So what have we been up to? Well... We missed carnival by 2 days but that doesnīt mean the locals stop partying, quite the opposite! They have whatīs called a "block party" in various different blocks of the city. We went to one on Friday, just down the road. It was a bit like Notting Hill carnival, with different sound systems mainly playing Samba or Hip Hop
. I made the mistake of bringing my camera out. I thought it would be safe to take some pictures but when people saw me doing they said to me "put your camera away, itīs not safe!". I followed their advice as getting robbed would not be a good start to the holiday. After a few drinks and walking around for ages we stopped to get some food. Being vegetarian is hard as the staple diet here is meat, rice and chips! I found a kiosk that was selling "cheese on a stick": To me that translates as heaven on a stick! As I indulged into my cheese on stick a local guy came up to me and grabbed it out of my hand and started eating it. At first I thought it was a joke, so I went to get it back off him. The truth was it was just a distraction as he then started going through my pockets. I had my camera and wallet in there, but he didnīt manage to get them as I hit his hand out the way and then ran into the crowd. Luckily he didnīt follow but I lost Ed. The others had followed me but Ed had gone missing.... We looked for him for ages but couldīt find him so we went back to the hostel hoping he would be there. He wasnīt. We started to worry a bit but luckily 5 minutes later he arrived back at the hostel. Phew... Well I learnt my lesson: donīt bring any valuables out, just a bit of change. Unfortunately it gave me a bit of a bad impression on the locals but that was soon to be changed over the next couple of days...
On Saturday we had a bit of a quiet day
. We visited Sanata Teresa a small bohemian block with picturesque cobbled streets and a famous set of stares. The stairs have been covered in tiles from around the world, by a Chilean artist called Jorge Selarón. He started the project in the 1990s and he is still going on today. In fact we bumped into him painting some of the tiles.
Later on that day we walked into "Centro", the center of town. The boys were hoping to find a MacDonalds. To their delight we found one... typical, we come all the way to Brazil so that we can eat MacDonalds!
On Sunday we went to another block party, the "Mono block party". We were the only tourists there. At first it was a bit intimidating as people would stare at us, some of them shouting "gringo gringo!". For a minute I thought we made a bad choice. A girl came up to me and started hitting me with a stick, she was laughing. I couldnīt tell if she was being friendly or not!? A girl then came up to James and asked him to kiss her. He wasnīt interested and told her he had a girlfriend (he missed a good opportunity in my opinion!). Then another one came and started saying how beautiful we were... We were confused as we felt we were the most unattractive people there, white, sunburnt "gringos" and they were all well tanned, all the men were mostly body builders. We started getting more and more attention
. Everyone was really friendly, trying to speak to us in basic English. It turns out the locals really like the look of white, skinny westerners. Can you believe it!? We met a local guy called "Rafael" who lived in Miami for a bit. He spoke perfect English and offered to show us around. He took us to a nice local restaurant and translated everything on the menu, which was great as before it had all been guess work! Another plus was that we didnīt get over charged.... We then went to the local supermarket and bought ingredients to make "caipirinhas", the most famous Brazilian cocktail based on lime. Rafael kindly made them for us, they were juicy!
Today we went to do a tour of the Favelas. The Favelas are small shanti towns, which consist of 20% of Rios population. They can be dangerous as they are controlled by drug lords so we had to go with a guide. We visited the "Rocinha Favela", the biggest in Rio. Local favela residents took us to the top of the Favela on the back of their motorbikes. They drive like crazy, overtaking everything in sight. I was more worried about coming off the bike then the Favela itself! The tour was strict. You can only take photos when the guide says its ok and we could only follow a certain route led by the guide. As we came into the Favela there was a boy with a gun in his hand, guarding the path. They work for the drug lords and protect the Favela from police and rival Favela gangs
. Inside the Favelas lived very poor Brazilian people. Not all of them work in the drugs trade, some have normal jobs in the city. The richest lived at the top of the Favelas and the poorest at the bottom. This was because the drinking water came from the top of the mountain so the people at the top would get more water. They also had open sewers which ran down hill, a lot of it spilling into the houses of the people at the bottom, unfortunately I was walking through it in my flip flops! The houses these people lived in were not safe. There is no regulations to stop people building higher and higher and very often they collapse. It was an amazing sight but also very upsetting to see the poverty and the terrible living conditions they lived in. On a brighter note the tour operator we used gave 70% of itīs profits to fund hospitals and schools in the Favelas, which was good.
Tomorrow we head down south to explore the coast line. Iīll keep you posted...
Thanks for reading,
If you ever meet someone who has visited Rio, youīll expect to hear about Carnival, Christ the redeemer (the famous statue of Jesus that looks over the city), views from the top of Sugar Loaf mountain and the stunning white sand beaches such as Copacabana and Ipenema. Weīhave been here 4 days and only managed to tick one off the list, the beach. Not entirely our fault, the main problem is that there has been an overcast of clouds since we got here. Weīre not complaining though as itīs so bleeding hot, we canīt imagine what it would be like if the sun was out the whole time!