Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar)

Today, we had a full day with our private guide Katia and her driver Paolo, so we took advantage of all the things this could do for us: a windy drive all the way up to the Tijuca forest, the largest urban (rain)forest in the world, covering almost 12.5 square miles within the city of Rio de Janeiro. Here, we saw the incredible views of Rio, Cristo Redentor, Sugar Loaf mountain, and the beaches from the Vista Chinesa. We also visited the Rocinha favela, a shanty town that just two years ago finally got recognized by the local government. We saw quieter, more pristine beaches along the coast that made the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches seem overcrowded and loud. Interesting events happened along the way. And the day ended with one of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen in my life at the top of Sugar Loaf mountain.

Because I like to photograph and view photos, I am jaded most of the time because I know how much editing goes into professional photography. A book I read written by a well-known photographer said that even on his most tact-sharp photos, he will still use software to sharpen the image even further. So when I saw images of sunsets from Sugar Loaf, I thought that they were probably too good to be true, like the sunrises in all those photos I saw of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. When my friends and I did wake up at 4am for the sunrise in Siem Reap to see this famous temple, though what we saw was beautiful, it wasn’t anything like what I imagined based on the postcards and online images.

Sugar Loaf mountain’s sunset renders me speechless, though. It’s every bit as spectacular in person as it is in those photos, if not more so. The sky really does turn multiple shades of orange and red and even purple and pink at times, and the endless mountains of Rio, which is all at once a beach paradise, a tropical jungle, and a fast-paced urban craze, makes for one of the best backdrops for this sight. It’s like the Christ statue is enabling the best sunsets right here in Rio.

Today was one of those days for me that was just non-stop fun and joy. It was filled with sights and experiences and tastes that make me wish now more than ever that Ed were still with us, and that I could share with him just one more time why living is such an amazing feeling.

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