We arrived to Rio de Janeiro after 24 hours spent on a bus. It was the longest bus ride of my life! I was very exited to finally visit the city that is considered the most popular in South America. A Portuguese navigator – Gaspar de Lemos – discovered Guanabara Bay in January 1502. He mistook the bay for a river and named it Rio de Janeiro. Rio was the capital of independent Brazil until Brasilia took over in 1960.
We dropped our backpacks in the hostel and went straight to see the Cristo Redentor. The famous statue is located on top of Corcovado mountain (700 meters high) in the middle of Tijuca National Park. Cristo Redentor, with his welcoming outstretched arms, is 30 meters high and was rised in 1922 to commemorate the 100 years of independence of Brazil. It is considered the largest Art Deco statue and the 5th largest statue of Jesus in the world
There are different ways to get to the top of Corcovado. The most common one is by cute, old train that takes you straight to the feet of the statue. We got there in the afternoon though, and unfortunately all the tickets were sold out for that day, so we had no choice but taking a van ride. The good thing about it was that it stopped half way up and we could take a while to admire the views of the city and the statue itself. The good thing about getting there late was that we could see the sunset. The play of light was unforgettable and within an hour we could see the statue and the city change completely. The way up to the mountain is spectacular. I admit that I did not know much about Rio. I read a bit right before getting there but the truth is I did not know what to expect.
On the way up, looking threw the window of the van, I started creating my own image of the city. There is nature, a beautiful landscape of a green, tropical country: unlimited waters of the ocean and its beaches, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, Pão de Açúcar (two mountains connected by cable cars above Bahia de Guanavara), and there is this massive concrete jungle that grew there over the years. Those two worlds are crashing together in a unique way, creating a place that is beautiful and ugly at the same time. From the top of Corcovado we admired undisturbed 360 degree view of the city and the coast. The statue of Cristo is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World and it is impressive, but frankly I was expecting something else, something better.
We wondered where the real source of magnificence lies. Is it the enormous concrete monument itself or the divine greatness it refers to, that makes people from all over the world climb the hill, open their arms, and look towards the city of Rio? We did not manage to answer that, but surely it is worth going all the way up there just to observe this amazing scenario and keep a picture of it in your head for the rest of your life!