The towering 98ft limestone Cristo Redentor sits in the middle of the Tijuca national park, a tropical jungle smack in the middle of the city.
The artsy neighborhood of Santa Teresa, the Catedral Metropolitana downtown, (depending on who you talk to 26-46% of Brazilians are catholic) and 1300 foot high Sugarloaf, a huge granite and quartz rock that over looks Copacabana, and Ipanema beaches. Whew. This is the city version of eight cities in ten days.
A van full of folks from Europe, South Africa, Brazil, and the U.S.,
led by a young, fast talking guide sped through the city as if we were being pursued.
"When I say stick together, ju shud be together. When I say ju hav 20 minutes, ju hav that. If ju become lat, it is bad for ju-not for me. I tell ju that if ju are late ju will be sorry because ju will miss the sunset from Sugerloaf mountain and it is best part of trip!"
Warned, we careened around a narrow mountain road to a busy parking area where there were long lines of tourists waiting to board park vans to haul them further up the hill to the elevators or steps that finally end at the feet of the Cristo.
Raphael retrieved our tickets and whisked us past the queue. At the base of the elevators he commanded, " we meet here at twenty minutos past three. Everybody together. OK?" We were there. The van was not. We waited. Maybe fifteen minutes later we were winding our way down through the hilly neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Aging, elegant homes stood tall above us like so many widows with veiled eyes.
On the downside slope below them were shops filled with what appeared to be artistic stuff. We didn’t have time to browse. When we parked on a side street, Raphael announced: "We will not see the sunset. The traffic is bad because it is Friday." "It’s Thursday!"we rang out. "Ahhh. It’s bad traffic for Thursday," he laughed. You had to love him. Separately we explored stairs
that were covered with tiles representing places around the world.
"Remember. I say important to stay together. It’s worse here." By this time no one was listening. We certainly didn’t stay together. I wandered into Balaze Gardi. A truly wonderful exhibit of black and white photographs showing our planet's troubling issue with water. For some sobering reminders have a look at his website.
I wanted to see more, spend more time, but I didn’t. I hate being the last person on the bus. Next, the conical cathedral. Lovely. I liked it best reflected in the office building across the street.
"Five minutoes!" he called to us as we poured out of the van. "Only five!" It was dark as we pulled up to Pao de Acucar or Sugarloaf which is actually two mountains. . Waiting for the Italian cable car up to the highest point there was a sign that read: ‘Do not feed the wild animals." Now this is an extremely high volume pedestrian area. "What animals are here?" I asked. Raphael, a master of improv, said " Nada. No animales live here now. Maybe before." Then he recanted. "Monkeys. But it is winter and they are gone for the winter." Gone for the winter? The temperature is in the 70s-f. It is not cold. Nevertheless, maybe they have gone to Columbia, or Florida-somewhere quiet. Finally we reached the top. The view was spectacular as promised. "We will meet together. Here. Twenty minutoes. Together."