Parque Lage and Cristo Redentor
Sometimes the best-laid plans don’t work out. And sometimes they don’t work out for a reason! Kismet, as they say. Case in point, the first day of the new year. Since we were up late the night before, and since it was still scorching hot outside, my friend Ryan and I opted for a day at the botanical gardens (SHADE!). At first, we attempted to take a taxi, but there were none to be found. The post-new-years-traffic-debacle of 2014, if you will. We even attempted to take a car from the hotel, but were informed that was not going to happen. With some vague instructions in hand, we set off to take the bus. We made progress by finding the correct bus stop, but after 20 minutes our bus still hadn’t shown up, so we took off on foot. Walking is fine, but did I mention how hot it was? Yeah, sweating buckets. So we ended up walking maybe a mile, before spotting the correct bus, which we happily climbed aboard. I will say that the buses of Rio are extremely clean, cheap, and efficient – oh, and they have air condition too!
Eventually we made our way to the botanical gardens, yay!
Go figure, the gardens are CLOSED on New Year’s Day. We weren’t the only ones; there were several other would-be visitors who also showed up, only to see that the gardens were closed for the day. Bummer. This was now two activities in two days that didn’t work out for us (we were meant to go sky-diving the day before, only to have our instructor not show up – because he was in a car accident!). Discouraged, Ryan lamented that nothing was working out for us. Ever the optimist, I mentioned that sometimes things don’t work out, but it just means that there’s something better up ahead – maybe an unexpected site to see or a cool cafe to hang out in. We both had sunglasses on, so I can’t say for sure, but I’m *pretty* sure that got a big eye roll from him, ha.
As we walked around Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, we came across a few coconut vendors! Fresh coconut water is just divine. So much better than the packaged stuff that they sell in boxes back home! It was the perfect, refreshing treat in the tropical heat.
Next, we headed to Parque Lage, the former residence of a rich industrialist, turned park. I think you could throw some killer parties in this joint! Love the views and the pool.
After making our way around the grounds, we saw a sign that said that it was the beginning of the hike up Corcovado, where the Cristo Redentor statue is located. Ordinarily, I’d have been up for a hike. However, thinking it would be a leisurely day at the gardens, I was rocking super-cute/ super-nonfunctional sandals, a ruffly tank top, and had no water with me, none of which was conducive for this hike. Ryan, on the other hand, decided to brave it in flip-flops and filled up on water from a random tap in the gardens. So we parted ways, and I thought that I’d head back, and maybe spend the day in Ipanema or Leblon.
But moments later (literally, I think it was two minutes), I overheard some Aussie English, and of course I had to strike up a conversation! As it were, Daniel, Jason, and Stef mentioned that they were headed to the Cristo statue. I told them that Ryan had just headed that way, and that they’d probably cross paths with him on the hike. That’s when they all looked at me slightly bewildered saying that they were just planning to take a taxi. HA! Reason #487 why it pays to talk to strangers! They were all so nice and I loved hearing about their upcoming plans for Machu Picchu. It also turned out they live in Melbourne (where half my family lives) and in the very same neighborhood as my cousin Kish!
Miraculously, we were able to grab a taxi pretty quickly outside of the park. We asked to be taken to the cable cars, but the driver insisted (via pointing to a brochure) that he was going to take us to the vans instead. We were slightly confused and skeptical, but went with it. Once at the van site, we bought roundtrip tickets up Corcovado. The views were stunning, and it was a speedy ride.
Once at the top, we were able to simply walk up the steps to Cristo. Now, this turned out to be great luck, as everyone else we spoke with had to spend hours and hours in line (in direct sunlight) to get onto the cable cars. Some people had even turned back because they couldn’t take it. So, it was a good call by the taxi driver!
And here we have Cristo Redentor. Built in the 1920’s, and spanning 98 ft (30 m) tall, the figure is considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world. It was really cool to see it from afar, all over Rio, and finally see it up close. An impressive piece of art, and a moving symbol to many. After taking several photos, we decided to stay for the sunset.
The gang asked me if Ryan and I planned to meet up near the statue. I told them it was improbable since we didn’t have a way of calling each other, plus he didn’t even know I was going to be there. Of course, at that very moment I happened to look up and see Ryan waving from across the way. I swear, things like that always seem to happen; little coincidences!
See, if it weren’t for the botanical gardens being closed, we never would have visited Parque Lage, made some new friends from half-way around the world, or ended up at Cristo Redentor that day. Sometimes there’s just something amazing waiting for you around the corner!