The hostel I’ve been staying in has a list in reception of all the things to do while in Rio. It seems I’ve been working my way through them over the past few days, and today I decided to head to the botanical gardens, which are apparently one of the best in the world. Last time I went to botanical gardens was in Cape Town, so these ones had some strong competition.
When I arrived, I first stopped in the gardens’ café for lunch. The only reason this is of note is that I had a sandwich made with the best bread I’ve had all trip (a freshly baked baguette). Like the Spanish, the South American’s aren’t big on fresh bread, so it was a nice break from cheaply made toasted sandwiches. Once I was done I headed into the gardens, and started to walk around. They are sandwiched between two mountains, with Christ the Redeemer clearly visible on one side, and an area called the ‘Atlantic Forest’ on the other. I started by walking up the Atlantic Forest side, which has a path running up through the trees. Down the entire length of the path is a running stream, which breaks off into waterfalls at various points.
At the top of the path was a 200 year old aqueduct which fell into disuse some time ago, as well as some greenhouses which were off limits. I checked out an area called the ‘Hummingbird Gardens’ hoping to see some hummingbirds, but unfortunately I didn’t have any luck. I then headed to an area full of orchids, which had some interesting facts about the plant’s history and how its extracts are used in medicine. While doing all this, I was apparently in an area with a large number of rare plants, though I have to say many of them were underwhelming, simply looking like normal trees or bushes. Before leaving the area I stumbled across an old building which was used for manufacturing gunpowder in the 1800s. The building was mostly deserted, except for a few millstones which were used for grinding the materials.
The last part of the gardens I visited was in the south-east, and featured the lake, main avenue, rose garden and Japanese garden. Unfortunately the rose garden wasn’t in bloom due to it being winter here so I quickly moved on. The main avenue, which runs up the entire length of the gardens, was an impressive sight, with huge palm trees lining the sides. The Japanese Gardens were at the southern end and I took a walk over the quaint bridges and ponds in the area. Overall I would say the gardens weren't as impressive as the ones in Cape Town, though still worth visiting.
Once I was finished I headed back to the hostel to get my laundry done (not a quick process), before heading out in the evening with a Brazilian guy I met in Buenos Aires at the hostel there. We went to an area called Lapa, which is apparently the place to be on a Friday night. There were people partying in the street, dancing samba, and generally hanging out in bars – a great atmosphere!
Photos of the day: Christ in the distance, a wild monkey, and palm trees on the main avenue.