The escalator to heaven

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Friday, November 30, 2007

It was the day before we were leaving Brazil, and the Christ statue had yet to be conquered.  We were still waiting for the clouds to clear.  But not wanting to chance rain on the last morning, we decided to head up today.  The clouds looked to be clearing.  We comitted to the climb.

For one of the seven modern wonders of the world, it is surprisingly complicated to get to the top.  We took the metro to the nearest station, then hopped on a metro bus, which dropped us off at the base of the mountain.  From here we had a choice between a taxi and the cog train that ran to the top.  Seeing Jesus only costs 2 bucks, but getting up the mountain costs 20 bucks a piece.  The taxi drivers reasonably explain that they do it for a whole real cheaper, and you get to go to another view as well.  We took the taxi.

Our driver took us up to a great lookout with views of both Sugarloaf and the Christ statue, the two icons of Rio.  Then we went further up through the forest.  Here we had to switch transportation again, getting into a big van that shuttled tourists to the top.  At which point we got in line for an elevator.  Which led to an escalator.  And another one.

So, after metro, bus, taxi, van, elevator, and two escalators, we finally arrived at the top of Hunchback mountain and saw the Christ the Redeemer statue.

While the statue is quite impressive, it's the setting that really clinches the whole thing.  The mountain juts up in a sharp peak, making the statue set on the highest point.  There are sharp drop-offs on all sides.  You have great views of Sugarloaf, Copacabana, Ipanema, and the city.  Christ towers over your head.  The only thing detracting from the experience is the amount of tourists crowding into the little platform.  I overheard one guy say, "On Tuesday there was no one here...of course, you couldn't see anything..."  We did have a clear view, if a bit hazy.  At least Christ wasn't covered in cloud like the other days of the week. 

Although the taxi guys said we could stay up as long as we liked, apparently we stayed too long because he came all the way up there to find us.  We took advantage of a lull in the crowds to get a picture of ourselves and Christ.  We had him take three pictures.  We weren't even in the first two.  On the third one I positioned the camera for him and he took a great picture.  He only chopped of the top of Christ's head.  We despaired.

On the way back down Erin realized she left our guidebook at the first lookout with our package of apricots.  Taxing our driver's impatience, we got him to go back.  After making sure that Erin was far enough up the path, the guard brought the book to the car.  Minus most of the apricots. 

Christ done, Erin headed back to the hotel to relax while I headed further afield to the Maracana stadium.  This is, I believe, the largest soccer stadium in the world, and since I couldn't see a game there I figured I should at least visit.  Although it took me a while to find my way in, I was able to get inside the stadium and look around a bit.  It's definitely an impressive view and a cool design.  I even got to go down into the locker room and look at showers and stuff.  The "museum" consisted of pictures of famous soccer moments.

This would turn out to be quite an eventful day.  I went back to the hostel to find Erin and then we walked down to Ipanema beach.  The weather had never quite made it to beach status, so we hadn't made it down here yet.  We watched people play a version of volleyball that didn't involve using hands (much harder) and sat on the beach for a while.  Then we tried some coconut water at a beach stand.  A surprising amount of liquid in those things.  

By the time we got back to the hostel things were gearing up for the evening's activities.  Friday night was the Lapa street party.  This is a pretty famous affair and we were assured it needed to be experienced.  We got a taxi down to Lapa around 11:30.  We stepped out into chaos.  Our English friend explained to us that the Lapa street party evolved because it was a poor neighborhood and people didn't have enough money to pay cover.  So they just took over the streets.  There are hundreds of people selling food and beer.  Some carry trays with a bottle of liquor and shotglasses.  Everyone is out to have a good time.  You can go in the bars if you want, but you don't need to.

We based ourtselves around a bar that had a samba band warming up.  As they played people crowded around them inside and outside the bar, dancing and moving to the music.  It was quite an evening.  I felt like I was back in Spain.  Everybody was dancing. 

We came back relatively early (around 3) because the next day was going to be long.  But I'm glad I got to experience Christ, futbol, and street party all in one day.

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