Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
22° 53' S 43° 14' W
Mar 03, 2005 22:13
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Don't be a gringo, be a local

The rain is back - knew it wouldn't leave me alone for very long! Although apparently rain is pretty much what you get in Rio. I decided to brave it anyway a went on a tour of a favelo - pretty much the only way you can get inside one and expect to leave safely...

Around twenty percent of Rio's population live in cramped concrete jungles known as favelas. Land and property is owned by the government and rented by the inhabitants - although a minimum of taxes are paid and utilities such as electricity (when available) are 'borrowed' rather than bought. This leads to crazy situations where home-job power lines run along the footpath - quite scary when it is pouring rain!

Rocinha is the largest of the favelas in Rio and possibly the safest - being firmly under the control of a single drug cartel. It is an unfinished concrete jungle, built on the side of a valley overlooking the richest suburb in Rio and the sea; ironically bestowing the poor with some of the best residential views in Rio. Albeit not the best location when it rains - the lack of any but the most basic storm water infrastructure means walkways (there are few streets) turn into raging torrents and waterfalls. Definitely a good reason to wear your havaianas and not your hiking boots!

On the trip to the top of the favela I was reminded of how much I hate riding pillion (nb: it's a control thing... put me behind the handlebars and you can't wipe the small from my face). Made more exciting by the cutting wind and rain, the lack of any protective gear and the desire of my driver to beep busses out of the way so he could pass trucks on blind corners .

Anyway, the photos should give you the full picture...

That night I jumped on a bus and headed over to a 70s retro party in Ipanema, determined to experience the Rio night life! However it was a gringo party, so together with a few backpackers, we wandered down the road to Lord Jim's, where we proceeded to dance the night away and talk to the few and sparse locals that were there :P

It was actually a lot of fun - there was a live band with a very energetic and enthusiatic singer (who looked a bit like Enrico Iglesias) who played english rock covers and Brazillian pop covers :P After boogying the night away, I finally collapsed next to the drummer, who had mysterious procured a tray with six of the biggest, best looking hamburgers you could imagine! After discussing irrelevant details like the band, their next gig and the music they played, we got onto the topic of food and I discovered much to my delight that I too had the power to order food at the bar!

Alas, it was not to be. The bar wench (meant in the nicest possible way) that had been hassling us all night (well, okay, we'd been hassling her) gleefully told us the kitchen was closed <sob> and so we were forced to sit glumly by the side, stomaches rumbling and watch the band demolish the tasty morsels.

Photos / videos of "Don't be a gringo, be a local":

Looking over the favela. Lots of artworks :P What path? You mean there were steps there?? Everyone does there own electrical wiring. Scary! I got a bit wet. Thank god for Gortex - my camera stayed dry! It was raining. Really, really hard. Check out the waterfalls on the cliff! The favela, overlooking a rich neighbourhood and the sea. The people were delightful!