Sights Unseen

Don’t you just love when you seem to have hit the zeitgeist moment for a trip? We had been planning a trip that would take us through Rio when U.S. News & World Report ran its cover story on Sacred Places in the World with the Christ the Redeemer statue on the cover. Brazil trades as heavily (arguably, more so) on this iconic statue that literally lords over Rio’s beachfront as it does on ‘The Girl from Ipanema.’ Named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the sheer scale of the 125-feet tall Christ statue is a siren call to travelers who want to add a major landmark to their ‘been there, done that’ lists.

But Rio had its own plans on the day we arrived. We landed in the morning to a bright haze at Antonio Carlos Jobim Airport. Not serious cover but the clouds stuck like dryer lint to the surrounding mountains, most notably Corcovado, the one the statue rests on. We figured we could see it the next day before we left, but no such luck. While the sun broke through and turned Copacabana Beach into a sizzling white strip, a cove-curve away, Ipanema Beach remained covered, including the mountains above it.
This isn’t my first run-in with a legendary landmark going shy. A highlight of a cross-country drive in 2001, was to be my first visit to the Grand Canyon. We arrived the week before Christmas and as we drove the last miles up to the South Rim it started to snow. And snow. And snow. We reached El Tovar lodge on the canyon edge, in blizzard mode. Standing against the rock wall at the very canyon edge, I looked out to see … white. Not canyons shrouded in white, not valleys covered in snow. Just … white. We joked that the Canyon had stayed home on account of snow but it was with disappointment that we left without seeing it.

I couldn’t help but think of that day as our taxi careened through the Brazilian traffic, back to the airport for the next leg of our trip. We could see Corcovado, even the suggestion of a straight line like a statue’s base. I waited five more years before I finally saw the Grand Canyon and really, it was worth the second trip. What about you? Have you ever been thwarted — thanks to the weather or fate? — from seeing a landmark in your travels?