By Ricky Skelton
It seems like from most places in Rio, Cristo looms above, waving at you to stop. You can’t miss him, he even lights up at night, appearing suspended in the black sky like a Mediterranean David Copperfield if the stars are covered by high clouds. So how is he so difficult to find for yourself? Is it a Carioca conspiracy to ensure tourists use taxis? It works for me. I will definitely be doing it that way next time. A three hour journey is a little too much when it can probably be done in twenty minutes.

We set off from the edge of the laguna in Barra, with the directions fresh in at least three of our minds. We made it up the hill to the forest on top ok, but could never find our way to the correct road. A little puzzling when there are only two roads on top of the mountain. The low cloud didn’t help. It wasn’t until we’d dropped below the level of it and could see the Maracana below us that we realised we were on the opposite side of the hill from where we started out, and so very, very lost. One person we stopped on the side of the road had told us we had 17km to drive to get to Cristo. How this happened, we don’t know. Then we ended up at the bottom of the hill, arriving at dead-ends and train tracks, before finding a monkey forest with signposts for the top.

Brazilian directions are a story in themselves, suffice to say that not every local knows the way to Christ the Redeemer. In fact, out of a total of 382 people we questioned for our survey in that three hour journey, only a group of kids on bikes knew the exact way. But as they were kids on bikes, and wanted money for joining us in the car and guiding us there (there were already six big people crammed into a rental car the size of a shopping trolley), we didn’t trust them and went the other way through the favela (never as scary as people in the press seem to think). They were still sat on their bikes at the junction, looking bemusedly at us as we came around the corner half an hour later. There’s a valuable lesson about trust in there somewhere, but it would take me too long to find it.

So, the statue itself. And the view from there, what can I say that hasn’t been said a million times before? How about Nothing? Not many people say that because not many people see that. The cloud was heavy, sitting on his shoulders like the weight of the world. We couldn’t see that far though. His shoulders, his head, his arms, his body, even his cloak, all were shrouded in mist. Three hours of driving to see a pair of concrete feet. Fantastic.

Quick! Get the camera back out! He’s here! The cloud miraculously parted for a brief half a minute, and there he was looking down at us, spookily appearing and then hiding forever in the grey swirls. Late afternoon isn’t the best time to arrive, even if you did intend to get there at midday. Pão de Aucar would have to wait for another day. We didn’t trust our sense of direction enough to find it within three days. Obviously the fresh early morning air would be the best time to wave back to him, and say hello to the city. I will be going again, tenho certeza, but next time I will definitely get a taxi up the hill early in the morning. Not being an early kind of person, it would make more sense to go there straight from a club. I used to do it regularly to get to work, so I can definitely manage my next Cristo trip this way. As long as its clear. Being drunk at sunrise by one of the world’s most famous landmarks, looking out over one of the world’s best cities, sounds like a great start to a day.

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Previous articles by Ricky:

Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

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