Oct 17, 2014 - National Geographic Explorer
To see Rio was the goal of many that joined the National Geographic Explorer for this epic South American adventure. But how do you attempt to even get a glimpse of such vibrant and active city with a wide range of attractions? You go out full of energy and participate in as many activities and visit as many places as you can and that the very hot weather lets you! For those very keen on experiencing some of Rio, the available options were all tempting. Some of us left early in the morning to drive to Tijuca forest, the largest wooded reserve inside a city anywhere in the world. The park is famous for many things but especially for its many kilometers of gorgeous hikes through the secondary growth rainforest and for the surprisingly diverse wildlife that preserves, right in the middle of a 6.5 million people city. We were lucky enough to have good weather and saw a few of the bird specialties of the area.
After a fantastic lunch in a ‘fazenda’ (old farm) in the park, we had the chance to visit Rio’s older favela, Valle Encantado (Enchanted Valley). Here we were introduced to their amazing sustainability program (among other things, they recycle all their organic residues to produce energy in the shape of gas) and the community-based tourism activities that they are providing with the goal of showing their life history and also becoming an example of how people can thrive even in the most unfavorable conditions while generating some funds to keep their programs going.
Some others opted to take guided tours to see some of the town center and historical sights and or took excursions to Rio’s icons, including the Sugarloaf and the Jesus Christ monumental statue overlooking the bay. Yet a few others took a chance to see Ipanema Beach and relax on the sandy beach right in the middle town.
To have a great end of the day according to all we have experienced, we moved to a restaurant were we could try Brazil’s take at barbecuing, the impressive ‘espeto corrido,’ where endless quantities of different meat cuts were served to our plates carved from massive handheld spades right in front of our eyes. We enjoyed the company and the fine tunes of some of Brazilian young leading musicians during dinner, much to the delight of everyone.
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