Need to expunge the sins and excesses of Carnaval? Climb the mount and visit O Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). The Big J can be seen from nearly all areas of Rio, and is supposedly one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World." Whatever that means. As with most tourist attractions, it's popular for a reason, and was one of the first non-Carnaval items we decided to visit.
The enormous Jesus statue is perched atop Corcovado mountain, at an elevation of 2300 feet, amid the Tijuca Forest National Park. So the first big decision is how to get up there. We were hoping to catch the train, supposedly a marvel of engineering itself as it goes nearly straight up the mountain. But when we hopped off the bus, there was a 3+ hourlong wait for the next train due to the crush of tourists. So we grabbed a van, which was nearly the same price, and up we went.
In typical Brazilian fashion (something else to file away under "This Country Needs an Easy Button"), it was explained in broken English that we'd need to pick up another van partway up, but we'd purchased a roundtrip ticket and could come back at any time. What this actually meant was that the "hired car" shuttles only take you to a certain point -- which you could also drive up to yourself, theoretically -- and then you have to get out and buy a ticket for entrance into the park. From there the park shuttles bring you up to the summit. This involves a good bit of standing in perhaps-pointless lines and not being entirely sure what the heck is going on. But you will eventually get there. And so we did. Along with several hundred camera-clicking visitors.
I found The Big Jesus statue pretty creepy up close. Unless you go for a helicopter tour, it's not possible to enjoy the iconic view over the shoulder of Cristo beaming benevolently down on the city. So we ended up circling the base, looking up at the vacuous blank eyes, searching for the "perfect" photo op. Along with several hundred other tourists doing exactly the same thing.
There's not really much else to do atop the mountain with Our Lord and Savior, but we'd shelled out the bucks and waited in lines and crammed ourselves in with our fellow man, so we hung out for a while, trying to appreciate the overcast view. The breeze was delightful. And we were able to spot a few familiar landmarks. But after a while all the shoving and jostling for space got to be a bit much. Did I mention there were several hundred people up there at the same time? Whew. We stretched it out a bit by having an overpriced beer at the cafe, but it was eventually time to call it a day and queue up for the ear-popping ride back down.
Worth it? Definitely. Frustrating? A tad. Completely Brazilian? You bet. Stay tuned for our counterpoint experience at Pão de Açúcar.