Home > Uncategorized > Rio – Part 1 – Aug 2-5th

Rio – Part 1 – Aug 2-5th

Aug 2 – We got up somewhat early (09:00) to catch our bus up to Rio.  We had breakfast, packed up our bags, said our goodbyes before walking a block down and catching a cab to the bus terminal.

This was our first bus experience in Brasil, and it was quite relieving.  For starters it was roughly $10 less than what Lonely Planet said the ticket would cost.  On top of that, by the time we entered the bus station to the time our bus rolled out of the terminal: 15 minutes.  On time + South America? … Something seemed odd here.  To add a cherry on top of the cake, the bus was the cleanest we’d been on yet and had the most leg room.  Even though we didn’t have something ridiculous like 24 hrs to enjoy it, on the whole it was a good experience.

After a 6.5 hr ride, we rolled into Rio de Janeiro just as it started to get dark (bad timing for a “dangerous” city, no?)  At the bus terminal you have to line up (a good 20-25 min line) just to catch a taxi, as it’s advised (for safety reasons) NOT to go on the public buses at night.  We had a quick 15 min ride down to Ipanema beach to check into our hostel (Che Lagarto.)

We were placed in a dorm with 12 beds (our reservation was for 8-10 bed dorm) so we were none to happy about this.  To make matters worse our beds were right beside a giant glass window which had no curtains.  If that wasn’t bad enough the Nurf-Bat-to-our-balls was the fact this giant window slid open near the top…conveniently where Paul’s top bunk was.  We immediately started cracking jokes about what we should do once Paul rolled over in the middle of the night and promptly fell the 3 stories out of our window.  To blow off some steam we walked around searching for a decently priced dinner – obviously not all that possible in Brasil – so we settled on Lord Jims Pub right next to the hostel (a nice english pub) where I had myself some Bangers and Mash.

Lord Jims

Bangers and Mash

Aug 3- We slept in before deciding to just wander around somewhere near central Rio, as it was to cloudy/windy/rainy to go to the beach.  We walked all the way up Ipanema beach to the metro station before getting off at Cinelandia.  Obviously this sounds like cinema, so we figured we’d try and catch a movie if we found one.  First up was lunch though, and Brasilian cuisine being what it is, everybody was going to these stupid little buffet type of resteraunts where you pay by weight.  We didn’t want none of this so settled for good ole’ McD’s.

After this we walked down by the museum of contemporary art (deciding not to go in, but rather to take pictures right outside it.)  After that we began our search for a cinema.  The old cinema right near the metro turned out to only have two movies in Portuguese.  Paul for some reason was really wanting to see Salt, so the man wrote down the address of the cinema playing Salt.  It turned out this cinema was in a mall way back near our hostel, so we opted to do a google search for a local cinema at a net cafe.  After narrowing down to one near us, we started the 15 min walk.  Once at the address, we were ticked to find it had apparently moved farther up the road.  So off we marched to a high-rise tower.  A cinema in a tower?  The desk man apparently said so, so we checked through security (odd if this was a theater, no?) and went up the elevator.  I wish I could have seen the look on the ladies face when the elevator opened and out popped these two english speaking tourists all ready to see a movie.  It turns out the address was for the cinemas head office.  Embarrassingly we walked out.  Paul was persistent so he kept up the search for a while longer.  By this point I was getting pissed off.  I mean, I wouldn’t mind seeing Salt, but we’d already been searching for more than a couple hours…There’s no way in hell I wanted to see it that bad, so I told him I’d had enough and was heading back.

Outside contemporary art Museum

So back at the hostel Paul managed to speak to the people in reception and they gave us the address of a cinema 4 blocks up from us, and yes, they were playing Salt.  So we hung out at the hostel for a bit before finally heading out and seeing Salt  (in English, with Portuguese subtitles.)  Just as a FYI – I was right… It was an okay movie, but not one you’d search for hours to try and watch.

Theatre we watch Salt in

Aug 4 – The weather was once again crap.  The rain was at a solid drizzle, so again the beach was off.  We decided to walk up to the more posh district of Leblon to go to the mall there.  Malls are an excellent way to kill time.  We walked around here for a couple hours before basically staying at the hostel bar area the whole day.  The highlight was perhaps going to the market to buy ourselves dinner, but by this point we were beginning to hate the weather… After all, the whole point of Rio is the beach.

Aug 5th – Again the weather was bad.  We had made the decision the day before that if the weather wasn’t cooperating again we would just go one a favela tour.  So at 10:00 off we went to  South Americas largest slum: Rochina.  We got in a shuttle bus with about 13 others (+ a guide) where we drove 10 mins down the road to the base of the favela.  From here we all took Moto-Taxi’s up to the top of the favela, where we would walk down all the way back to the base of the favela.

On top of Rochina Favela

The Favela overlooks a nice beach


The first thing you notice is there is only a few select “pictures okay” spots.  The drug dealers still have the say over what’s okay and isn’t, so most areas are off limits for camera’s.  Now I’ve heard plenty of people before say what an odd experience it was being the ‘well-off-westerner’ invading the poor locals lives, but to me it didn’t seem like it on this trip.  Maybe it’s the fact that handfuls of tours go through their lives everyday that they adapt to get used to it.  They for the most part go about their lives, but are always saying hi to the tourists, giving the thumbs up with a smile.  Our guide brought us down to earth saying basically that these people are all nice to you right now because they can’t do anything to tourists without getting in big trouble from the drug dealers.  Apparently these same people smiling at us, were the ones who go down to Copacabana beach everyday to rob tourists (where they don’t face repercussions from the dealers.)

Allowed to take pics near garbage

Snuck picture

He also mentioned the current situation.  The police – in preparation for the Olympics and World Cup have already invaded and taken control of most of the favelas in Rio.  The drug dealers controlled most of them because the roads are too narrow for police vehicles to come through.  So much like in City of God + City of Men, the fighting has to occur on foot, hence the dealers are often victorious.  At the current time the cops were just preparing to invade this favela.  Once there the authorities would basically re-do the layout of the slum, widening the roads, and making the buildings/areas safer.  Room is also needed for a road in which Ambulance’s may travel up to get the sick.

Speaking of ambulances, there was one really memorable thing we saw.  Now obviously there is no real building’s done according to code, so the quality is pretty lackluster.  Now anyone who remembers the news a few months back knows Brazil had some really bad flooding.  Well there was one section that was fenced off that had a bunch of dirt.  The guy told us that when it rained one house fell, but because they are are built so close, it ended up knocking over an ADDITIONAL three houses.  The dirt pile was still there and we didn’t have the stomach to find out if anyone had died.

Washed out houseWalking carefully past the washed out houses

So on the tour there was various stops aside from the general picture stops for the slums.  We stopped at a local bakery where fatty Paul was the only one to help him to seconds when it came to doughnuts!  I can vouch for the fact they were pretty good, but we just cracked jokes how there were likely starving people outside and here’s Paul sitting there with a doughnut in each hand saying “Oh, this was a slum tour? I thought we were here to sample food!”

We also stopped at a painters studio, a spot to listen to kids practicing beats for the samba parade of Carnival, and a local daycare.  The highlight of the trip for me was the way out.  Here the guy said “no pictures,” and I thought to myself, come on, no pictures while leaving? Why in the hell?  But sure enough 50m on, most people missed it, but the drug dealers had a ‘watcher’ looking over the entrance to the slum.  He was casually leaning on an assault rifle, ready to take on any uninvited intruders.  It was so subtle that it almost looked like he was leaning on a cane, and only about 4 of us on the tour noticed it.

The favela

Water tanks on top of houses

Me and Rochina

The favela

The favela

Close up of houses

At bottom of Favela

Kid flying a kite

Hill in background

After wrapping up the tour we were dropped off at our hostel.  From here we decided to walk to the beach even though the weather was bad.  It did make for some really good photo’s though as the wind whipped up some huge waves.  Lifeguards weren’t letting anybody in the waters in these conditions, but we did see someone who managed to go in…he was abruptly swept away, so 4 lifeguards had to go in after him.  It was so bad that just 1 lifeguard couldn’t bring him back in.  So all 4 swam out, and gradually latched on to each other to form a chain.  They then jumped up as a wave came in, to gradually move foot-by-foot back to shore.

me + big waves

Big waves

Real big waves

No sun?

We then went back to the hostel were we met up with a guy from San Francisco named Rohitt.  We talked for a bit and agreed to catch dinner and head out later in the night.  Oddly enough shortly after this I look up, and see David – our British friend we met on the very first night of the trip in Santiago – walking through our hostel.  Both our jaws hit the floor, and we abruptly got to catching up.  We agreed to eat lasagna at the hostel later in the night, so he could catch up with Paul (who was on the internet).

At dinner we were upset to learn they didn’t have lasagna for us (only for Dave and his friends from his GAP tour), so me, Rohitt, Paul, and our Danish friend Martin heading out for some local eats.  At this point my stomach was still off from some sort of bug I got from Bolivia, but I tried to soldier on in my attempts to eat steak, eggs, beans and rice.  Not 10 mins after we finished I had to run back to the hostel as my dinner came right back up… so needless to say I called it a night after that.

Food that came up

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