Author’s grump helps us avoid fatal gun-fight

Exaggeration is part of travelling. The waves were 15 foot tall; this coat only cost £3; the lightning was 10 metres away.

However, we had a close call last Friday 8th June without knowing it…

We had a guide from 9-3pm. We went up to the Christ the Redeemer statue (see previous post) then on to Sugarloaf Mountain, which is lower and closer to the city centre.

Sugarloaf is in an area called Urca. Our guide jokes to us that “We are really safe here as there is so much military here” and the atmosphere has the dull anonymity common to Government buildings the world over. The elite Rio Yacht club is a stone’s throw away.

We are out of tourist season and there are no queues to go up Sugarloaf by cable car.

Olympics money refurbished Sugarloaf, adding cafes and shops halfway up and even a helipad. There are marmosets being fed by tourists and signs asking tourists not to feed the marmosets. We take the obvious photos and pay our karmic tariff to the Brazilian economy by all buying Havaiana flip flops. Cesca, despite being in Brazil and not bl**dy Disneyland, chooses Mickey Mouse designs – is this trip having any effect?!

My patience wears out and I ask the guide if we can leave. She looks distressed and says “Don’t you want to do some trails around here?” pointing to the wooded part of the cable car station. We have half a day left in Brazil and I’ve reached saturation point, so no, I don’t want to do any trails.

Lucy sighs and the kids roll out the line they use when I’m being difficult: “Dad, you’re soooo embarrassing.”

It is 12pm on Friday.

We descend and leave Urca, driving back to our hotel in Ipanema.


Two days later we get a shock.

On the BBC website we see a headline: “Bodies found at the foot of Sugarloaf mountain.” Click here and the Rio Times article is here.

The gist is that last Friday, seven drug dealers were killed by the police in Urca near Sugarloaf. The cable car was closed for five hours on Friday afternoon as a precaution with people trapped on the mountain. Reports say the men were involved in violence linked to control of Leme, a favela near Copacabana Beach.


No tourists were shot but this was a bit too close for comfort. A couple of hours later and we’d have been trapped up the mountain.

A local guide and nice hotel gives the illusion of safety but the violence in Rio is writing a new narrative as the military police apply pressure.

We’ll take short tales over true tall tales.

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