Published: July 22nd 2006July 22nd 2006
After all the hype about Rio we are pleased to announce that the city lives up to all expectations. We stayed just a few nights because staying in Ipanema (the safer part of town) is quite expensive, but we managed to see most of the sites. We spent some hours watching the beautiful people flaunting their stuff in tiny beachwear on Copacabana beach which was rather interesting!
Perhaps the highlight was a favela (shanty town) tour which really challanged our stereotypical view of them. The favelas appeared after the Brazilian government failed to consider the poor (and the freed slaves) who flocked to find work in Rio. As a result they began to build their own homes on the hillside surrounding the city. What makes the favelas extraordinary is that they are outside the law. Three different drug gangs control all the favelas in the city and set the laws, you can tell which gang is in control by the grafitti tags they leave all over each favela. But contary to myth they are not all about drugs, guns and poverty. The favelas are just like any poor town with their own shops, banks and society. Most of the people
who live in the favelas work in the city in hotels, as nannys and in restaurants.
The drug lords never live past their mid twenties and everyone must abide to their laws, but generally most will have no contact with them. The craziest thing we heard was that the police (who don´t often venture into the favelas) tried to rob a (official) bank in one of the favelas, almost instantly the drug lords turned up to stop them and protect the bank!! Something is a bit wrong there don´t you think?! Still it was fascinating and we walked through the middle of one of the bigger favelas through a market and were very safe beacuse it is illegal to steal within the favela.
We went out one evening to an area called Lapa with Bryan and Danielle (the Irish) and Ivan, a larger than life guy we met from the US. It was very cool with lots of street stalls selling cheap drinks and live samba being played in the street. Finally we headed home in a cab and were promptly pulled over by the police and searched for drugs!! Luckily they didnt try any funny business and
The lovely Danielle and Bryan
we went on our way.
The next day we went on a tour that took us for a nice short hike through the nearby national park to a view point where we could look across a large part of the city. The best view of course was from the famous Christ statue that stands high above Rio and was placed there so it could be seen everywhere in the city. Jesus is big I can assure you and the view is incredible.
On the way back we stopped in Lapa at some steps that an amazing guy has been covering in tiles from all over the globe. He just started to put tiles on the ugly concrete steps one day and everyone thought he was mad. Now the steps are covered and he has become something of a celebrity, with music videos and adverts having been filmed there. We were lucky enough to meet him as he lives just on the steps and he was there working away. He has said he will never stop changing the tiles until he dies. He was very friendly and showed us tiles from all our respective countries and ordered us into
position for photographs. These days people are sending him tiles from all over the world to add to his work. His story is a very inspiring one of creativity and passion.
And so to the football match! One thing we wanted to do here was catch a game and we were lucky enough to get tickets (at ticket tout prices) for the first leg of the brasilian cup final between Rio´s top two rivals Flamengo and Vasco. Now we are used to the calm of Portman Road (Ipswich´s ground) but watching a cup final with 50,000 passionate brasilians was something else! The atmosphere was incredible, everyone was singing, huge flags were waving and bright flares lit the sea of red and white. We sat with the Flamengo fans and the noise was constant...when they finally scored two goals in two minutes the place erupted. The game kicked off a t 9.45pm so when it finished at nearly midnight we felt exhausted. As we filtered out the ground we joined a sea of singing Flamengo fans going wild. On the way back in the minibus we came to a stop in a three lane tunnel and everyone just got out
of their cars and started dancing around, swinging their shirts around their heads. Cars were abandonded, doors wide open, as fans danced and hugged complete strangers. I think you could say that the Brasilians are passionate about their football!!