Rio de Janeiro Travel Blog› entry 5 of 9 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!