Our first outing was to the Sugar Loaf Mountain, a 400m high monolith reached by cable car (for us at least, others climbed the rocks or walked the winding trails to the summit). The cable car first stops at Morro da Urca, the neighbouring boulder where you can shop for souvenirs, havaianas or just sit in the shade with a caipirinha taking in the magnificent views. From the top, Rio is truly a sight to behold.
(Sorry if I am bombarding you with photos, but how do I choose which ones to leave out??)
When we arrived, the 30m high statue, Christo Redentor, perched atop the Corcovado Mountain in the distance, was in the clouds, but just as we were about to descend the clouds cleared and the Christ became visible. It’s quite amazing – you know He’s there, you’ve seen lots of photos in the guide books and all over Rio, and even from this distance the first sight of Him manages to be breathtaking. Helicopter tours leave from Sugarloaf and they are super popular – at once stage we saw three helicopters circling the statue. I just loved their ad poster!
Probably the second best viewpoint in Rio (or maybe the best, who can say?) is from the feet of Christo Redentor. One has to go through the Parque National da Tijuca, the beautiful tropical national park, one of the world’s largest urban forests, to get to the iconic statue. Luckily our taxi driver was very laidback (must have been one of a kind now that I look back at our couple of days in Rio!) allowing us to experience a bit of this peaceful forest.
The statue was first inaugurated in 1931 with several subsequent renovations, and it is built from blocks of soapstone and, at 30m in height, is visible from most places in Rio. His serene face and outstretched arms would not have had such an impact at ground level, and even amongst the hordes of visitors there is a timeless atmosphere about the place, a real sense of God’s presence hovering above all the frantic activity that seems ant-like from this height.