Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Brazil - Rio de Janeiro

Rio was our last stop before our flight home.  It ended up being one of our favourite places- a really interesting and beautiful city with great atmosphere and people.  This is Copacabana beach on a quiet morning...
The waves on Rio's beaches are really powerful so you can't really swim.
Woohoo! a tan.. sort of...
These monkeys live in Rio and came around to the hostel looking for scraps of food.
Went out to Niteroi, just outside Rio, to the the Oscar Niemayer designed MAC.
Tried to go up the Sugarloaf but it was covered in cloud at the time and we never made it back unfortunately.
After a couple of nights in a ten bed dorm in Copacabana we decided to treat ourselves to a nice hostel up in the hills of Santa Teresa, an artsy middle class area of the city.  The views were amazing. Christ the Redeemer was smaller than we expected, that's him on the hill.
One of the highlights of the trip was our Favela tour.  It sounds like a strange idea and there are some tours were people are driven around in safari jeeps which is pretty insulting for the people living in the slums but we were really lucky as our hostel put us in contact with a guy who was from the favela who gave us a personal waking tour, which involved going for a great lunch and visiting his house for a drink. We loved the Rocinha favela that we visited. The people were really friendly and it was a really vibrant exciting place.  This is the biggest of many favelas in Rio with 300,000 people living there.  We were so impressed by how the whole thing had developed with no support from the government.  At the start of the last century many poor people fought in the army having been promised work and housing.  The government never followed through and the people were told they could build in the hills.  Then more poor people flocked in from the rural north hoping to get work.  Since there is no real welfare for the unemployed, everyone has to work so the people from the favelas work on the beaches selling drinks and chairs, they drive the buses and basically do all the jobs that keep the city going.  Apparently 1 in 3 people in Rio live in a favela. Although we saw a few shacks on the outskirts most of the housing was built to a fairly high standard and at least as good as housing we'd seen in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
Views of the favela from near the top...
The community are self governed and have managed to organise and develop all facilities, including water, electricity, bin collection, and transport.  The police rarely come in and when they do it results in shoot outs and violence.  Nobody likes the police around here and due to massive corruption it's hard to know who the good guys are.  The drug gangs rule the favelas, and it seems to work.  Apart from what they get up to, there is barely any other crime.  If anyone in the community steps out of line the gang will deal with them as they don't want any reason for the police to have to come in.  Our guide assured us that nobody would even try to steal anything and children are safer to roam around here on their own than pretty much anywhere else.  If anyone were to do anything to a child they know they would be taken up the hills and shot.  The gangs sell drugs openly on the streets and after a great meal in a local pay per kilo buffet we saw them with the drugs spread out on a table like a typical market stall in their usual spot.  Our guide brought us up to his house which was of the same standard as most flats and apartments in Dublin (that I've lived in anyway).  He donates some of the money he gets from giving tours back to the communtiy and is involved in a lot of art projects and wants to set up a dj school. 
Ipanema beach.
After having the trip of a live time, it was time to leave the 32degrees sunshine of Rio de Janeiro and fly home for Christmas...It was an amazing experience and we were really lucky to have no real problems at all along the way.  We'll miss South America!

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