After spending my first several hours in Rio on the beach it was time to expand my horizons. Literally. There are two main attractions other than the beach – Sugarloaf and Christ the Redeemer. I didn’t have time to do both so I made the choice to go with easy and convenient. I hopped in a cab and headed to Sugarloaf to ride the tramway up to the top and look out over the beaches and skyline. Not nearly as high in elevation as Christ the Redeemer, but way more convenient to get to. And I managed to get a bit of both in anyways.
The cable-car ride up to the top of Sugarloaf is split into two sections. The views from the first base station are pretty impressive in their own right and there’s another bonus available. The lower station also happens to have a heliport built in allowing for tours of the area ranging from a 7 minute trip up to Christ the Redeemer and returning along the beach to hour long trips that cover the whole region. I had the conversion rate wrong in my head so I miscalculated the price of the short trip and thought it incredibly cheap (turns out it was just a fair deal) so I went in to ask about taking a ride.
A trip requires a minimum of three passengers and a maximum of four. I wasn’t going to be able to go just on my own. Fortunately for me, however, there were three women who had purchased a tour and there was an empty seat still on that trip. I was booked within moments and headed out to the helipad, hopeful that the clouds would clear and that we’d actually get up to Christ the Redeemer; it was iffy and no guarantees. Once again the timing worked in my favor and as we were loading up the helicopter the clouds cleared enough that we would be able to make the flight.
Moments later we were circling above the statue, looking down at the statue, the beaches, the city and the people of Rio. It was awesome.
Not surprisingly the 7 minute tour lasted exactly 7 minutes. And as we landed the next group was queued up and ready to go. I headed off to the next stage of the cable car and up to the top of Sugarloaf.
I was sold on Sugarloaf with the promise that every time you turn a corner the views are even better than the past ones. Ygor couldn’t have been more right about that. There was a small jungle at the top station and I wandered through, coming out at the edge of a cliff overlooking the downtown airport, with planes coming and going. Back out the other side were vistas of the beaches and the skyline, depending on which direction I turned (like the first photo in this post).
As I started to head down from the peak the weather quickly worsened. The wispy clouds that earlier threatened our flight up to Christ the Redeemer quickly switched to a full-on rain storm. I was soaked by the time I got in to the taxi at the bottom (the cable car is enclosed but there was some outdoor time between the rides) but I got a cab and made it to the airport without any trouble at all.
It was a tremendous finish to a wonderful day. Sure, the commute is a bit of a pain, but a day on the beaches and in the skies of Rio definitely didn’t suck. I’m quite happy I made the trip.