Favela Tour

Rio de Janeiro Travel Blog

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Favela

The sun rises early in Rio!  I got up at 7:30, had a great breakfast at the hotel buffet, some coffee and I was ready to go! 

I did a tour of a few of Rio's favelas, the Portuguese word for slums.  It was not the squalor I had imagined or expected or like I had seen in Mexican border towns, for example.  Nevertheless, the favelas are pretty crude.  The one I toured was built on a very steep hillside with very narrow passageways that you could only walk through.  We gathered in an open air jeep for the tour -- it was me, 5 guys from Ireland, a couple from Poland, a driver, a guide (a German emigre) and a native Brazilian trainee guide.   The trainee's name was Leon and he is going to make a great guide -- friendly, easy to talk with and speaks impeccable English.

Favela Tour in the Rain

Rio has twelve million people in the greater city, and we were told that approximately two million live in the favelas.  The favelas are often quite near the rich areas of town, so the juxtaposition can be quite startling.  It was a difficult day to see a lot, as we did the tour in a downpour of rain.  There are over 700 favelas in Rio and we saw two.  The first was Parque de Ciudad, as it is just outside a large nature park in the City.  It was a smaller favela with perhaps 60,000 persons.  They literally build on top of one another in the favelas, and continue to go up and out over time.  All the construction here is without permits, inspections, real architects or engineers.  It is mainly concrete, mortar and bricks, not the tin and cinder blocks of Mexico.

Another Rain Gear Shot
  Many have stained glass windows and buckets of plants in order to dress them up.  They have plumbing.  They are famous for running miles of cable to tap into electricity and cable tv and internet service for free.  We were told there is little violence against people just walking through the favelas.  Most of the violence is directed at rival drug gangs fighting for territory and control.  There are small shops throughout the favelas -- grocery shops, barbers, shoe repair, and, of course, bars.  We stopped at one bar that was a little house where a 90 year old woman has a deal with our tour guide to pour glasses of cachasa (sugar cane liquor) at 1 real each (about fifty cents, USD).  We stopped in and drank a lot (although the Irish on our tour drank quite a bit, ha ha!).
Mass of Cables tapping into Electricity and Cable TV in the Favela
  My new Irish friends started stopping about every twenty minutes after the initial shot for beers at local shops and started to get quite animated!

Our second favela was called Favela Rocinha.  It is next to the American School, the most exclusive private school in Rio, and abuts one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Rio.  It means "Little Farms" because it is built in an area that used to have little farm plots where people grew fruits and vegetables.  Murders abound here -- our guide told us that about 900 people die here each month!  Most of that is drug and gang related.  I never felt that we were not safe here -- I guess it was because of the guides.

We found a little group of artists selling arts and crafts to support themselves here.

Gero Restaurant
  Wendy, Jessica and Scottie all wanted me to pick them up something while they worked -- so I found some acrylic paintings done by an artist named Reginaldo that I liked -- each a view of the favela on a steep hillside with Christ the Redeemer in the background.  The paintings even show the mass of cables tapping into the electricity and cable wires.  I got 4 for 25 real each.  Everyone was thrilled later when I brought them back.

The tour was about 3 and a half hours long, and I was soaked at the end despite wearing a poncho.  My camera had jammed so I did not get many pictures.  I found it to be a very worthwhile tour and a good way to experience a unique part of Rio.

I got back to the hotel, showered and it was time to meet up with my friends to do dinner.

At Gero
  WE went to Gero, an Italian restaurant in Ipanema.  The restaurant was very nice, the food was excellent.  I had a tomato soup with rock lobster meat to start.  My main was veal stuffed ravioli with a mushroom sauce.  Magnificent!  We had a nice Argentine Cabernet again.  For dessert, tiramisu. 

It turns out that it was Skot's 40th birthday today, so we went back to the hotel and had a few drinks there to celebrate his day.  We had a variety of drinks -- caiparinhas, beers, wines and scotch.  Someone is going to have a headache tomorrow!

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Favela
Favela
Favela Tour in the Rain
Favela Tour in the Rain
Another Rain Gear Shot
Another Rain Gear Shot
Mass of Cables tapping into Electr…
Mass of Cables tapping into Elect…
Gero Restaurant
Gero Restaurant
At Gero
At Gero