5/3/13 – Arriving in Rio
Our breakfast stop is fun, no one speaks English, we’re even worse at Portuguese than we are at Spanish and not having a clue how to read the menu, so go by pointing at items! I end up with what I assume is a giant croissant but it seems to be filled with sausage meat a bit like a sausage roll, rather YUMMY.
The journey continues past vast green and mountainous landscape which makes the length of travel fly by until our lunch stop. At lunch I’m served by a guy with dark skin, piercing green eyes and blonde hair. It’s a really interesting mix and I’m excited to experience more of the unique demographics in Brazil.
Tom is still full from our breakfast but I mainly eat at each stop after the ‘India bus experience’ where they hardly stopped for toilet breaks or food and you end up spending 17 hours hungry and crossing your legs! By watching other members from our bus I work out that it’s a help-yourself-buffet where you can pay an additional cost if you would like meat sliced off a skewer. I opt for the buffet of stewed beans, rice, plantain, salad and various stewed meats; it’s delicious, some of the best food that I’ve eaten in a while and it reminds me of Trini food = foodie heaven 🙂
As we pass through Sao Paulo (which is huge and really built up) I notice that we’re hardly moving due to the heavy traffic and as the day goes on we end up in Rio at 8pm instead of 4.30pm! Tom and I immediately flag down a taxi from the bus terminus and head to the Pousada Girassol. It’s raining and the first room has water dripping from the ceiling? I ask Tom to swap rooms especially as we are paying £60 a night for this room and it was one of the cheaper options (it’s in an expensive neighbourhood but I wanted to feel safer after warnings from the guide and other travellers).
Content with our new room, we go down to reception to book a half day Favela Tour before seeking a recommendations for somewhere to eat, the receptionist advises us to try a bar-b-q restaurant down the road. It’s a short walk and after struggling to understand the options in Portuguese the manager comes over to help us (hurrah she speaks English).
It’s similar to lunch but on a massive scale, you can eat as much as you want of the buffet and as much bar-b-q meat (which is delicious). Waiters arrive at your table and cut as many slices off as you can consume of meat seasoned with salt, garlic or rosemary. We eat until we want to pop and the waiters still keep coming around and look a bit disappointed with us as we cannot manage to eat anymore!
So sleepy after our epic journey last night and we both struggle to make it out of bed for the included breakfast, finally hauling ourselves downstairs at 8.30am to be greeted by a lovely, if a little unusual breakfast of corn juice (not a fan of this one), papaya, bread, cheese, guava jam and coffee with a pot of warm milk! Although it’s a bit odd, it’s very tasty 🙂
After this we drop our laundry off around the corner and head straight to Sugar Loaf Mountain for the cable car ride (£15 per person) and as we reach the top the tour buses descend so we have to spend a good 40 minutes queuing to catch another cable car to Sugar Loaf. It is worth the wait though as the view is a breathtaking mix of beaches amongst a buzzing city.
On the way down we decide to get a snack and I’m really impressed with a pick and mix fruit shop, where you select your fruit and weigh and pay, splendid idea and definitely another one they should bring over to the UK. They have a real health kick out here including a juice bars on every corner…CANNOT GET BETTER THAN THIS.
Making our way back down we hail a taxi to the meeting point for the Favela Tour turning up 20 minutes early to avoid a repeat of Argentina! Fortunately the guide is also early, so we jump in the minivan circling to pick up the other tourist; a mix of Australian, French and a particular group of Brazilian girls who cause a stir amongst all the gents!
As the tour kicks off we discover our guide can speak 5 languages; Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and English! Our first stop is a Favela built-in between a wealthy neighbourhood and the tour guide explains that during the 1970’s Political and Common criminals are imprisoned in the same facilities where they shared ideas, escaped and united together to control the Favelas through drug trafficking by offering Health Care, Education and Sanitation in exchange for looking the other way and staying silent about anything that happened.
The first Favela is built behind a golf course and was originally started by the workers from the course it later turned over a monthly income of 3 million US dollars in cocaine revenue totally (with Mexico) an annual turnover of 85 Billion! Due to the Olympics and World Cup the Brazilian Government has rolled out a programme of additional policing of the Favelas with a 3 year qualification that enables Police Officers to also be Social Workers. The Government has also cleared weapons from the Favelas with only armed Police being able to carry guns.
This is one of the few Favelas where everybody has electric meters and Street names, so these residents can receive post and are soon to begin paying taxes. This is not the same for all of the Favela neighbourhoods as the money to input electric meters ‘disappeared’ and was never investigated? There is also a school and bar inside and we get to meet some school children learning English (YEAH) before heading to the bar to sample Caipirinha which is a delicious concoction of sugarcane spirit mixed with lime that taste a bit like Mojito.
Next step is the largest Favela in Rio de Janeiro, it provides housing for 70,000 people (or 110, 000 unofficially) and walking through we pass some impressive street art (have been advised not to get the camera out), 4 banks and tons of shops. It’s the first one to contain banks and has the busiest shopping area in all of the Favelas.
It’s a bustling, noisy, colourful place and locals regard us with amusement and curiosity. I’m surprised by the noticeable link to descendents of African slaves and the Portuguese conquistadors. I note that the locals clothing is skimpy and men openly wolf whistle at women, it’s a very exotic and sexual place!
Next we are taken to a viewpoint where you can see the whole Favela and a new housing block which the government has started to implement, costing millions of dollars and has managed to house several thousand residents. We end the tour buying a few handicrafts before being dropped back at our hotel, it’s too late to visit Christ the Redeemer (statue) , so instead we have a quick bite to eat (£11 for 2 x large meals and 2 x beers each) and pick up our laundry before deciding to hail a taxi to visit to Escadaria Selarón staircase. The staircase is made from tiles donated from all over the world and is still in progress.
The taxi gets lost and it takes a while to get there, he drops us off on a deserted street and I’m totally terrified but all is well and there are plenty of other tourist and Police about, in fact Police are everywhere you look, all over the City and I feel a lot safer in Brazil then I thought I would and we’ve survived without being mugged! My only regret is that we do not have more time here to lie on the beach or hang glide off of the mountains.
7/3/13 – Leaving Rio
The alarm goes off at 2.00am and our pre-booked taxi arrives at 3.15am to pick us up and take us to the airport. The roads are clear and all the sensible people are asleep in bed! The driver speeds along and I realised that I’m really going to miss Rio (want to add this to the list for a return option).
At the airport we buy some breakfast and after passing through security we sit waiting in the departure lounge for our flight to Peru.