Rio de Janeiro Travel Blog› entry 19 of 34 › view all entries
Countless laughs, 32 new friends, 7 weeks, 5 countries, and 1 girlfriend from a different continent later my Budget Expeditions came to an end in Rio. This was this best tour I have ever done. As with all life experiences memories are made more so by the people and the weather rather than the actual places. Not to take away from the amazing places that we saw along the way but I was lucky to get such a great group to enjoy south america with. The overland, tenting, community effort style traveling was just what I wanted. I would recommend Budget Expeditions as a means of travel for anyone out there under 35 who just wants to get their feet wet at the start or who just want everything taken care of.
Rio de Janeiro is famous for carnival, beautiful beaches and cityscapes, and unfortunately crime. With a fairly large group of people we were bound to hear some horror stories but I was surprised how close the crime came to me. On couple from our tour was held up at knifepoint in broad daylight in Copacabana. They lost their passports. Another couple of girls that we met along the way decided to take the public transportation to the airport on their way out. They were stopped by fake police and they lost absolutely all of their belongings. Personally I never had any problems and felt unjustly safe all of the time. It was annoying knowing about the possible dangers because I was too afraid to take my SLR camera out unless we were on an organized tour.
A large group of us did an organized tour the second day after arrival to hit the cliche must do stops. The statue of christ was pretty cool and had some good views but I personally don't think that it belongs on the new 7 wonders of the world list. It is just a big abstract statue and is much smaller than other famous monuments such as the statue of liberty. The sugar loaf had similar but slightly better views and also included the two stage gondola ride to the top. The tour also included some pointless stops such as the empty concrete rafters where the carnival happens, the outside of the football stadium, and a strange modern concrete pyramid cathedral.
Probably my favorite day in Rio was my trip to the favela. I forget the exact numbers but their are something or the order of 5 million people in Rio (20%) who live in favelas. A favela is basically a shanty town that is usually up on a hillside and is always run by drug and weapon lords. Our speedy ride on the back of a motorbike weaving in and out of traffic up a steep winedy hill was set in a landscape that I did not expect. Almost all building have electricity and running water but almost none of them pay for it. Everyone just taps into the main feeds and no one pays. There was trash everywhere and it was quite dirty but the buildings were much better than I expected.
Once at the top we disembarked our death wish bikes and our guide lead us through the windy narrow streets back to the bottom. It was surprisingly safe in the favela. The police do not enter the area as long as there is not trouble with crime towards tourists so tourists are very safe. The police do not enter but the drug lords do. At one point three large muscelly black men brushed past us holding very large automatic weapons. Everyone in the favela other than the ones holding the gun want their picture taken. They think that having their picture taken by a rich tourist is an honor and it will make them famous. Most do not even ask for money.
We spent most of the days in Rio on the beaches. Most commonly cocacobana. It was the nicest and the closest so it was an easy choice. The vendors sell anything from gut wrenching shrimp skewers, to Ronaldo jerseys and everything inbetween. These days on the beach allowed me to start working on my burn.
The night life in Rio was a bit of a dissapointment for most of us. It gets so much hype most of which is probably legit but we never experienced it. We still had a large group to deal with and most people did not want to pay the cover to get into a decent club so we cheaped out. Probably the best night life that we saw was Friday night in Lapa.
One of the best nights in Rio was when we went to a football match between two local clubs in the worlds most electrifying stadium. 70 thousand die hard fans filled the stadium three quarters of an hour prior to kick off. The roaring chants were even more impressive than the endless personal firworks and massive flags. When the favorite team stepped on the field the noise was absolutely defening. Unfortunately the team with the majority of the crowd on its side lost 1 0 so we never got to experience the eruption due to a home goal.
The only last thing that I have to mention obout Rio is that if you are looking for a hostel look no further than the stone of the beach. It had a fantastic attmosphere, very helpful and cheery staff, brightly mordern graffity paintings on the hallways, free breakfast, free internet, a great rooftop bar complete with hot tub, and weekly all you can eat BBQs sometimes accompanied by qualty free entertainment.