An Exotic Day in Rio

An Exotic Day in Rio

An extra day in Rio can be the most brilliant day of you trip or not. It is up too you.  We contacted Favela Tour-Rejane Tourism Workshop and I am including the email address because you will be extremely pleased with the tours they offer and very pleased that you have gone beneath the surface where the regular tourists do not have the knowledge or privilege to travel.

Contact info for Rejane:

We were picked up at 8:00 A.M. and delivered to the airport to make our midnight flight. What happened in those hours in between would be the making or the breaking our trip. After we spent a rather mediocre trip we met with pulsating and energetic success. We met Rajane and her partner. We were driven to a small hotel to drop off our luggage and check in for just the day and early evening.

We enjoyed a Brazilian coffee and then began an extensive tour of downtown Rio. It was early in the morning. I mention this because when we circled back at night to the same district there was a dramatic change.  All of the corrugated doors hiding nightspots were closed on our morning drive, only to be opened transforming into exciting and alive places full of people.  Before our journey to the airport, we were able to sample a bit of the nightlife. People wanted to talk with us and there was no means of communication except smiles, eye beams, touches, handshakes, and the sharing of the same space.

After looking through several downtown antique shops we found some semi ancient treasures from Brazil to bring back to sunny Southern California. We climbed with the help of a cogwheel train and an elevator to the top of the Christ Redeemer (Corcovado) The crowds were thick and the statue is so grand, you almost had to fall off the cliff to get a photo with the image totally captured. Of course we went to the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. I was urged to purchase Haviana footwear. So I did. Then we traveled to Sugar Loaf and Maracana Stadium with lots of sights to see along the way. We went for lunch in the rainforest and let water from the trees drip down onto our bodies.

My most memorable experience lies in our trip to the District, Favela Rocinha which is, an other worldly place, a place you cannot imagine. The favelas are Brazil’s shantytowns or slums. There are many of them, about a million people live there, they say about 40% of the population, and mostly they are built into the mountainsides.  These favelas started to become cites unto themselves years ago.  The country had a plan where they would give free land to farmers. So people squatted on land telling the government they were farms therefore receiving the land free and no taxes were required on this land. This no taxation, free water, and electricity is still in existence to favela dwellers. There are many shantytowns in many countries, but the ones in Brazil stand out because they are perched on mountainsides with the best views and in full view of the paying Brazilian middle class and rich.  I had no idea that the regular tax paying Brazilians hated the favelas so much, but when we excitedly told an airport official we had been to Rocinha, he said,

“ Oh you are brave of heart, we hate them because they rob us, they kill us and we pay taxes and they live off of us.” Okay…

We were picked up by a favela dweller and taken on a walk through the settlement. It was remarkable and amazing and more astounding than I have words to explain. The photos taken underground do not contain the smell, the sounds, and the depth of the experience.  You enter through streets barely wide enough for a truck to pass. Then, you are veered off into a darkness that is still light enough to pass for day.  These dark winding pedestrian paths keep you vigilant where to step, all the while twisting your neck from side to side, not to miss seeing something. The streets inside are about 3 feet wide and houses or places of business (if you can call it that) are on either side.  The cavernous dampness is profound. The people pass sideways. It is hot and steamy. It reeks in places and never quite passes for fresh. Life is being lived in the semi subterraneous place.

If you want to call it free water you can. It comes about 3 times a week and if the pumps are not working it has to be hand carried to one of the 4 levels. You have to have a strong back and powerful legs to live there. Everyone watches out for each other. No one steals within the favela city limit or death is a certainty. Electricity is free and the wires are everywhere and rival photos sent from India with wires of unbelievable tangles. Yes, electricity is free if you can hook up and if someone can fix the wiring to your house if it should need adjustment. (photo of wired fixer to follow). As a favela dweller our guide says everything is free. To me there was a heavy price to pay, one that very few reading this would want to pay. It was an honor to learn about this part of Brazilian culture and to learn both sides of the story.

Watch a video or two:

We rested awhile and were again picked up by Rajane and taken to another wildly exciting event. We went to the rehearsal for Carnival.

You do not sit in the stands, you stand in the stands and watch the parade of Samba schools dance, sing and wave in unison. You are immediately caught up in the sound of the music and start to dance even though you are not trained. There was a feeling of joy, exuberance and camaraderie throughout the evening of Samba. The music crawls in
side of your bones and dances.

We are home and there is jet lag, unpacking and mail among other things to attack and do.

Would I recommend the cruise or cruise line? Call me.

Would I recommend our day in Rio? What do you think?

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