Hey there, folks...
more exciting times from Rio de Janeiro. This place is a city of contrasts...you have very rich people next to some of the worst slums imaginable. Slums where people live day to day and dont know where there next meal is coming from. Life really doesn't make any difference to these fellas.
So I stayed out of that area and stuck to the touristy areas of Rio. I am a Lonely Planeteer here in Rio. Not speaking the language really cuts back your ability to meet people and makes ya kinda feel a little helpless. Hand movements, pointing at maps and the goodwill of strangers help ya make it through the day. That's what Ive been doing during my time here in Rio.
A coupla days ago the sky finally cleared and a perfect view of Cristo was seen from the beach and everywhere in Rio. I took the ol 538 bus to the foot of Mount Temptation which is the home to Christ the Redeemer. Also known as Cristo. I call him JC. The bus cost me about two Reals and I was in luck because this time I got an air conditioned bus. Sweetness. The ride takes about 45 minutes and winds its way through the bustling streets of Rio. Bus drivers are pretty much the same here in Rio as they are anywhere in South America. No matter where you go in SA the conductors are gonna drive the hell out of that bus. You better hold on or you will get tossed around like a cheap suitcase going through customs and the baggage handler is having a really bad day. These guys jostle for position, run red lights, grind the gears until the find the one they one they want, make stops, and converse with the copilot taking change from the passengers taking your money at the door. I made my stop and was glad to get off near the tram station at the bottom of the mountain. The tram station that takes you to the top to see JC is surrounded by taxi drivers wanting to get your money and take you up there themselves. The taxi cartel charges you the same price and tells you they will take you to another lookout point for the same price as the tram, but I wasn't too interested because any yahoo can have a taxi and print out some pictures of where they are gonna take you. Just didn't get a warm fuzzy from some of those fellas. Now it would make sense to have a small little bus that takes the tourists up the paved road leading to JC, but that would put the tram out of business. I went with the train company to see JC and paid my 36 Reals for the 10am ride. All the seats on the tram were made for people around 5' 4". Reminded me of some buses in Bolivia and Patagonia, not the most comfy but it was only a 25 minute ride to the top so it wasnt too bad. We get to the top and disembark the tram. I take my time and hang back because I wanna get a foto next to it and next to a sign that says "Welcome to JC..etc" Around me people are jostling for position to get on the elevator that'll take them to the top. relax, folks, JC is going nowhere, you don't hafta be the first one on the elevator...
I get off the elevator after a coupla minutes waiting my turn and walk a few steps and look up. This statue is HUGE! I dont ever remember seeing something so large in front of me. The statue literally takes up your whole field of vision, it is that profound and that large. The guidebook said that it is around 38 meters tall and has a 36 meter wingspan. It's right. To get from the elevators to the foot of JC you need to take two escalators. I hopped on and got a great view of the city and a up close and beautiful view of JC when I got off the escalator. The view of Him and of the entire area was spectacular! The entire city of Rio sat right in front of us and reached out in every direction. One view had Maracana, the gigantic soccer stadium that I visited last Sunday. Another view had the spectacular stretch of sand composing Ipanema, Copacabana, and then leading to the 1000 meterish tall Sugar Loaf Hill. The view around 11am was a little hazy but things cleared up as I was leaving around 2ish. JC was a sight to see. It is much different to actually see it in person than to see it on the postcards. The statue is very simple and elegant.
And now to the folks that I met. To get a really cool foto of you and JC doing the wingspan thing you need someone to lay on the ground and take the foto from. It's pretty hard to go up someone and be like..."ummmm, can you take a foto of myself and JC? And could you lay down here on the concrete because I wanna get a really good shot." Naw, ya just dont do that to folks. So what I did was wait for someone to lay down and do the ol' "umm, while you're down there...would you mind?" routine. I found a coupla Americans that were traveling around the world and who just so happen to be laying down in the place i needed and were snapping a foto or two. Ben from Seattle was more than willing to help me out. It's not common to find Americans traveling for such a long time, Ben said that too when we struck up a little conversation about our travels. So I gotta give a thanks to that guy for taking a minute out of his schedule to snap a foto of a kid from Nebraska. Thanks, Ben.
Leading 15 meters from the feet of JC is a pathway, a staircase, and a viewing platform. You can stand on the staircase and have someone snap a foto of you from below and get a really good foto of yourself and JC. The only problem is that everybody will be in your shot because it is such a small space with so many people. Supersaturation. It's a supersaturated plot of land with camera crazy tourists. Most people wait their turn, stand on the staircase for a coupla seconds, snap the foto of them with their arms out or raising the roof or whatever and then they are done.
However...this is one of the problems with digital cameras; you have a massive memory card so you can snap unlimited amounts of fotos. Lots of folks may have huge memory cards but forget to use their own memory and manners when taking a foto.
Which brings me to That Girl. That Girl was the ladytype who actually stood on the steps of Cristo for a good seven minutes while EVERYBODY was waiting for her to get down. People began to crowd, get anxious, and kinda cranky. What I really wanted to do was just stand right in front of this girl to get a good foto but decided otherwise because that would prolly just delayed her from getting down from the stairs. In the end I got a good foto and hopefully That Girl got one as well.
Standing at the feet of JC on one of the most recognized icons in South America was pretty cool. It was a great time to just stand up there and look at Him and then down at the city below. Around 2pm the weather on top of Temptation Mountain was getting pretty darn hot. The sun was beating down and there really is no shade on tops of mountains. It was time to head back down and enjoy a nice Skol beer. I got back down, had a drink, and then hopped on the bus. I was debating whether or not to goto the Sugar Loaf Hill or just catch a nap back at the hostel. Going back to the hostel meant having to interact with Private Dead Puppies Gomer Pyle. Going to Sugar Loaf Hill meant a lot more than dealing with that knucklehead. So I opted for the Sugar Loaf and took two buses to get there.
Sugar Loaf Hill is another one of the icons of Rio. It is roughly a 1000 meter high hill with very steep granite walls that really prevented anybody from accessing it for a long time. Then someone had the idea of installing a cable car from one side to the other. This gave people a great view of the entire city of Rio. It was even featured in the James Bond classic Moonraker where Jaws as the movie's antagonist. The cable car ride up was spectacular. It was a ride where the view kept on getting better and better. Being the joker and kid at heart I decided to kinda jump and make the car kinda wobble a little bit. One girl didnt think it was too funny since she was scared of heights. whoops...But we ended up talking a little bit after that and she was one of the few Israeli girls I have met and actually got to talk to that wasn't traveling in a massive group. That's just something you don't see very often.
The top of Sugar Loaf Hill had a splendid view of Rio de Janeiro. The Rio harbor and business district was viewable from right side of the cable car house. Ipanema, Copacabana, a series of small mountains and JC were what you saw on the left side of the cable car house. Both sides had a really unique view because the business district was all cloudy and overcast while the left side had the happenings of a gorgeous sunset. And it was. The sunset turned out to be a canvas of all sorts of pinks, reds, oranges, blues, purples etc...Only a poet could give you a better description of what there was to see that evening. The silhouette of the mountains and JC really contrasted the partly cloudy sky. Down below the city lights were flickering on all the way from the main strip along Copacabana to the Favelas (slums) up in the hills of Rio. It was one of those evening where you just sit back and relax and take it all in. It was worth the trip up to see the sunset.
I returned back down 730 in the evening and had to hightail it back to the hostel. I was to have dinner with two Argentinian guys from the hostel around 9ish and you can never tell when the buses are gonna be running. So I catch the 512 and start talking to two of the guys I met on the ride down. Roman and Jeremiah were two guys from Carnegie Mellon spending some time on spring break down in Rio. They kept on getting surprised by the number of backpackers they were meeting who were taking off six months or a year. I told them traveling does good for yourself. I said that I thought it helps you figure out what you wanna do and prepares you for the next episode of your life. (as corny as that sounds). You could tell they were pretty smart guys from the way they acted and how they never took whatever you said and one-upped it. They also never interrupted each other when we were talking. They got off the bus before I did and before I knew it I had missed my stop. Cities look alot different down here in the evening. I ended up in Ipanema and was like..."####, i just missed my stop." I didn't wanna be late for dinner with the Argentine fellas so I walked about 50 minutes back to the hostel and made it there for the 9pm dinner bell.
So that is whats been going on so far in Rio. Speaking of dinner bell, It is time to get some food. Laters.