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Volume 25 No. 49
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Trip Up To Christ The Redeemer Is Great, But Getting Down Is Hard

Christ the Redeemer is stunning, if not tricky to get to — and difficult to get back down from.
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I woke up early Sunday to visit Christ the Redeemer, where once again I learned the lessons of thriving at the Olympics: make friends, collaborate to solve problems and know when to admit defeat.

After yet another 90-minute Uber ride (having a lot of those down here) and queuing for another 30 minutes, I grabbed a seat in the front of a 15-passenger van to make the final ascent from the visitor center to the 125-foot-tall art deco Jesus.

There, I met Beth, a Los Angeleno who was in town to cheer on a friend on the Canadian beach volleyball team. In a remarkable coincidence, she was born at the same hospital as me in Canton, Ohio. Both traveling alone, we stuck together and that turned out to be a lifesaver.

Once we had our fill of vistas and selfies, we returned to the visitor center and considered our options for return trips down the mountain. We realized our mistake. Can’t really buy space on a tourist bus from the top of the mountain, and the group of Hershey’s and NBC corporate guests near us had their own bus.

Cabbies hanging around sensed a couple of desperate, well-off Americans and quoted us exorbitant off-meter prices. Well, we’re not suckers, at least not in that sense.

Uber? A good idea, but cell coverage was spotty, and drivers just one mile away — vertically — kept accepting the trip only to realize they were 20 minutes away from the growing traffic jam at the top. A Dutch family we spoke with actually got into an Uber, but the driver couldn’t technically accept the ride with no signal.

So we decided to walk. And walk. And walk. Both of our cell phones were running low. I conducted a brief interview with USOC Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Baird as Beth waited. Twenty minutes passed. We were in fact descending the mountain, but she had a flight to catch and I had to work.

I wanted to keep walking, figuring my own feet were more reliable than nothing. She insisted it was too long. So I kept trying to hail an Uber, and she negotiated with police for a ride in the back of a pickup truck. Neither worked. Finally, a car with no markings whatsoever stopped, and an outgoing burly man said “Taxi?”

Well … this goes against every bit of safety training I had, but it was time to admit defeat — like so often in Rio, when I thought I might outsmart the official transportation system, only to realize there was no good way on my own.

Beth seemed to know what she was doing, so I trusted her. When it came time to talk payment through a language barrier, I thought he was like the cabs, insisting on a 200 real ($62) fare. Beth knew he said 25.

That seemed fair. Ten minutes later, we were at a Metro stop. I didn’t know where we were, but Beth did. When it came time to pay the man, we split the fare, even-Steven.

My first instinct in a professional environment is always to figure things out on my own, and that’s gotten me in trouble a few times here in Brazil. I might still be on that mountain if I didn’t trust Beth and know when to pick the slightly shady cab over a two-hour hike down a mountain. A lesson for all Olympics.