By Nathan M. Walters, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Most guide books will say no trip to Rio is complete without a ride on the gondola, which used to refer only to visiting the Pão de Açucar (Sugar Loaf) for a view of the bay. Now more people are finding their way to the Complexo do Alemão favelas to enjoy a different type of high-ride experience on the Teleférico line in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone).
Operational since July of 2011, the Teleférico is truly unlike anything else that can be seen in Rio. The ride high above the expansive bundle of favelas that compose Complexo do Alemão is incredible. A living mosaic below, all set against a backdrop of the serene natural beauty for which Brazil is known.
Word is spreading and more tourists, albeit mainly Brazilian, are finding their way to the newly revitalized Bonsucesso train station—the platform from which the Teleférico launches.
A group of travelers from São Paulo stated, “We saw it on on TV. We came up to Rio for Carnival and after we thought we should make the trip on the gondola.”
The security guard directing the way to the ramp from Bonsucesso to Teleférico ramp mentioned, “On weekends we are full all day. On Saturday there is music at Palmeiras station and we see a lot of tourists.”
The trip to the Teleférico is perfect for those on a budget, in a city not known for anything being inexpensive, but should not be passed up by anyone. To understand the cultural fabric of Rio and Brazil, it is important to venture beyond the beaches.
A round-trip from Zona Sul (South Zone) can cost just R$10, one subway and one train, though a cab will go direct to Bonsucesso train station for around R$40 one-way. The trip on the gondola is only R$1 to Palmeiras and then another R$1 ticket to return.
At Palmeiras, visitors must disembark before riding back down to Bonsucesso, and most venture out to the hill of Palmeiras, which is now heavily guarded by UPP officers, and take pictures of the panoramic view.
Favela tourism is a controversial issue in Rio, as there is a balance to be struck between the integrity of the people living there, with travelers who are drawn to the imagery that can only be found in Rio’s favelas.
This balance seems to be maintained with the Teleférico. The rolling hills plus the colors and shapes of the structures from above are remarkable, and no one has to feel as if they are a spectacle.
The Teleférico is a symbol of success for Complexo do Alemão, a place where little over a year ago violent conflict between the government and drug gangs transpired.
There are signs of progress, Antonio Maurício de Moura Silva, who operates a bar in the area, notes, “This is a beautiful place in a different way, a place to understand the true Rio de Janeiro. Today it is a place of hope.”
Everyone, visitors, workers, and locals, seem to be excited by the attention now being paid to the Teleférico, and although as with all pacified favelas, it is uncertain what the future holds, for now Complexo do Alemão seems to be headed in the right direction.