We tried to go out last night but the bars were pretty dead since it was a Monday night. We were also both exhausted and not even interested in a beer so we walked around for a half hour or so to check out the area then decided to pass out.
We woke up early, since it was our last full day in Rio de Janiero. I wanted to do a Favela tour, as I had read about these in my guide book and they interested me a lot. I gave the guy at the hostel the information from Lonely Planet- Paulo Amendoim (3322 8498, 9747 6860).
We had plans to meet at the Copacabana Castle. Copacabana is the beach area, and this was the nicest hotel (apparently Sting stays here and they have a walkway coming from their room straight out to the stage on the beach). I went into this place it had diamonds for sale on displays in the walls, marble floors, and free apples. FREE APPLES!
Anyhow, I was to meet this guy there at 9:30am. I expected to be with a bunch of dump tourists, and thought we were going to be in a van or something.
My brother didn’t have much interest in going and we made plans to meet back up on the beach at 12:30pm across from the Castle.
So as he searched for parking I wandered over. I found the guy Paulo who could speak English but was pretty hard to understand. It was just me and him, and after we both waited around for no reason for 15 minutes on the corner (I thought he was waiting for other tourists and he thought I was waiting for my brother)we headed off.
We walked a few blocks into the city and jumped on a van-taxi. They dropped us off at Rocinha (pronounced hocinja) which is Brazil’s biggest Favela. The book said there are over 200,000 people living there but Paulo said these numbers probably weren’t right since no one came to his door.
We entered Rocinha, it did not seem too different than any other shitty part of the city at first. There were legitimate stores that accepted credit cards. Apparently there are also “classes” within the favela itself, and we were in the “middle class” area. The poorer areas are unsafe to visit.
Paulo is a social worker, and he works in the administration building (yes, administration building..) to help the residents get jobs, make sure they comply with rules, are paying for their electricity, etc. I had read in the book that the residents of the favela use stolen electricity and water, he said it used to be the case but they have been working to make sure the residents have electric meters. There was also a health organization that would walk around and give people medical attention if necessary.
Paulo was super social and knew everyone in the favela. I was surprised how close the community was, everyone knew everyone. I guess that is what happens when you live in such close quarters. The people seemed like regular working people, I did not feel unsafe especially with Paulo’s escort.
(Rochina typical view)
I asked Paulo how much the people here earn per month, he said that a full time working maid would make about 480 Reals per month. This equates to about $280. Rent in the favelas can cost 300 Reals a month, so they don’t have too much extra money. Surprisingly, most of the homes I could see inside had a TV and a stereo. I even saw someone with a flat screen TV.
The smell of the place was absolutely rancid; it smelled like stagnant water and trash. There was garbage everywhere. The first hour it was exciting and the second hour I just wanted to leave. The stench stayed in my nostrils for hours. The people living here must have been raised in these conditions because it doesn’t seem to bother them at all, the only way you could be happy in those conditions is if you knew nothing else.
There was water running underneath all the walkways and all around the favela, from the mountains? I don’t know. But in all the water was garbage. So unsanitary. There were exposed/broken water pipes everywhere.
(Rocinha water pipes and garbage)
The electrical was something else; it looked like for years they just ran new wires when one shorted out. Something told me these were not up to code.
I actually saw an electrician working on the wires… how could he possibly know what he was doing??
We each paid 4 Reals and jumped on the back of a couple dirtbikes for a ride to the top of the favela.
I paid Paulo (he charged 75 Reals, Lonely planet said it was 60 but it was a couple years old edition..) and he sent me back on another van taxi to Copacabana. Unfortunately, I got off at the wrong beach and had to take another cab back to the Castle.
It was surprisingly easy to meet up with my brother, and we chilled on the beach for a few hours.
(Brazilians playing soccer)
On the way back to our hostel, we stopped by the famous Sugarloaf.
These are cable cars that bring you to the top of Morro da Urca and Sugarloaf peaks in the center of the city.
My brother suggested climbing to the top of the first peak, and maybe getting a free ride to the top. I was up for the challenge.
We hiked up about half way, I was bare foot. It was sheer rock and it was so sketchy. I’m not a bad climber but my brother is better than me and I got freaked out when I started slipping on moss 100 feet high so we headed back down, which was harder than the way up.
After this we discovered that there was actually a hiking path to the top, which proved much less dangerous and an easier ascent.
At the top, we realized we had to pay to get to the top of Sugar loaf but did not have enough money. We met a German couple here and they offered to let us use their tickets; unfortunately they only worked once so we weren’t able to go to the very top. It was a little disappointing, but they said the view was better from Morro da Urca anyway so we were okay with it.
I got some nice night shots of the city.
(Santo Cristo night)
We were able to take the cable car down which was pretty cool as well.
Paulo had told me about some Samba show going on that night at Pablo do Sal so we went out to try to find it. There was bigger crowd out this night, and I had a good amount of energy. My brother however was exhausted so we headed in without seeing a Samba show. Overall, the Paulo Amendoim Favela Tour ended up being a good experience.