I stand with my back against the rock, the stark granite cool against my skin. The ebony outline of trees only meters away barely visible in the night – between my toes and the trees, a vast drop to Rio de Janiero. My stomach loses balance and my knees begin to tremble. I gulp and reach behind me for comfort, finding only an uneven surface. Anxious for a way to relieve the vertigo, it takes everything not to hurtle myself into the 700-metre-high abyss. I am relieved to hear smooth, Brazilian tones calling “Sara, where are you? We’re nearly there.”
It was Saturday night and I had been invited to go with some Brazilians friends to climb what they translated as ‘Lookout Point’ to watch the sunrise over Rio. The usual Caipirinha-soaked, pick-pocket-dodging Saturday evenings were spent in Lapa, trying to Samba to the vibrant and engaging street music in a comparatively stiff, British manner. We had started the walk at 2am at sea-level. We jumped off the bus, excitable and talkative, and made our way to the base.
The tarmac soon turned to a dirt track and we fell silent as the huge rock, , loomed 842 metres above us. The breeze soon dipped under the cover of the foliage. The gradient steepened and the terrain became unpredictable. Gnarled tree roots tangled at our feet and rocks jutted out; an amble became an obstacle course. Not to be out-done by the supple Capoeiras and Kick-boxers ahead of me, I stalked and vaulted in their casual trail.
I tried to ignore the lack of ropes as I scaled 6 meters up a volte face. My main worry was that my pounding heart would cause an avalanche. Hearing my companions’ jolly voices ahead, I skirted round a bend to I find myself face-to-face with the night. Toes teetering on the edge and insides willing me to jump, I was coaxed back into the fold. “You wanna jump, huh?” they laughed.
We reach the summit and the granite becomes a comfort beneath my feet. Centuries of wind and rain have softened the edges and we take our seats as the sky brightens in the east.
As each slither of Sol creeps out from behind the horizon, the curtains lift on the city of Rio de Janeiro. The peaks of the hills below are just visible above the ethereal mist; Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain stand in a stale mate on opposite sides of the white, billowing lake. The reflection of the sun across the South Atlantic Ocean moves toward us, its glistening fingers beckoning us forward. The other honeyed hand sweeps in an arc across the sky, trailing behind it red, orange and a vivid blue that pushes the night behind us.
The 360° sprawling metropolis provides a dynamic and memorable backdrop to a skilled display of acrobatics and capoiera. We whoop and cheer to the graceful movements: a welcome change from a Sunday Caipirinha hang-over.