It was a very bright and early morning today. I am looking forward to some sleep very soon! We scheduled a tour pick-up for 7:30 a.m. It seemed a little pricey, but I wasn’t going to try to figure out how to get up the mountain to see the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer.
We were met in the lobby of the hotel by Carmen. She is a lifetime, self-proclaimed “liver” of Rio. She explained to us that the name for people who are born and raised in Rio is “Carioca.” She showed great interest in the history and beginning stories of Rio. Things became a little strange when we told her that we were just fresh off of a trip to Antarctica. We were thrilled to learn, from Carmen, all about the supposed pyramids that have been discovered there. We tried to explain to her that we were just visiting the continent and didn’t see such thing. Oh… but the story just didn’t end there. I was puzzled and honestly was starting to feel a little shorted by my folks at National Geographic! How dare they not show us the pyramids? ;)
Carmen was very pleasant and her English very clear – which was a big positive. The Portuguese language has been super funny, sometimes difficult and confusing to us. We aren’t sure if it wants to be Spanish, French or Italian. I have completely quit trying and have accepted my “American” roots while always trying to be polite.
Carmen was on the spot with our very small photographic windows. Within a minute of ascending to the statue, fog began to magically appear as if we were in a movie. She told us to quickly pose – and she expertly snapped photos. Then, the giant statue began to disappear into the white, mystical haze. We were literally in the clouds – with nothing to see. I cannot lie; it was a little disappointing. I hadn’t looked at my photos at that point and felt sad. I had traveled all this way to see one of the new wonders of the world – and it vanished! I was very happy to see later that Carmen captured wonderful photos. I can relive it over and over. We really only saw the stature for less than 2 minutes!
This is what we saw RIGHT AFTER this photo was taken! Courtesy of Mr. Sanders. That white stuff is where the statue is SUPPOSED to be!
We then made our way to Sugar Loaf. It is a mountain that soars from the waters off of the shore of Rio. You take a cable car to get up to the mountain. On our way, we learned more about Carmen. She travels and loves it. She has been to many places in the United States. One particular story involved her capturing “orb-like energy” in photographs while she was visiting New York City. There was not point in debating her at this juncture. Mr. Sanders already thought I was pushing it when I challenged her about the pyramids in Antarctica. I was so close to asking her about aliens that have crashed there. Mr. Sanders would have abandoned me for sure. If you take a moment to Google these things, please know that there are NOT Aliens, Orbs or Pyramids in Antarctica. Carmen is just a little weird although very well experienced in giving tours.
Back to Sugar Loaf… It was lovely. There were cute Marmosets monkeys climbing all around and entertaining the folks. The climb up the cable was steady and quick with 2 levels of climb switching from one rock formation to the other. Daring climbers were scaling the vertical mountainside; I wondered if National Geographic were here if they would make us rappel the steep slope. If you sat long enough, you would be sure to find reptile life, blending into the rocks in which they sat. All of this, of course, was bathed in new fog coming through.
It was a fun day and evening as we ended sitting on the beach of Copacabana with one of Mr. Sander’s old roommates from New York City. His friends were all 20 years younger than Mr. Szymanski. It was fun to feel like I was in college again. We laughed and enjoyed watching the sunset, taking in the ambiance of Rio. Waves were crashing, and people were fishing off the shore. The sky setting in the night was replaced by the reflection of the hotels and buildings on the oceanfront. Sometimes, you just have to take a big breathe and take it all in!
You know that you wanted to see a photo of Carmen! I don't see any orbs or aliens. Do you?
I know that many of you are celebrating a visit from a jolly, old man in red right now. Regardless of what holiday you celebrate! Wishing you a wonderful, and safe holiday season! May the orbs and pyramids be with you!
Mr. Szymanski is a 1st grade teacher at Walt Disney Elementary School in Chicago, IL. He is bringing the world to his classroom with the help of National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. Here, he chronicles his adventures to Antarctica and South America in December 2014.