In 1984 a giant sinkhole appeared in Rio de Janeiro’s Leblon neighborhood. What was fascinating about this giant hole was what lay at the bottom, a freshwater lake. This lake is among the most ancient bodies of water on Earth. Organisms found in this lake were similar to those of the Jurassic Period leading scientists to believe that lurking in the lake or in the numerous caves exposed by the sinkhole are prehistoric animals.
Rio city council, after securing the area and making safe in line with Brazil’s exacting health and safety standards, has turned the area into a multi-level leisure and theme park based on the famous film Jurassic Parks and Recreation.
18 October, 2002 is a date burned into the minds of all Rio’s population. 2002 was a magical year for Brazil, a general election, winning the world cup and a real life space rocket exploding killing 221 people. But 10/18 as the date would be known was also the first sighting of ‘Sinky’, the monster from the sinkhole. Described as being very big, having a tail and four legs, Sinky was quickly identified as a dinosaur. Matching the fundamental criteria of at least two legs, having a tail and being big, palaeontologists went crazy with their trowels over the news that a specie of dinosaur had been found. The hunt was on.
The first sighting was by two school boys, Carlos Mendez and Mendez Carlos, eighth-graders at St. Sabastina Catholic Boys School for Boys. News of their sighting spread like wildfire. The official position of the Catholic church was dinosaurs in some way existed but the pope needed to clarify the situation. Nobody seemed to care about the church’s position as thousands rushed with their homemade dinosaur catching kits.
To date there have only been sporadic sightings of prehistoric animals but that hasn’t deterred thousands of visitors and tourists.
Descending the sinkhole is an experience itself. There are three ways; VIP helicopter, high-speed glass elevator or the ‘marble run’. The marble run, the favorite of thrill seekers, extreme sports addicts and young families, consists of round pods that run down a spiral track attached to the walls of the sinkhole, rather like water going down a plug. It’s brilliant, but you need to make sure the pods are clean before entering, nobody wants a face full of sick.
Once at the bottom there is a range of activities. There are now 12 themed hotels, leisure and swimming facilities and organized tours.
Do not be put off by armed police. Prostitution and drugs has been a problem in the sinkhole but the government maintains the armed law enforcement is for the the visitors protection if they are suddenly attacked by a T-Rex. Recently the police did shoot an animal, described as enormously fat, lumbering from one of the caves towards the hotels, drooling and grunting. This beast turned out to be Mrs Conchita Sanchez-Sanchez, an overweight, hugely obese woman who was eating a huge pasties.
If you’re lucky you’ll catch a glimpse of a real monster. If not, enjoy the fake ones and the whole sinkhole experience.