Samba nights and sleepy days. Part Uno.

Trip Start Dec 29, 2009
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15
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Trip End Dec 24, 2010


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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Oi!

That is portuguese for hello, not me being rude, as some uncultured people would think. See we're native brazillian now. Besides having tanned so much we are beginning to be on the dirty side of brown closer to mud colour (as opposed to a nice bronzed 'glow'), we have assimilated into Rio life so well we now are besties with allll the important people:

- Hostel bar owner: His name is tulio. or hulio. or julio. anyway we love him. He makes caprioskas AND passionfruit flavoured at that
- Leo: he serves breakfast until 1
- the boys at the local juice bar: 2 dollar steak sandwiches at 5am. amazing.
- Post office man: you all got postcards. well most of you. apologies if you didnt. it got.. lost.
- The drug lord who controls the entrance to the favela at Rochina. He has a grenade strapped to him. so when he asked em to marry him, she said yes (i would say that was a good move.. ex boyfriends beware)
- Street vendors: who needs restaurants when you can get everything you want from Copacabana beach front (a long 5 minute walk from the hostel)... Corn on the cob? Si! Popcorn? Si! Crepes? You know it... Si! Chorizo bbq, meat kebabs, Mcflurrys and an assortment of bevidas (drinks), your friendly street vendor can give you everything you need for a festive Rio experience.

Yes, I have had food poisoning for 3 days. But that just puts a wet blanket on everything now doesnt it so lets pretend that didnt happen, and i will tell you alll about the fantastic, vibrant, buzzing city we have called home for 10 days.... RIO!!

This is going to have to be in two parts as we have been very very busy carnavale party people...

Part Uno: Pre Carnavale

Seems so long ago now! We arrived from Ilha grande fairly easily as we got an express transfer.. 2.5 hours door to door. amazingly efficient for brazil. They dropped us right outside the hostel (super happy as its 40 degrees here) and we bundled awkwardly inside the hostel about 12pm. Who on earth puts a turnstill as the entrance to a hostel where the clientele will clearly be immobile given the backpack situation. At first our impression wasn't so great... reception was quite unhelpful (drawing information was like pulling blood from a stone) and we had to stay in another room before switching the next day for our real room but the other room wasnt ready and blah blah blah. it made us realise how spoilt we had been with our hostels so far... (all in all i would say they have been great). However the breakfast until 1pm did butter us up a little and when we moved rooms the next day into our Air conned, very clean and reasonably comfortable room we were happy chickens once more.

The hostel is huge, about 6 stories, and the exterior makes me think it used to be a school or something... long narrow windy corridors with rooms in weird places. i can tell it used to be really good in its hey day (seems it got loads of awards in 2000) but everything is just a little bit tired... however they do have dinner every night, bonus, late breakfast, amazing, and seeing as though its so big their bar is always buzzing. All in all it certainly is a party hostel and not for those who wish to have a quiet time... some of the dorms have 24 beds in it... bunks three stories high! yeck.

So yes we did have a private room just for this week, an amazing luxury. Needless to say we were so happy we pre paid that way back in august. it was nice to have a week or so of privacy and not to have to awkwardly change out of pjs between sleeping sheets etc

Anywhoo i better get moving. The rest of "arrival day" we just got our bearings... as mentioned previously we are super close to Copacabana so we had a walk down the beach front, began our long emotional relationship with the street vendors and visited the hippy markets. Early to bed as we had had a fairly large evening on our last night in Ilha grande and i was still a peculiar shade of green from boat ride to rio/ heat/ general hungoverness

Day 2!

Forever shall be known as ACTIVITY DAY. As Carnavale was commencing the next day we decided to get absolutely every touristy thing done so we didn't have to worry about the days flying by and us being too hungover to do them. Some fellow travellers had recommended we do the favela tour so we booked to do that at 10am... and thus the day began

The favela tour was amazing. Such an insight into the lives of Cariocas (Rio locals) away from the bright lights and bustling streets of Copacabana, Ipanema and the wealthy areas. The tour was called 'Be a local' and the guy who runs it, and the tour guides, are all from this Favela, called Rochina, so they offer real and interesting information you could never read about. So insightful and eye opening. He laid down the rules: NO PHOTOS if he calls no photos. "We don't want to get shot before we have lunch". Here here. I quite fancied a steak sandwich at the time so i was hoping this would still get to happen in my life, should I get out of the Favela unscathed! I did get one, just so you know. victory! The reason for the no photos is, inside the favela are some of the most wanted drug lords in Rio. The police pay up to 5,000 reais for information which could lead to their whereabouts and if that information leads to their arrest you get 50,000 reais. The entrance to the favela is so protected the cops rarely come in unless they absolutely have to so the drug lords feel safe to hide. Problem is, with facebook and the internet, the cops can scroll through any tourist photos so they are paranoid you might snap one of them, without even realising it, or even worse, you are a journalist or an informer who wants that 50,000 reais and you know who they are. So the favela guide, being a local in the favela, reached an agreement with the drug lords that whenever they were near the tourists he would stop the tourists taking photos. Apparently the week before a gringo videoed the whole tour and the tour guide found out so had to delete it, then a drug lord found out and came along and punched him in the head with the blunt end of the gun. "he bled LOTS" said Fabian the tour guide. Yikes.

After they picked us and the other 'gringos' up we were dropped at the bottom of a hill just on the outskirts of a bustling market. Lined up were all these local boys with "motoboy" written on their shirts and surprise surprise they were all astride motorbikes. The guide paid each boy 2 reais and popped a gringo on the back... unsurprisingly the motoboys all started requesting the gringo chikas, especially blonde ones (there were four of us), and so the guide struggled to get the boys onto the bikes! Apparently if the boys hold the guys around the waist it means your gay however obviously foreigners dont know that so they think ALL foreigner men are gay. Brilliant. One by one our motoboys shot up up the hill, winding and zig zagging along the road... DISCLAIMER: Mum and dad, read on if you will, but please, no heart attacks as you read the rest of this story about the favela... we were safe. i swear. cough.

Now when i say road, i guess it was a road we were zig zagging on.. except it was steep and windy and there were huge buses coming down towards us... but the motoboys found the trucks going up the hill in the same direction as us too slow so they would dart in and out between trucks and buses on corners and around bends and i have to say, i nearly had a few heart attacks myself. they obviously did it a million times a day however it didn't comfort me when my motoboy told me his brother died in a motorbike accident. sad yet totally unsurprising. all that said we did get to the entrance of the favela all in one piece, and with great relief we jumped off the bikes and congratulated ourselves on being so brave.

And then we saw the kid holding the grenade

Hmmm

Yes. So this kid was nonchalantly throwing the grenade up and down in his hand like you would say a tennis ball. Our guide just strolled on past and waved at the kid waved and i was thinking in my head, WHY would you distract the kid holding the grenade (next to friend with M16)... he might drop it or something! A few micro heart attacks later (i think I aged 10 yrs that day) and the aforementioned "NO PHOTOS comment", we were at the entrance and the guide was kissing this person and waving and laughing and gesturing towards us, yes yes these are my gringos, dont shoot them now they make me money, laugh laugh laugh. All the locals were sitting on milk crates and old stools in front off this tiny little gap between two buildings which was revealed as the entrance. The guide informed us later that the people at the entrance watch out for any one not from the favela and for police and rival gangs and then they all have these walkie talkies and radio around to the other entrances and bosses if anything suspicious happens. One of these entrance watchers had a grenade strapped to him and proposed to Em. Bug-eyed and eyeing off his grenade belt, she said rather awkwardly "...errr... yes?!!". He then cracked into this big grin, and said, "but i cant marry you, thats my wife", pointing to a skinny sullen not-very-amused  lady in the corner. Even more bug eyed, Em protests, "ahh... errr. hehehe (nervous giggle)... sorry.. eeek!" and ran behind the guide. The guide and everyone at the entrance BURST out laughing and the guide told the story to the entire favela, every single person who walked past, "guess what, she is now married to a drug lord hahahaha". Very amusing. 

I think it took Em a little bit to recover from that one.

So as you can tell already everyone in the favela was hilarious (albeit slightly intimidating). It is the largest favela in Rio and the druglords control 50% of the favelas in Rio (there are 1000). There are no rival gangs within the favela so all conflicts are internal. This said the people inside were the smily-est, gentlest nicest people. The streets are so narrow no cars can get through and it means that they have to carry everything from the entrance down to their houses.... it took us an hour to walk top to bottom so imagine carrying anything you needed... from groceries, to a fridge, to the electricity generator, EVERYTHING had to be carried. They had to replace their last electricity generator last week and it weighed 600kgs. They had to carry it all the way down into the favela. The streets are so narrow as the favela was allocated a certain amount of land. As the population grew they built their houses onto the streets until the streets were just wide enough for two people to pass each other. Now, real estate and new houses are built upways... you can sell your roof for 2,000 reais upwards. The strangest thing of all was that the inside of this decrepid, run down, stinky buildings were quite clean, and well kept. Rochina is definately not one of the poorest favelas, so the general smell, and amount of rubbish around meant I can only imagine what the poorer neighborhoods are like.

After an hour of wandering, and a musical performance by the local kids, a visit to the community project and a very successful art purchase, we were out of the favela. What a fantastic tour and if anyone goes to Rio, this has to be numero uno on the list

The tour ended when Fabian dropped us off at the hostel and after some more street food we hopped skipped and jumped to...

CHRIST THE REDEEMER

Took loooads of corny tourist photos here. the view is amazing. One of those bucket list sights. Loved it. Saw Beyonce! She got about a 3 second look before the crowds converged. Price of fame, eh?
 
After an hour of posing and view gazing and taking it all in we got a quick taxi to....

SUGARLOAF

Sunset drinks and more corny tourist photos of us looking at the whole of Rio. Magical view. The clouds were rolling in but we managed to get a 270 degree amazing sunset. And $500 caprioskas. so worth it

Dead on our feet, we got back to our AIRCONDITIONED fancy room and passed out

Day 2 was far less energetic. well touristy energetic. Definately party energetic! included in the cost of our room was a boat fiesta. Sooo sooo fun. The whole hostel had to have paid for the 7 nights carnavale so everyone had the boat party included so everyone went. we had a two story boat, free food and drink from 3pm - 8pm.. it was great as we got to meet everyone from the hostel all at once. We drank and danced and dived off the boat all day and the boat took us to this remote little beach for the day. The weather was perfect (its been perfect everyday) and then off to the local nightclub area where we faded dead on our feet around 12pm. See the photos... fanastic day! 

Day 3 was the beginning... officially the first day of Carnavale!!! The streets had been buzzing all week and it was super exciting for it to finally be here...

Which brings us to Part 2... stay tuned! 


 








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