Rejecting the Easy Way: Hiking Rio’s Famous Peaks
PHOTO: View from the top of Corcovado. (photos by Carson Poplin)
When I was younger, my parents used to make my siblings and me do ridiculous activities. When I was three, we all had to walk up Stone Mountain in Atlanta as a rite of passage. Later on, they decided biking across the entire state of Georgia would be a fun family vacation.
My entire childhood is riddled with these strange physical challenges that most would consider insane. I decided early on that when I had the choice, I was never going to do things the hard way when there was an easier alternative.
And yet, while I was in Rio de Janeiro last month, I opted to hike its two most famous mountains: Sugarloaf and Corcovado — the peak that is home to the majestic “Christ the Redeemer.”
My decision to hike rather than take a cable car or bus came at a price. I knew that if I hiked, my selfies would be non-Instagrammable. Because, sweat! Being the millennial that I am, this was almost a deal breaker.
So I hiked, first tackling Sugarloaf. You can’t actually hike Sugarloaf itself, but you can climb Morro da Urca, the first peak of this famous two-humped mountain. It wasn’t a hard hike, but I did indeed get very, very sweaty on the way.
PHOTO: A Sugarloaf selfie.
Once I made it to the top of Morro da Urca, I had to take the cable car the rest of the way up to the top of Sugarloaf proper for the best views. The whole excursion took less than two hours — especially since a friend of mine provided me with this insider tip: buy the cable car ticket at the bottom. Still, I determined that I was too sweaty for Instagram and that the views would simply have to speak for themselves.
Hiking to Christ the Redeemer was more of an undertaking and I did much more research before starting. The consensus seemed to be that hiking Corcovado is dangerous. I read articles online about muggings happening along the trail. But I wasn’t fazed, since this sounded a lot like the narrative surrounding the entire city of Rio. (It’s worth noting that I didn’t tell my family about this part until after I had already survived it.)
So, armed with my trusty pink pepper spray, I took off early one morning in an attempt to beat the heat. For the first and last time, I braved the Rio bus system to get to the beginning of the hiking trail across town in Parque Lage. At the start, there was a guard who took my name and told me in Portuguese to follow the signs and be careful (I think).
It took almost two hours to hike to the top. It was easy to navigate but steep and slippery because of recent rains. The most difficult part was managing a section of steep rock with only a thick chain to grasp.
When I reached the part of the hill where most tourists arrive by bus, I stopped to change into a dry shirt. Yeah, I really do sweat a lot.
I paid my partial entrance fee — that didn’t include transportation — and then took the escalator the remainder of the way to see Christo. (I know, I cheated at the very end!).
The top was crowded with people who had more energy than me, taking selfies that I bitterly assumed would get lots of likes because they didn’t look like they’d been run over by the bus that drove them up the mountain.
PHOTO: "Christ the Redeemer" and tourists who took the bus.
Despite my less-than-pristine visage, I really enjoyed the hike. I didn’t get mugged, I got a good workout … and a selfie with my hair and makeup perfectly placed probably wouldn’t have been that popular anyway.
More by Carson Poplin
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