Rio de Janeiro - City of God
Jun 8, 2006
|Despite thinking that our luggage would be stolen whilst travelling from Iguazu to Rio the journey passed with no problems and our luggage was in tact upon arrival into the bus terminal 24 hours after we departed.
Checked into a hotel in a part of Rio called Ipanema, we'd spoken to other travellers who'd been here and they said it was really safe part of the city whereas areas such as Copacabana hadn't received such good reviews.
Initially we planned to fly to a beach resort in the north of Brazil and work our way down by bus. However, the temperature in Rio was hot, hot, hot and there was lots for us to do (watch the football) so we decided to stay put, relax and enjoy Brazilian life until it was time to fly home.
Our time in Rio consisted of going to the beach for a couple of hours a day where we were dazzled by how little clothing everyone was wearing - the women had teeny tiny bikinis and the men looked out of place if they weren't wearing speedo's. The men took great pleasure in posing for the entire day, either by playing volleyball of just running up and down the beach in their speedo's. The wearing of speedo's wasn't just confined to the beach, they were worn whilst just walking down the street or shopping in the supermarket - not a pretty sight.
The posing continued into the evening when people went for a jog along the cycle track that ran parallel to the beach. Feeling that we should try and fit in we attempted a jog on a night or two.
Our Rio odyssey included a lot of time watching the world cup. For England matches we went to an Irish Bar where the ex-pats were enjoying a Guinness at £4 a pint!!
When Brazil played, the whole country stops working which is not good when the match is played over lunch time and you're hungry. They have a competition for the street that is decorated the best so all the streets have flags and banners in green and yellow flying about.
For Brazils first game we went with an Australian couple, Neil and Samantha to a locals boozer consisting of a bar area in an 8 foot by 15 foot shop, it was standing room only but the drinks were unbelievably cheap. Its also a place where the wino's come and make a nuisance of themselves until they are given a shot of spirits, then they move onto the next local bar. Nobody really takes great interest in the actual game they just like to make a lot of noise with whistles, horns and firecrackers when Brazil scores.
The food in Brazil was more varied than in Argentina where our diet had been steak, steak or steak. Here they operated a per kilo system, where you piled food on your plate from a buffet then had it weighed.
The nightlife in Rio is mainly contained to the weekends. In Ipanema, because it is an upmarket area of Rio the prices for beer are quite high so the locals sit and drink a coke between four people. To stop the bar from loosing money they charge an entrance fee, which is wiped off your bill if you drink a certain amount of beer, which was usually more than we ever wanted to spend on beer so we searched for places that didn't operate this system.
The most popular place to go at the weekend was called Lapa and was a taxi ride away from our hotel. We ventured there with an Irish couple, Neville and Laura, we delayed catching a taxi until 11 pm, as the locals don't go out until this time. There is a main street with different clubs next door to each other and across the road are market stalls selling alcohol. We got tucked in to the Caiprinhas, the local cocktail, we realised how strong the cocktails were after our fourth. It was time to choose a club to go in next, we ended up in a transvestites bar dancing to Bob Marley and Samba music and drinking more caiprinhas. We rolled into the hotel at the reasonable hour of 5am, as we were leaving the club people where still entering so it was obviously still early by Brazilian standards.
We'd met Neville and Laura when we found ourselves in the dodgiest area of Rio, the favelas. It wasn't that dangerous for us, as we'd taken an organised trip there. We were picked up from Ipanema in a minivan, which took us to the start of the favelas. The start of it is really just a poor neighbourhood where the electricity is stolen and taxes aren't paid. We jumped on the back of motorbikes and were whisked up to the top of the favela where the real juicy stuff happens!
As we stepped of our rides to the top we immediately saw two guys with M16 automatic rifles standing guard and watching for the police, it was just a little unnerving!!
Our guide explained no pictures where allowed to be taken of these people and if they caught doing so, serious consequences would occur. Needless to say no one took any piccies!
Despite the somewhat auspicious start it calmed down after that and we spent the next couple of hours working our way back down to the bottom of the favela through the rabbit warren of narrow sewage ridden alleys. We were taken to see the local art work that comes from the favela and the community centre for the favela kids that the tour has help set up by donating half it's profits back into the community (which is why the drug barons allow this tour to go in so deep without recrimination). The tour company also assesses who are the most needy in the favela it visits and provides building materials (not money) to the family in order to improve their home.
The tour felt very safe despite being the only one that gets into the heart of the favelas. The lasting impression of the favelas has to be the kids who at a young age are full of energy and life despite having to play in near squalor. Unfortunately by the age of 13 the vast majority of these sweet kids are trapped in either a life of drugs of in the case of the girls motherhood.
Most of our days continued to be taken up with the beach or the world cup - hard life we know! Although one day we did venture to visit the Christ the Redeemer monument the largest art deco monument in the world. The monument can be seen from nearly everywhere in the city with its arms open blessing the city. From Ipanema it looked quite small but up close it huge size soon becomes apparent. Unfortunately the day we visited the clouds rolled in. Despite that, the view was amazing and gave a real overview of how the city is laid out with the beaches surrounding it - beautiful.
Towards the end of our second week we met a couple, Andy and Laura from Brighton, Andy was originally from Manchester so the northern roots within us hit it off well and we spent the Friday night again in Lapa trying to find a samba club. By the time we found it, the time was 2am and it was wrapping up for the night so we headed back the cheap tranny club for an English drunken attempt at samba by the girls!! The Brazilians soon realised they had nothing to fear.
The Sunday was spent with butterflies awaiting the England game; we headed off to the Irish bar with Andy and Laura and sat through 90 minutes of excruciating football to see England go through. Still if you are going to watch boring football they are worse places than Rio to do it.