palace. Then we visited a Havaianas shop; Havaianas are Brazilian sandals that everyone in Rio seems to live in – not just at the beach, but at the market, on the metro, all over! Next we saw some more sites in the Centro before walking to see the Escadaria SelarĂ³n and the aqueduct in Lapa. We enjoyed the tour guide’s tour, and tipped her R$30 at the end. This seemed a tad higher than average in our group, but at least there were 25-30 people in the tour.
After the tour, we had the option to go to Bistro da Lapa as a group with our guide. There was R$28 feijoada (discounted from the menu’s price of R$33), as well as free water or juice with any meal. JT ordered the the feijoada and orange juice, while Katie ordered chicken parmesan with rice and fries and strawberry juice. The food was slow to come out. Katie’s food came out last and was strangely served with mashed potatoes instead of rice and fries. There was also strangely ham under the cheese on top of the breaded chicken. It was a decent meal, but probably not worth the price.
After lunch we headed back to Jabanga Hostel with our bag of dirty clothing to hand wash some of it. Katie did the laundry while sick JT napped for a bit.
At 4:30pm we decided it was past time to go to Sugarloaf. The hotel instructed us to take bus 513 from outside the Botafogo Metro stop to Sugarloaf’s cable car. We easily found a 513 bus just east of the south entrance to the metro station, but had to wait for the bus to fill up a bit before we left. Once we got to Sugarloaf, there was no line to buy tickets, so we quickly bought tickets (R$62 per person) and got on the next cable car. Since the sun was setting as we went up the first cable car, we opted to watch the end of the sunset at the first peak, Morro da Urca. We also explored some of the pathways to the various overlooks here, and saw some cute little monkeys jumping from tree to tree. It was pretty neat!

After enjoying the sunset and the monkeys at Morro da Urca, we took the second cable car to actual Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar). We were both mesmerized by watching planes land and take off from Santos Dumont airport (SDU), as being on top of Sugarloaf Mountain gave us a great view of the planes circling to land and the runway. Of course, there were also awesome views of Rio and its beaches. We sat watching the planes and the city until 7:30pm, when we finally took some of the last cable cars back down. We saw one man carrying a climbing rope and helmet, so he must have climbed up Morro da Urca earlier in the day! We highly recommend visiting Sugarloaf for sunset (and after, since we essentially had the peak to ourselves from 7pm onward), but we would recommend arriving about an hour before sunset so you can enjoy the views during both the day and night. Sugarloaf Mountain itself looked absolutely packed with people at sunset, so make sure to get there early to get a good spot for sunset.

We took the bus back to the Botafogo metro station, and then bought two tapioca pancakes from a street vendor for R$5 each. We had a cheese one and a bananas, cinnamon, and dolce de leche one. Both were excellent! As we were eating, we noticed some chanting, drums, and dancing in a nearby area of Nelson Mandela Square (near the Botafogo metro station). We wandered over, and found what appeared to be some local capoeira groups performing. We sat respectfully outside the circle and watched the mostly white-clad dancers mock fighting in slow motion, while a group of musicians played and chanted. It was pretty neat to just stumble across an authentic example of capoeira!
Since he was still feeling okay enough to eat, JT stopped at the nearby Subway to get a steak and cheese sandwich (the deal of the day), and then we retired to the hostel. For the second night in a row, JT crashed pretty much as soon as we returned to the hostel. Katie stayed up and booked 9am train tickets for Cristo Redentor. After going through the entire annoying process, it claimed the emailed voucher must be printed! How do they expect travelers to easily be able to print things? Katie asked the hostel to print though and the guy working reception eagerly obliged, and also provided details on how to reach the train using subway and bus.

Sunset at Morro da Urca

A little monkey on the trails at Morro da Urca

 Pao de Acucar from Morro da Urca

Pao de Acucar in the background (taken from Morro da Urca)

Cable car heading to Pao de Acucar
View of Centro and SDU from Morro da Urca

 Botafogo and Cristo Redentor from Pao de Acucar

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