Rio de Janeiro is a fascinating place for many reasons, not the least of which is its unusual topography. The city is full of steep coastal cliffs that are unlike any formation I’ve ever seen. On most days you can witness hang gliders leaping off of these rock walls and coasting to a gentle landing on the beach below. They make it look so effortless and graceful that you may be tempted to give it a whirl yourself. This is not advisable. The cliffs also serve to effectively partition the city into very distinct neighborhoods and provide a sense of isolation within individual neighborhoods.
Atop the highest peak sits a massive monument in Brazil’s Catholic tradition called Cristo al Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). This massive statue watches over the city from the heavens. Its arms open as if ready to accept warm embrace. I’m sure that it serves as a daily reminder and meditation for the city’s inhabitants.
I was only in Rio for three days, so I didn’t get to experience all of the things I would’ve liked, but visiting this monument was at the top of the list. Bob, my friend and travel agent, booked us with a guide and arranged everything in advance so there was no stress about purchasing tickets or figuring out directions.
In order to get to the monument there were two gondola rides. The first was to a smaller peak called Sugarloaf, which itself is a beautiful destination. Monkeys were visible in the trees and there was a helipad available for helicopter tours. Next time I’m taking a heli-tour for sure. The gondola car was very spacious with a doorway large enough to pass my chair. I didn’t even have to transfer in this instance.
Upon arriving to the monument’s platform I was disappointed to discover that the only way up to the main viewing platform was an escalator. But it was astonishing how easily the attendant maneuvered my wheelchair onto the moving steps and rode up to the top with me.
Words don’t seem adequate to describe the awe I felt sitting high above Rio knowing that half of the city was probably looking back in my direction.. I was surprised by the height of the statue, which I’m guessing is at least 100 feet. From the ground it is barely discernable with the naked eye. The slums in Rio are easily forgotten by tourists who see them only on their way to and from the airport. But from this place of prominence, I found it fitting that this statue of Christ seemed to be watching over the destitute and well-to-do alike. Not to be overly sentimental, because in reality it is just a nice view from a tall hill, but I was somewhat touched by the experience.
Getting up there required, like many of my experiences, a little blind trust and a desire to experience. I could not have been more pleased that I was able to take in this stunning sight.