The girl (and boy) from Ipanema
Sunset over the madness that is Ipanema beach.
So here we are; 360 days, 62 blogs and 14 countries later. This time tomorrow we will be home. This probably won´t be our last ever blog, as what started as a way of keeping friends and family up to date with our travels, has become an obsession and our own personal record of the experiences (good, bad and ugly) people (friends, enemies and the slightly unstable) and unforgettable moments throughout the past 12 months. But as one adventure ends, many more lie in wait (finding jobs, a new place to call home, getting married) and we head home feeling positive and even slightly excited, but for how long after we arrive it is before we want to leave again I just don´t know!
The last two weeks have been strange, if we still had 6 months before our flight home they would have been like any other 2 weeks of the trip, but knowing the end is upon you makes you begin to wind down and things you would have shrugged off previously begin to slightly annoy; our bags are too heavy, we can´t relax on bus journeys, our feet hurt, every bed is uncomfortable, I am sick to
So many problems, yet so many smiles
Favela Rocinha - a truly humbling place.
death of the 3058 tracks on my Ipod etc etc.
Knowing you can enjoy life outside your comfort zone is one of the most rewarding aspects of travelling, but at the end your comfort zone becomes just another one of the things you miss, like reading the NME on the toilet, a big mug of tea, final score on Grandstand and gravy.
I have read a few of these concluding blogs and promised myself I wouldn´t get too emotional and self indulgent, so I won´t be writing any silly lists of my favourite hill tribe etc... just 1 favourite photo from each country (see below)
But I would like to say a few thank yous (here he goes)....
Firstly to Ali - the sole creator and runner of this fantastic website, secondly to anyone who has taken the time to send us messages and comments (good, bad, meaningful or pointless) and lastly to my new best friend and fiance Carla for a) agreeing to be my wife b) sharing the last year with me and c) and most importantly,putting up with me. We worked out that over the last 12 months the longest we have been out of
I wanna be a gang leader
Little boys don't grow up wanting to be firemen in Rocinha
each others sight is 5 hours whilst I went diving in Koh Tao (and even then I missed her).
OK enough of the soppy b@llocks and on with the blog!!.... Ipanema
Our return to Rio and our final hostel of the trip, whose owner proved to be the final great character (and there have been a few). Sofhia introduced herself in Borat style English, whilst wearing knee high boots, fish net stockings and a spangley stars and stripes boob tube. And even though she must be pushing 50, she has the exuberance (and dress sense) of someone half her age.
She also has the strange ability to talk to you like she has known you all her life and then 5 minutes later completely forget who you are - which meant that during our check in she introduced herself three times.
After dumping our horrible, heavy, dirty and smelly bags for the very last time we headed out into the sunshine to check out the beach.
Ipanema is smaller and more compact than its neighbour - Copacabana - and although the many arses on show seem to be, shall we say, more pleasing to the eye
The National Grid (favela style)
With no 'leccy board in the favela just send a length of cable to a street outside and hey presto....free power!! (I think the idea is catching on)
there´s so many of them that it´s hard to move. The streets beyond are equally busy and vibrant especially as street entertainers dance, juggle fire and back flip over cars collecting money from the people sitting in the bars and restuarants that spill onto the pavements. Most of these entertainers travel down to the richer districts like Ipanema each day from one of the 350 favelas that creep up the sides of the hills around. These are the forgotten districts and the other side of Rio that most tourists never see. Favela Rocinha
If you´ve read the book or seen the film ´City of God´ you may know that Rio and Brazil has many favelas (slums or shanty towns). They started in the 1920´s when the mainly African population of the North East headed to the thriving big cities of Rio and Sao Paulo. Upon arrival they found themselves unwelcome so headed to the forest and farmland of the mountains surrounding the city and illegally built their homes. This happened in such vast numbers that the Government had no control and immediately washed their hands of the favelas, something which even now (nearly 90 years later) they still
Keepy-uppy on Ipanema
Slightly more enjoyable than Wembley singles on the council footy pitches.
No government means no taxes which means no public services such as police, water, schooling or electricity - so you would expect a lawless, primitive way of life, but that is far from what we found.
Our 'tour' started at the base of the 1km square favela Rocinha and meant a death defying motor bike ride to the top, something Carla would never have done 12 months ago. Once at the top we hid our cameras as we entered through one of the many entrances guarded by a 'runner'. These guys are the first level of the gang 'ADA'(standing for friends of friends) who control Rocinha and use radios, gunfire or even fireworks to alert their bosses to any attempted entry by rival gangs or special forces police (humorously named the BOB squad). The tours only rule was don´t photograph dealers or gang members who can be identified by their AK47s, anyone else probably wants to be photographed and especially likes it if they can see the photos you have taken (as you can see from the photos the kids especially loved a camera).
Our tour company, Bealocal had been coming to Rocinha for 5 years and
1km square and home to 200,000 of Rio's "forgotten" residents
the money has helped to build day care centres, new homes and funded art and music projects and our guide seemed to know everyone he passed.
The day we were there the smiles seemed bigger than the problems, it was yet another humbling experience, 200,000 people living in such a small area brings huge issues and even though the narrow streets overflow with rubbish and often sewage the place seemed safe and friendly with most locals more keen to shake my hand then pick my pocket.
It was only a tiny snapshot but by the time we had walked an hour down its narrow pathways we left feeling that ADA´s rule over Rocinha was all in all a positive one (as much as neighbourhoods policed and ruled by drug gangs ever can be) and supposedly a major step in the right direction since they defated its previous landlords 'Red Command'.
A great way to finish our time in a fantastic country of so many contrasts, which themselves bring so many problems, but which certainly don´t stop the whole place from smiling (and dancing, and singing, and banging drums etc etc...)
That´s all folks. Our
A favela 3 piece.
No guitars, only 2 oil drums and a paint pot and they still sound better than Keane.
360 day full circle is complete and finishing this blog in 'real time' means that as you read it we will be on our way home to 'what' and more importantly 'who' we left behind.
So what´s been the highlight?.....there´s too many to pick out. What have we learnt?.....probably more about the World and the people around us than ourselves. And have we changed?.........well, we will let you lot be the judge of that.
I wanted to finish this whole thing off with some wise words and advice and not just tell everyone to go travelling, because that´s no advice at all. But if you like us are lucky enough to have the opportunity to do something you have always dreamt of, then go for it and regret only that which you do....not that which you don´t.
But this is something I believed before we left, so here comes the final, final wise(ish) words....
Travelling gives you the time and inclination to look around and take things in....but you don´t need to travel to be able to see what's around you.
So whoever you are and wherever you may be, if you take the time to
City of God, meets City of Gold
Nothing but a dual carrigeway seperates high rise luxury from low rise poverty.
stop and look I promise that you will see beauty where you least expect it.
This wonderful world is absolutely brimming with it.
Thanks for reading
Peace... and out
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