Day 84 - Tijuca forest and favela Rosini

Trip Start Sep 30, 2012
Trip End Jan 09, 2013

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Flag of Brazil  , Rio de Janeiro,
Sunday, December 23, 2012

The favela's are a very much a part of the Rio DNA. So with a strong recommendation from Owen and Adele we booked a tour for today.

We were picked up for our tour, after packing up, breakfast and check out, at around 1000. Our tour guide was a very bubbly guy, an ex New York taxi driver, very interested and interesting. Explaining a broken story of some bad luck and confusion which we still don't really get, we ended up also heading on a tour of Tijuca forest - an unexpected free score.

The tour of Tijuca forest was very basic - it stopped at a few places on the road through the forest- however it was very nice. We cooled our feet off in a forest pool, stopped at a Chinese monument, had a 10 minute walk through part of the forest, and saw a beautiful waterfall.

The car we were in was a converted jeep, with bench seats at the back and difficult entry into the passenger seats behind the driver - a very characterful vehicle, which seemed to have some overheating problems too.
A family of Brazilians from a southern city sat at the back and we sat with a great group of Singaporean masters students studying in Boston up front.

The forest is interesting in that the land had been used for sugar, coffee and then even a trial of tea plantations. The tea didn't work very well.The Chinese labourers who were brought from Macau for the tea plantations were set to work building the road though the forest area - the Chinese monument is in memory of them.
It was then found that the original deforestation of the forest was affecting the climate of Rio!
So with only 6 labourers for the project, a reforestation project was put underway, lasting 12 years and bringing plant and animal life back to the area. It is one of the biggest urban forests in the world, covering an area of 39 km 2 or 400 football fields.
It is a lovely story of rehabilitation.

Our next stop was the favela, Rocinha. A favela is a slum. The name came from a type of tree which was grown on the side of the mountains in Rio. As immigrants came and freed slaves needed needed places to live, they moved into the cover of the big Favela trees. When asked where they lived - they would say up there in the favelas giving the slums the name they still hold today.
Their are over a thousand around Rio. Historically the have had big issues with drugs and other illegal activities. They are good examples of political anarchism - the government having no control and citizens running their own area.
Rocinha was one of 24 of the larger favelas taken back by the government. There is a strong military presence in the favela and crime has been eradicated to a large extent. Government is now getting involved in improving the lives of those living in the favela with services and social programs. We felt very safe visiting Rocinha.

The area is a chaotic network of alleyways with buildings packed in around them. There are few roads which can take cars.
The tour took us up to one of the building roofs. It gave a us a awesome view of Rocinha sprawling below us. Very much like South Africa, right next to the favela is one of the richest suburbs of Rio. Their a wonderful kite flying culture. With people standing on their roofs and having kite battles with each other. They put glass dust on the kite edge and then try cut the other persons string. The winner gets bragging rights and the loser...their kite is open for anyone to pick up and claim.
We walked through more of Rocinha taking in the area before going back to the hotel.
Desperately hungry we found a smoothly shop and bought a few pizza slices, before heading for a last sit on the beach.
We caught a taxi at 2000 to the airport to start our trip to Canada.
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