Tijuca Forest

It’s my final day in Rio, solo! (I join my friend Sarah in Peru tomorrow, and my friend Meaghan will join us a few days after that for Argentina and a return to Rio for more sightseeing.)

I went on a jeep and hiking tour in Tijuca Forest- one of the largest urban forests in the world, taking up more than 15 square miles inside of Rio de Janeiro. It was raining like crazy when I woke up this morning but by the time we reached the forest entrance in the hills just outside of Ipanema, the rain had petered off to a light drizzle and then stopped all together. It made the rainforest even more green and it smelled SO good and fresh!

About Tijuca: In the late eighteenth century, much of it was cleared for coffee and sugar plantations, but the removal of the trees caused so much flooding (there’s a lesson here!!) in the city below that in the 1860s the emperor Dom Pedro commissioned a reforestation project. Since 1961, Tijuca has been a protected national park, a true oasis inside the city limits- like stepping into the Amazon for a few hours!

Here are some photos from the half-day jaunt. We were supposed to have a full tour of six people, but three others backed out due to the weather. Their loss!

On the ride to Tijuca, we drove past Rocina, the largest Favela in Rio. It’s estimated that more than 200,000 people live there. It was one of the first Favelas to be pacified (taken over by police) but there are still a lot of drug gangs that control areas in the Favela. For most people, it’s a peaceful life without the interference of the government.
Our first stop was at the Casticada do Taunay, this giant waterfall.
Our group- Carolien from the Netherlands, Eve from California and me. There were supposed to be three others who joined the tour but they backed out because of the weather- their loss!
This map shows the farms and where the houses were when the land on which the forests sits was being used for agriculture.
Friendly little Coati, apparently in English called a Nasua, which is a cousin of the raccoon. This guy was much cuter! He was the only wildlife we saw besides a few squirrels and birds- the rain seems to have kept animals in.
Our Jeep
We then walked to Capela Mayrink, a Catholic chapel within the forest. It’s open one Sunday a month for services, and also for special events like baptisms and weddings.
The next stop was the visitors center, where we learned about the history of Tijuca and also the animals who live there. They had animals matched to people’s birthdays to tell you your ‘spirit animal.’ Mine was a sloth…the description matches most descriptions of the cancer zodiac sign — emotional, caring, sensitive, maternal, etc.
Finally, we went WAY up to the “Chinese View.” The pagoda is on an overlook where, one the land was being farmed, Chinese colonists first tried to plant tea before deciding opium was a much more lucrative export
A panoramic vista from the “Chinese View”
“Chinese View.” Corcovado and Cristo Redentor on the left, Sugarloaf Mountain in the clouds over my right shoulder, Copacabana behind the mountains, and Ipanema area is the buildings on the right.

We headed back to Copacababa, where the meeting point for the tour was. Our little gang of three had such a fun time that we decided to have lunch together at a restaurant on Leme beach- it was SO good! Endless seafood and meat. I couldn’t eat dinner after that meal!

Praia do Leme (Leme Beach). There’s a walkway that stretches out into the ocea, and I took this looking back at Leme. in the distance is Coapcabana.

That’s all for now as in 6 hours (2 am) my car arrives to take me to the airport for my 5 am flight to Cusco (via Sao Paulo and Lima). More from Peru, soon!