I went to Rio to spend three weeks working at the Observatório do Valongo. On the first weekend I was there, a few of us from the institute went to climb Pedra da Gavea, one of the many amazing mountains in and around Rio.
It was a beautiful day when we started climbing from Barra da Tijuca. Three hours of steep hiking took us to the top of the rock, with the only difficult bit being the Carrasqueira, a steep 30m rock face which a lot of people had ropes and harnesses to go up. Our group headed up without equipment, except for one of us who preferred to wait at the bottom.
The top looked impossible to reach even from not far below but once we were past the Carrasqueira it was easy enough. And when we got there, we had stunning views over Rio and Guanabara Bay. I spent a few minutes enjoying them, then reached down to grab my camera, then stood up, and found that a cloud had descended and the view had gone. I assumed the cloud would blow past and the view would reappear, but it didn't. And before much longer it was raining. So I got no photos of the view.
We headed down. The Carrasqueira had been challenging on the way up and it was challenging on the way down, and was now a huge bottleneck with queues of hikers descending in the rain. Climbers had set up ropes and a lot of hikers were borrowing them to get down. Those who didn't were forming a long slow queue using a crack in the rock for handholds. I joined the queue, and edged slowly down the rock face.
After the Carrasqueira, things were easier. The rain carried on for a while, and in a forest clearing we stopped for a little break. Trees in thick mist was really not what I had expected to be seeing at any point in my Rio trip.
As we headed down the weather got better, and by the time we were back in Barra da Tijuca, it was clear and sunny again.
The day after the Pedra da Gavea climb, I went to Corcovado. I was tempted to climb that as well, but I kept reading about robberies on the trail and in the end I decided just to get the bus up. Tiredness from the day before may also have been a factor.
So I got the bus up, getting charged the high season fare even though I was the only passenger, because supposedly it was the school holidays. And it was pretty crowded up the top. But as the sun set and the views got better and better, it got quieter and more peaceful.
By the time it was getting properly dark, there were only a few people left. Raccoons were beginning to appear, looking for scraps of food. I got the last bus down and walked back to where I was staying in Botafogo.
I went to Rio's other extraordinarily famous viewpoint, Pão de Açúcar. I climbed Morro da Urca and then got a cable car up to the top to see the sun set and the city look incredible once again.
Three weeks in Rio went way too quickly. I was just starting to get used to the heat and humidity when it was time to head back to the proper winter in Santiago. Flying over the Andes is always amazing, and my flight brought me to the cordillera just in time for the last of the daylight to make it look breathtaking. We flew over the Paso de los Libertadores and I saw Portillo and the Laguna del Inca in amongst the snowy peaks.