Saturday, April 23, 2011

In Rio, it can be hell trying to reach Jesus

An idyllic trek through a tropical rainforest to see Rio’s iconic Jesus statue wasn’t supposed to include a non-stop drum of pumping helicopter blades or clouds of diesel smoke. It would be a much nicer hike without those trappings of industrial tourism -- but instead of yelling and screaming about it like a good outdoors elitist, I’ve decided to just find better hikes.

It didn’t help that I picked a beautiful sunny Saturday the day before Easter when everyone and their grandmother decided to go up Corcovado.

The hike itself is a nice 1 ½ hour walk up the mountain, only we were always listening to the thrum of helicopters. I think I would have felt differently about it had they been police operations to ferret out drug dealers in Rio slums. They were in fact tourists paying several hundred dollars for 5-minute jaunts with panoramic views of the city, which I was less sympathetic to. Eventually you reach the funicular tracks that carry tourists up on a train, and from there it’s a 15 minute walk to where the actual statue is.

Only once we got there we realized we couldn’t actually get in – you can only buy a ticket down at the city level. We could see bits and pieces of Jesus, so to speak, and hordes of people standing in lines, but getting in would have involved going back down the mountain and coming back up. No thanks.

We ended up walking back down for another two hours. The stretch first was along a road with no sidewalk where we had to duck vans flying up and down with tourists. Then we got to a circus scene of bumper-to-bumper traffic that stretched for probably a mile, packed with people trying to walk along the side of the road, covered in clouds of exhaust.

The system seems to encourage people to drive up to a mid-point and then take a van service the rest of the way up (cars are prohibited past that point). They could of course encourage people to walk up by actually allowing them to buy tickets, which they don’t seem to want to do because this would break the van transport service’s monopoly.

But some of this is simply capacity overload. There are just too many people trying to get up a mountain to stand on a relatively small platform overlooking the city. It’s such a monument to Rio that the city can’t maintain it as an exclusive site for well-heeled cariocas and jet-setting tourists. It’s a logistical problem that I don’t see an immediate solution to. My own problem with this experience has an obvious out – go somewhere else. Floresta da Tijuca, which covers a huge portion of Rio, has plenty of hikes to do. I’d rather go on one of those than holler about how access to Corcovado should be revamped so that I’ll like it better.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


The newest member of the family and a big lifestyle change for us: Lupita. She’s awesome! Beautiful, well behaved, sociable, and comes with a great story.

Isa had been talking about getting a dog for a while. She eventually mentioned it to our friend Lhyoba, who immediately pounced at the opportunity – she had just had a second kid and couldn’t handle them both along with two dogs. (I hear it’s a common Craiglist phenomenon to find pets being offered up by folks that have recently become parents.

I knew Lhyoba and her husband Peter had lived in Mexico, so I assumed Lupita was linked to the Virgin of Guadalupe casts long shadow, a cultural icon that casts a long shadow in Mexico. Wrong. She was born in Venezuela, and was real cry-baby when she was a puppy. So Lhyoba named her after Lupita Ferrer, a Venezuelan drama queen soap opera actress from the 1970s. When they moved to Mexico they ended up calling her just Pita – turns out half the female population of Mexico is named Lupe or Lupita, so when they’d call out her name at the park all the women would turn around. Now in Brazil she’s back to Lupita.

I’ve always loved dogs but haven’t had one since I lived with my folks. I’ve always had the lazy streak that leaves me not wanting to deal with the responsibilities of a pet – daily walking, feeding, finding someplace to leave them when we leave town, etc. Turns out pets are worth it. Just over the last week, we’ve been waking up earlier, doing more exercise, and having more random interaction with people fascinated by our beautiful Golden Retriever. I can’t imagine this having worked out better.