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What to really expect when visiting Christ the Redeemer

Over the past few years there have been quite a lot of those articles (you know, the type that don’t require you to do any actual reading, just looking at pretty pictures!) floating around the interweb, all with a heading that goes seomthing along the lines of Travel Expectations vs Reality, and a lot of them featuring the New 7 Wonders of the World.

I’ve always taken these articles with a pinch of salt – they’re obviously going to show the worst case scenarios, right? Is mainstream media even mainstream media if it isn’t trying to terrorise us into thinking the worst of everybody and every place?

I’ll give you an example: the Great Wall of China. Every photo you see, every tale you hear told; it all focuses on the fact that there is an actual sea of people moving along the wall with you. You’re like sardines, all marching forward in uniform because there’s no physical way you could go back against the tide.

Ask almost anybody who’s been to the main parts of the Wall, and they’ll tell you it was overcrowded, it was hot, there were too many people, and that sort of detracted from the overall appeal of what is supposedly one of the world’s most magnificent sites.

EDIT (05/17): Last August, I visited the Great Wall myself, via the Mutianyu entrance. Although a lot less popular than the main point of entry from Beijing (Badaling), it’s still one of the most common routes people opt for, simply due to its accessibility from Beijing. And do you know what? There was hardly anyone there! You can see that from my pictures. Aside from a few stragglers in the very back of each shot, it’s almost deserted – the complete opposite to what the aforementioned articles lead you to believe.

Having been fortunate enough to have visited many places featured in such articles (all 7 Wonders y’all!), I’ve been able to laugh at them, nod in agreeance with some and ridicule others. Macchu Picchu, for example. The Machu Picchu you see in pictures and on postcards? It is the Machu Picchu you get in real life!

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Machu Picchu. Photo by 18 year old me, not Google Images.

Irrespective of what the internet says, alpacas do not photobomb every single photo you try to take. I visited during peak holiday season, the same as Petra, the Colosseum, and Taj Mahal, and I promise that whereas there are (obviously) a lot of visitors, none of them were anywhere near as crowded as the Internet makes them seem. They were all as beautiful, magnificent and breath-taking as they are in pictures too, irrespective of the weather forecast. A bit of mist behind the Taj Mahal or fog obscuring the view of Machu Picchu just add to their magnificence.

And then I went to Rio…

This is the Christ the Redeemer we recognise, the one we expect and hope to see:

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And this is what I got:

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I’d been warned when buying my ticket that day that ‘visibility was quite poor’ – and there was even a little TV screen where you could check the view in live time – but Apple weather said that it would clear up by 3pm, so I bought a ticket for then. Because hey, when is Apple ever wrong?!

As it turns out, the vendors at the ticket office know a lot more about the local weather than Apple does.

Not only did the fog affect the visibility of the Big Guy, but it also made it look and feel like you’re floating on a cloud, meaning the spectacular views of Rio that makes this Wonder so special, were non-existent.

Entry tickets plus transport there and back from Copacabana cost the equivalent of about £10, which wouldn’t exactly break the bank of even the most budget of travellers, and so we just went back the next day when the weather (and more importantly visibility) was a little better…

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Second time lucky!

Selfie game is strong at the feet of ole Cristo, though. And it is absolutely impossible to get a photo of yourself and Jesus without either looking like a thumb or having a bunch of people floating in the background. I would say about 60% of people up there didn’t even really glance up at the statue; they were all too busy facing the other way with their selfie sticks out and poses ready. It’s a shame, really.

So yeah, if you ever plan to make your way up to Cristo Redentor, don’t forget to check the weather first.