I met my friends at the same café where Snoop Dogg filmed a music video. It’s tucked at the base of Corcovado Mountain, home to a statue of World Wonder status, Christ the Redeemer. My hiking companions were looking suspiciously sporty in Brazilian soccer jerseys and track pants. Perhaps my Rocky Mountain upbringing inflated my sense of trail-blazing confidence. I probably should have swapped my tights for umbros and my leather handbag for a backpack. I had greatly underestimated the intensity of Corcovado. At least I had the good sense to wear sneakers instead of flip-flops.
I ordered a cappuccino to go, and we set off to see Jesus. Christ the Redeemer mesmerized me every single day for the entire six months I lived in Rio de Janeiro. Perched atop a pickle shaped mountain, Christo is visible from all areas of the city. He lurks between shoddy old buildings on streets of questionable safety, and dances in the vistas of expatriate apartments. The statue was designed with its arms open to embrace the spectacular sprawl of Rio de Janeiro below. Unfortunately, Christ the Redeemer did not exactly embrace us.
It was surprisingly difficult to find the trail. We wandered around the lush fairy tale grounds of Parque Lage for about half an hour before beginning our ascent. There are three options for reaching the summit: a charming, clunky and costly cable car, an uninspiring van, or the complimentary hike, guided by spray painted Christ the Redeemer stick figures.
The hike is supposed to take two hours, but it took us at least three. There was seldom a clear path, and I spent substantial time hoisting myself up by tree roots and branches. That was only the start. Upon bushwhacking completion, the Jesus stick figures indicated that no proper pedestrian trail leads to the statue. The remainder of the hike is spent sharing train tracks with the aforementioned cable car (which naturally possesses the right of way). When it passes, hikers diverge to the edge of the cliff whilst wearily waving and posing for pictures taken by the tram’s privileged passengers.
Once we reached the peak we collapsed outside the nearest souvenir store. We had just been informed that we weren’t allowed through the gates without a ticket. Tickets must be purchased at the mountain’s base. No exceptions, and no security guard could be coerced, or even bribed, otherwise. Frustrated and exhausted, we were too stubborn to erase our efforts. It was enough to admire the back of Christ’s gigantic concrete head.
As it turns out, Christ the Redeemer is breathtaking from every angle, from all vantage points, including the sidewalk outside the gates. Seeing the statue up-close creates the same calming effect as stargazing into a rural night sky. I think he worked his colossal concrete magic on all of us, because we descended down the mountain in silence. Corcovado conquered us, but maybe that’s the way it should be. I bet Snoop Dogg opted for the cable car.