Stairway to Jesus

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December 29th, Rio de Janeiro

Corcovado, meaning “hunchback” is a 710 metre peak located in the Tijuca Forest, a national park in Rio de Janeiro. It lies just West of the city centre and is visible from great distances. It is known worldwide for the 38-metre statue of Jesus atop its peak, entitled Cristo Redentor.

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Somehow I feel that we did most things wrong at the start of our trip to Corcovado and our rendevouz with Jesus. First of all, we had not preordered tickets to the supposedly wheelchair accessible funicular to Corcovado. After being totally lost in translation with two taxi drivers outside the hotel, the reception could inform us that you need to book tickets to the funicular in advance. Especially if you want to visit Jesus during Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

So the six of us decided to stuff our three wheelchairs and bodies into the two taxis instead. We had no idea how far the drivers would be able to take us. And neither of us had the brains to ask them in advance what it would cost to take us to Corcovado.

So then we stood there, in the long line of cars up the hill to Corcovado, together with other silly tourists who wanted to pay Jesus a visit on yet another hot day in Rio. We had no idea what the taxi drive would cost us in the end. We could only hope that it would not be too expensive. Fortunately taxis in Rio are relatively cheap. I would say it is probably 20-25 % of the price in Oslo.

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Taxi driver chat

Anyway, life was not too bad. Excited to see the statue we had heard so much about, we were all able to show both hope and patience. The taxis had good air conditioning and on the radio, they were playing oldies goldies. We even got to hear Stevie Wonder, whom we missed earlier that week. He just called to say he loved us. Just like… 😉

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When we got to the funicular station, the taxi drivers turned out to be extremely useful. Since we had no idea what was going on, and we did not know the language, they helped us get in front of the line (the wheelchair trick), explained the ticket system and promised to wait for us for 1 hour (or maybe a little bit more) at the parking lot while we paid Jesus a visit. The deal was that the drivers were to receive their pay in cash when we got down, and that they did not have to wait for it until heaven… 😉

Although the parking/ticket area seemed pretty chaotic (a mild expression), it still seemed as the cariocas had some kind of system for bringing tourists up and down the hill. Shuttles from the national park came every other minute and let people out and picked new ones up. After a short while, a nice big car with a brand new wheelchair lift arrived. They had room for 3 wheelchair users (if you can scoot over) and 3 assistants. They tied our chairs up and took us up the last part of the hill, to the first view point and the stairway to Jesus.

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There is a ramp to get up to the kiosk at the first view point, but if you have a power chair, this is where your journey ends. You can see the statue from behind, but there are moving stairs (escalators) to get to the summit (and a normal lift at the top).

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Why do people always stand on the wheelchair ramp, when there are stairs right next to it? One of the world’s mysteries, if you ask me..

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Happy tourists at level 1. Ready for level 2, in a minute.

We wanted to see it all, and decided to try the escalators. The people from the park offer you assistance, but I preferred the ride with my helpful friend instead. Riding with the park people, they turned the escalator on and off, on and off, on and off until you reached the top at snail speed. I felt like being in a silly computer game, where you are forced to start over and over again, until you finally reach the summit.

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Disabled people need to be accompanied (but at least you are allowed to go)

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Playing “green light / red light” with the park people

If you are overly critical, I guess our rendevouz with Jesus was at the wrong time. It was the wrong day (packed with people), the wrong photo light (direct sunlight), the wrong weather (partial fog) and the wrong planning (no tickets to the funicular). But we were just happy to be there. Disabled people are easy to please, when it comes to accessible (new) wonders of the world. 😉

Corcovado was filled with people who all wanted to have ”their perfect tourist shot” with the Saviour himself. The religious people could visit the small chapel inside the statue, while the rest of us walked bewildered around from viewpoint to viewpoint, trying to have the perfect Kodak moment. People took photos of Jesus, people took photos of themselves and people took photos of people taking pictures. And I am sure Jesus played a small part, when the fog suddenly left for a few minutes, making it possible to enjoy the amazing views to Ipanema, Copacabana, the Sugar Loaf and the rest of the Rio landscape.

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View to Ipanema and Lagoa (the lake)

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View to Copacabana

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After 30 minutes or so, we remembered that we had taxis waiting for us at the parking spot. We decided to decend from our hiding place above the clouds (literally speaking) and have a rendevouz with our drivers instead. They seemed happy to see us again and the trip downhill went remarkably faster than uphill.

When we got back to our hotel we were quite curious how much the drivers would charge us. Not only had we spent 20 minutes on being lost in translation before the trip (saved by the reception), but they had also waited almost 1,5 hour for us at Corcovado. It turned out they wanted 300R for each car, which is probably considered to be expensive. Compared to what this trip would cost in Norway (or a taxi + funicular here), we paid the price and looked happy. After all, the drivers had been both patient and very helpful.

We all agreed that 100R for each person and 26R in entrance fee, was quite an acceptable price for a rendezvous with Jesus. We were not saved, not cured, but we DID get our Kodak moments… 😉

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You can more about the rendevouz with Jesus (in Norwegian) in Grybetrotter’s blog.

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Reveillon in Rio

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