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Published: January 8th 2014
7:30am alarm call, 8:35 meet at the Sheraton Hotel across the road; we we're off to see where and how 1.2 million of Rio's population live today. After our slight misdemeanour the other day, we thought we'd view a favela guided this time.
8:40 we were greeted by our local guide Ricardo (who had a suspicious New York accent!) who collected us and put us on board the mini bus we were going to be travelling around in for the morning. Thinking we might be the only ones, or maybe with another couple or two, it came as a bit of a shock to hop in the bus to find 8 stereotypical slightly elderly yanks! It struck us then..."This is not going to be quite what we were hoping for". More saga holidays than City of God!
Our first destination was Rio's infamous Rocinha favela which is home to approximately 150,000 people. After stopping off at a typical tourist trap to tempt you to buy some local jewellery We headed off high into the favela. At our second stop we all got out, where we were guided through a mechanics workshop out to a terrace overlooking the whole of
the favela; it was an astonishing sight. To get us fully in the mood, the previous night we had watched Ross Kemp on gangs in Rio which was all based in Rocinha. The picture painted by that programme was certainly a different one to the one described by our guide. When we questioned him about the gangs named in the documentary in the favela and he was very quick to provide a short answer, turn the other cheek and answer another one of the yanks pointless questions!
All aboard once again and we were off back down to the bottom to have a wander round the streets nearer to the entrance point. As it was not safe enough to wander through the deeper parts of Rocinha, we got back in the bus and headed off to another smaller (crime free) favela where we had a chance to look around the narrow alleyways and construction of these shanty towns. The construction really is quite incredible; with walkways barely wide enough for windows to open and buildings three storeys high, each level precariously balanced one top of the other. Despite this, they all have huge screen tv's and free wifi...not so
different from the slums in the UK I guess!
Although a real eye opener, we both would liked to have seen more of the real life in a favela and a slightly less rose tinted tourist view which we were clearly being shown. Having said that, we won't be running in there alone any time soon.
Though we did finish the tour off with a lovely (super strong) Caipirinha. Yum.
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