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Published: November 2nd 2012
The Favela tour yesterday was an eye opening experience. We were taken to Rochina, or 'little farm', which is the largest Favela in Rio. The favela covers a square kilometer on a steep hill and is home to approximately 70,000 people. There were shots taken here for Fast Five and The Incredible Hulk.
There were a few of us that went from the hostel, in total there was 15 of us in the group. We were picked up at the hostel and driven to the bottom of the Favela. Rather than having us drive around in the van the guides set up the tour so that we each jump on the back of a motorbike taxi which takes us to the top of the hill. This was to give us a better feel of the place, rather than driving through like we're on safari. 3 of us from the hostel were rather hungover so the prospect of getting on the back of a motorbike wasn't something that excited us. I'd like to say that the ride us wasn't as bad as I was hoping. It was worse. My guy really enjoyed over taking trucks on blind corners and driving at
on coming traffic. From his point of view it was probably hilarious as it would have been very easy to feel how much I was shitting myself. Not literally of course, you know what I mean. We all made it to the top without incident and were dropped off outside a police station. We'd driven up the main road through the Favela and on the way up i'd seen many shop fronts and restaurants, hair dressers and even banks. I really wasn't expecting to see that much infrastructure in the Favelas.
We started our journey down through the favelas walking through very narrow streets, just about wide enough for 2 people to pass in opposite directions. We were taken to an art studio run by a guy that teaches kids the way of the paintbrush. Up on the roof we had a really good view of the whole place which was incredible. He showed us around his studio and I ended up buying a small painting he'd done of the favela. The guide was throwing a lot of information about Rocinha to us whilst we were stood on the roof, very little of which I remember. He talked about
the pacification of the favelas in Rio. This is where the police cracked down on violent crime, gangs and drugs in these areas, and built police stations in the favelas to keep the peace. This was met with violence from the gangs but said that now crime is down considerably. He said the locals were very cooperative with the police as infrastructure, schooling and sewage was improved once the police started to move in. There are 3 main gangs in Rio, none of which I can remember the name of. The main drugs that are sold are coke, marijuana and ecstasy. Crack is not sold in the favelas as it just messes people up too much, and the drug lords live in the favelas too so didn't want that in their neighbourhood. There was big rivalry between the gangs and the militia, ex-military types who for a fee protected residents from the gangs.
We worked our way further down through Rochina and were given a show by some locals kids who were samba dancing on the street. The two dutch guys I was with had brought a football with them that they'd had for the 3 months they'd been
traveling. As Rio was their last stop they had brought that and some clothes to give away. They gave the ball to one of the kids from the performance which was a nice moment. As we continued to walk further down the hill the standard of living deteriorated quite rapidly. I was quite surprised with the houses at the top of the hill. In my mind I was expecting to see the whole place in abject poverty. However looking through open doors and windows there were tvs, washing machines, equipped kitchens and more. The smell got progressively worse as we walked further down the hill. Obviously higher up there is more wind but there was considerably more rubbish and sewage visable. We stopped at a shop for cake and then at a group of ladies selling bracelets. Near the bottom of the hill we stopped at a day care centre for kids. The tour company mainly works with this centre so most of the money we paid for the tour went to the centre. From the roof we looked up the hill which was an impressive sight. It was strange to think how incredible it all looked on the surface
with so many buildings packed together, but underneath how bad things are for people. Previously when new homes were built they were thrown together with bricks and cement with not much thought behind how it'd stay up. As a result many buildings collapsed, we saw an area where several homes had fallen down and it was a pretty horrible sight. The government is helping knock down and rebuild the houses safely. Near the top of the hill houses cost around $7000HKD a month to rent which I found quite surprising. Lower down they cost a couple hundred a month.
Towards the bottom we realised that we were actually a person missing. That's right, we left someone behind. Luckily, and quite unusually it was one of the 2 Brazilians who were on the tour. Unless from another city Brazilians don't do tours of the faveals, or so we were told. But since this guy spoke Portuguese he was in a much better position than if it was anyone else. The guide said he'd probably just wondered off to get drugs and that we should continue. I don't think the guys friend was too impressed but we were a couple of
streets from the bottom and there was only a couple of ways he could have gone, all of which led to the same place. We then walked past a couple of houses where there had been shoot outs with the police. The walls were covered in bullet holes on both sides of the house as the bullets traveled straight through all of the brick. Forgot to mention that we walked past quite a few police on our journey down, all of them armed to the teeth with guns that were larger that my legs. After just under 2 hours we made it to the bottom. And yes, we found our missing group member alive and in once piece.
We were pretty well received by the locals living there. There were plenty of smiles and hellos which I wasn't expecting. Overall I was surprised by Rocinha. The standard of living was actually higher than I expected at the top of the hill, and I was not expecting there to be banks and shops all over the place. I was also surprised at how things were further down, but that's because of how terrible the conditions were that people lived in.
It was a n experience that i'd highly recommend to anyone that has the opportunity to see the favelas.
Last night was many peoples last night at the hostel so we were a rather big group in the bar hanging out. At midnight and after quite a few drinks we went out to get some food. We ended up in a club. Funny how that happened but was a good laugh.
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