Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Name's Bonde

Photo by Tim Deakin
Whilst in Rio de Janeiro, we stayed in the area known as Santa Teresa from where you get some great views of Cristo Redentor and Pão de Açúcar and from where, if you are lucky, you can also catch the only working tram in South America.
It is known as the 'Bonde (pronounced bóh-zhee) de Santa Teresa' and it operates between Santa Teresa and the Estação Carioca in the centre of Rio. It commenced operation in 1891, runs on 1100 mm gauge track and its most spectacular feature is 'Os Arcos da Lapa' or The Lapa Arches. This magnificent structure is a former aqueduct which the tram crosses soon after leaving the central terminus. It stands 210 feet high and is 295 yards long, spanning a large public square and two roads.
With our time in Rio somewhat limited and with so many places to visit it was not until our last day  that we found time to try and catch the Bonde and our first problem was in finding a Bonde stop! In typical Brazilian fashion these stops are not obvious and we certainly could see no signs indicating a stop - nor yet any timetables! Actually we learned afterwards that stops are indicated by nothing more than a yellow 'Bonde' painted on the poles supporting the overhead cables but they are certainly not easy to see.
Anyway, after asking several people (another thing you have to do quite often in Brazil) we finally found what we assumed must be the stop and, after waiting for half an hour, one finally arrived. It was empty too and so, we thought, we would have the pick of the seats. However, as we  proceeded to board the tram we were politely told by the official onboard to get off as this tram was being used for driver training! 
So, another 30 minute wait ensued before the next Bonde arrived but this was so full that there was no room for us. To say that we were disappointed would be an understatement because, with time against us, we decided that there was just not sufficient time for us to wait for the next tram (since, with no timetable, there was no telling when that might be), ride down to the central station and then return to Santa Teresa before we would have to leave for the airport and our flight back to Såo Paulo.
This proved to be the only real disappointment during our time in Rio, apart from the fact that the only photos I managed to obtain of the Bonde are the two pathetic efforts that you see here.
These were taken while walking to a restaurant the previous evening and, having not seen a tram since we'd arrived, suddenly one appeared and sped by us as I hastily scrabbled for my camera - these trams might be old but they do travel at quite a lick!
The photo of the Lapa Arches that I have included here is one that I found online and was taken by Tim Deakin. How I wish that we'd had more time to enable me to try and emulate his excellent shot!
Ah well, that just gives me one more reason to return to Rio - that and the beautiful beaches and drinking caipirinha's while looking out on spectacular night-time vistas!

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