Joe & Leo's
Metrô bus Vidigal and van or moto-taxi
Rio is widely considered to be a city best viewed from above, and the imposing twin peaks of the Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) mountain that have unwittingly framed untold photos from Ipanema beach and Arpoador, provide the perfect context in which to test that notion. In terms of hiking trails Dois Irmãos holds the key to one of the best and more accessible vistas around the city. Whereas the neighbouring Pedra da Gávea requires an element of free climbing definitely not for the faint of heart, Dois Irmãos presents a lesser challenge using only the lower limbs.
The journey starts at the foot of Vidigal community, from where it is strongly advised to grab a lift on one of the local vans or motorbike moto-taxis (R$2.50) to the upper reaches of the favela known as Arvrão, after the large tree sitting atop. Enter the trail via a small gateway in the corner of the football pitch and playground area, not the most conspicuous of entrances but press on depsite the lack of signs, a standard element of Rio's trails, and ask a resident or UPP policeman for directions if required.
The trail's beginnings are easy enough on the lungs, only becoming more strenuous in the latter stages. Pause for a break on the opening of bare rock that lends itself to a superb lookout encompassing the neighbouring Rocinha with its collage of corrugated roofs, the huge Pedra da Gavea and São Conrado beach, and know that you are roughly halfway up.
The gradient increases in the final stages as the thicket also gets more dense, until you break into long Jurassic Park grass just before the rock-covered peak. For the fit-bodied, it shouldn't take longer than 45 minutes to reach the summit, but once there, prepare to be greeted by strong winds and a columnal structure which no doubt offers the confirmation that you have reached the zenith.
Take time to appreciate the spectacular view overlooking Zona Sul and play Eye Spy with Rio's other landmarks. The scale of the city is really put in perspective, and even on a cloudy day there is the bonus of feeling on top of the world as you glide through nature's water recyclers.
The descent feels inevitably quicker as you scuttle down nimbly with encouragement from gravity, but be sure to leave enough time to get down before nightfall, or the terrain can become dangerous. Set off mid-afternoon when the sun isn't too hot and you still have enough time to descend, and the next time you are sunbathing on Ipanema, you can can look along the coast to the iconic rocky duo and say, "I conquered that".