For someone who is not normally much of a hiker in England, I have found myself on many a treks in the last 7 months of travelling, much to the dismay of my travel buddy Hannah.
Hana, Hannah and me
Pedra da Gavea was something I had seen on Instagram while looking for some inspiration before my big trip. It was added to my list but at the end of the day, was I really going to hike up 4 hours while I was in Rio for carnival?
It turns out that yes, yes I was going to take the challenge and climb up to one of Rio’s most impressive view points and also one of the world’s highest coastal mountains, reaching 844 metres above sea level.
The view worth climbing for.
We got in touch with our guide Rafinha Copa the night before and at 6am the next morning we were raring, ok maybe not raring, but willing to go.
We met Rafinha and his assistant guide, Junior, in Barra da Tijuca and all signed in at the park entrance.
Sunrise at our meeting point.
With a liver full of cachaça and an absolute extreme fear of heights, we began our trek through the Tijuca Forest, an easy walk but with what felt like 100% humidity and the rotten smell of jack fruit, it wasn’t such a pleasant start.
The dirt path soon turned into a vertical climb over rocks and tree roots and the sweat nonstop poured down places I never knew sweat could reach, like eyebrows, chin and shoulders!
Since reading other people’s accounts of their Pedra da Gavea trek, it appears we took a completely different route, which I am so thankful for, for 2 reasons; the first being that we didn’t have to rock climb up a massive 30 metre steep wall and second we had the most breathtaking view from the ‘garganta do céu’ – literal translation, the sky’s throat.
The breathtaking view from the cave at sky’s throat.
It takes an hour to reach a hidden cave, the sky’s throat, which is almost half way up and offers the perfect rest spot. This cave has an ideal natural window, boasting the most stunning view of Rio’s coastline.
Living on the edge.
It was hard to tear ourselves away from this vista, especially knowing the toughest part of the trek was coming up next.
The best rest stop.
Once you clear the forest area, the rest of the hike up is exposed to the heat of the day and many large rocks. This is when I had my mini breakdown. I had spoken to some people on Instagram whose photos I had seen of this hike and they did mention the use of ropes, so I should have been prepared, but when faced with these apparatus, I freaked out.
I may look happy, but I think I’m smiling more out of shock!
Everyone was so supportive and patient with me, it really helped guide me up this, at the time, terrifying surface. I was so chuffed with myself for making it up but this wasn’t the last time we’d be using ropes.
After scrambling up some more boulders, you finally reach the first and main part of the view point on top of Pedra da Gavea.
Can you really beat this view?
You can stand right out over the edge and peer down towards the Atlantic Ocean and other iconic landmarks, such as Dois Irmãos and Corcovado.
Crazy team photo!
There is another section to explore at the top of Pedra and this is a little more adventurous to reach. Just when I hoped the rock climbing phase was over, I saw a large crack in the rock that we had to abseil down, and of course avoid the steep drop to your death on your right, and clamber up over the other side in order to discover new views of the south of Rio.
This was the most adventurous shot I could handle.
The photo ops here were extreme; one was of you sitting on a very small ledge with a huge drop down to the forest below, another one was lying on your front and pretend to be flying off a protruding rock, and the other was leaping over to a boulder to hang off. The last 2 I couldn’t face. I was happy with my ledge shot.
Trying to act natural.
After a couple of hours playing around and taking in some of the best views you could possibly imagine, we decided to make our way down. This is when it became apparent that we had taken a very contrasting route to other climbers.
Instead of scaling the 30 metre ‘Carrasqueira’ like many others, we slowly abseiled down, some gracefully and others not so much (myself and Hannah really struggled with this part but Rafinha and Junior were so amazing at helping us down).
Junior guiding me down this very intimidating drop.
The rest of the descent was an absolute dream, briskly walking down the dirt path until we finally reached tarmac, civilisation and a cafe for a well deserved iced açai!
What a crew!
The route that Rafinha took us, which is named garganta do céu, is one huge reason why I would recommend doing this trek with him as your guide.
There are many other reasons why you should get in touch with him as well, such as his incredible homemade Oreo and condensed milk energy bar, his constant support for wimps like me who are terrified of heights, his motivation to go for the extreme photo ops, along with his unique photographic skills.
We were a small group, only the 5 of us with Rafinha and Junior leading the way. I really had a fantastic time doing this with these guys!
It was the first trek of my trip, a long 7 months ago, and the feeling of exhilaration on this day has fuelled many more hikes, and aimless wanderings, along the way.
If you are a big thrill seeker and love a challenge then you will thrive off this! It’s a completely different and unique way of experiencing and seeing Rio de Janeiro.
You can even scale this rock if you dare!
Here’s how I did it:
Guide: Rafinha Copa
Contact details: +55 21980757828 firstname.lastname@example.org
Costs: 1-2 pax = R$200 per group
3-4 pax = R$300 per group
Up to 5 pax = R$60 per person
Meeting point: 6am at the roundabout of Bar do Oswaldo and the 16 police station in Barra da Tujica.
Level: difficult, 4-6 hours in total.
What to bring: sunscreen, 2-3 litres of water, a hat, good trainers with decent grip and high energy snacks.
It was a truly unforgettable experience and one I would totally recommend if you’re up for the challenge.