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  • Dawnelle Salant

Tijuca National Forest

I spend the day exploring Tijuca National Forest - which claims to be the world’s largest urban forest as it covers around 32 km squared. We are picked up in an open backed jeep, and our drive from Copa to the forest borders on frightening. Rio traffic is scary enough in a closed vehicle, but being exposed brings this fright to a new level. However, we also have really great views. As we exit one of Rio’s many tunnels, the driver points out the favela that sprawls the hill above it. Favelas, or slums, are so sad, but they are also beautiful with their colours and and the ramshackle buildings standing so close to each other. We pass Rocinha as well, one of the most famous favelas; the one we visited last time we were here.


It’s 8 a.m. and it’s already 30 degrees. But once we enter the park, the temperature cools considerably. You can feel the refreshing air from the elevation and the massive amounts of trees providing shade. Until I start hiking; then the cool air seems to disappear. It’s about a 45 minute hike up to Pedra Bonita (Beautiful Rock), but it’s worth it. This gives a completely different view of Rio than Mirante Dona Marta. We are farther south here and we can see the newest area of Barra de Tijuca. This is where the Olympic sites were built for the 2016 games. Another gorgeous beach stretches for miles and our guide tells us that the beaches are New Copacabana, New Ipanema etc. When I look back over to the original Copa, I am once again astounded by how big and beautiful this city is. What makes Rio so incredible, in my opinion, is the combination of stunning beaches, backed by the city and the huge rocks and forest of Tijuca. There’s nothing really like it on Earth. Again, I can see Christ the Redeemer in the far distance looking over his spectacular city.


There is a huge, sloping boulder that overhangs the cliff and people are sitting on it with their legs hanging over to get their photo taken. My stomach drops just watching them sit here, so when it’s my turn, I crawl on my hands and knees and stop a good three feet from the edge. My photos still turn out amazing and I am alive to see them!


We drive through the park and see an old monastery, a lake with turtles, and a 35 metre high waterfall. When we stop by the lake, a blue morpho flutters by so slowly that we are able to see the striking blue patterns that make this creature so beautiful.


Our last adventure in the park is hiking to a waterfall. When the guide shows me the path, I think he’s joking. It’s a vine covered cliff and he has to tie a rope to a tree so we can hang on to it as we shimmy down backwards. It’s frightening and I’m unsteady on my feet, but I somehow make it down. Then we stumble across wet rocks in the river before we finally arrive at the waterfall. It’s like a scene from a movie; it’s not a huge waterfall, maybe ten meters, but it’s set in a rocky cliff and empties into a pool of water which cascades over smooth rocks before hitting the river.


We quickly change and jumping into the water is the most refreshing thing I’ve done since the polar plunge. The water is icy, not Antarctica icy, but cold enough to take my breath away, and I relish it. Rio is not only hot, it’s humid, and my poor Canadian body is not used to it at all. I lay down on my back on a rock and let the cool water rush over me. When I open my eyes, I am looking up at the waterfall. It’s pouring down, backwards to me in this position, and although it makes me dizzy, it’s mesmerizing. I stay in the water for about 15 minutes, until I’m practically freezing, because I know that the hike back up will have me sweating buckets again. #dawnellesalantphotography #rio #rio2020 #tijuca #tijucanationalforest #landscape #cityscape #amazingcaptures #cityscape #landscapephotomag #natgeo #natgeoyourshot #natgeolandscape #yourshotphotographer #canon #nationalgeographic #landscapephotography #brazil #christtheredeemer #stunning_shots #marvelshots #travel #igtravel #postcardplaces #meettheworld #worldcaptures #worldplaces #photooftheday #picoftheday #instapic



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