Rocinha Favela

3pm on Friday 11 December the bus pulls into the main bus station in Rio de Janeiro! My new friend Clare is getting another bus here so we say our goodbyes. There are three Israelis and an Irishman waiting with me for our luggage, the Irish guy was in my last hostel. We all agree to get a taxi together to Copacaba, then have to split as the taxis can’t take us all. It hits me that Portuguese is actually very different to Spanish, I’ve grown comfortable communicating in espanol but now have to start all over again! Me and Irishman go together and the driver is going to charge us more for going to different hostels so I go to the same one as Irish; Mellow Yellow. My friend Sue stayed there so it can’t be that bad. The staff are great, so friendly, although the hostel could do with a face lift. It’s a very happening social sort of place. I have a shower and go to the bar at 5pm for happy hour and my free caipirinha. I meet various people from all over and we drink some more and buy out tickets for the Lapa street party in the evening. I meet a couple of young lads from Shifnal-what a small world this is around the corner from where my mum lives in Telford, Shropshire in England! At around midnight about 40 people from the hostel pile into mini buses to Lapa. I’m sitting next to a Brummie with a very thick accent, everyone is so friendly its going to be a fun night! Lapa is alive and the streets are full of people out to have a good time. Women dressed in short, tight skirts, skin tight jeans, little boys topless with funky haircuts run up and down the streets, various stalls sell drinks, food and snacks. The music is pumping in the street and there are people everywhere. It’s a great vibe but one also has to be very cautious here. None of us girls bring our cameras or purses. I have tucked some money into my bra and have my room key in my pocket and that is it, it’s just too dangerous here. We walk through the streets, get a few drinks, and eventually move onto a club. Outside we see a police car struggling with a young guy in his 20s, his lip is cut and there is blood everywhere, he’s shouting, It’s a good night but I can’t relax, I’ve only just met everyone and Lapa is not a safe place to party. At 5am I head home with a couple of guys from my hostel feeling completely exhausted but what a way to start my Rio experience!

Ipanema Beach

I get up at noon the next day and go for breakfast; this hostel is brilliant breakfast is served until 1pm. I meet a couple of girls in my room from Sao Paulo Bea and Pri, they’re off to Ipanema beach so I join them. We hire a few plastic chairs and an umbrella and enjoy the sun, sipping coke and watching the beautiful people. I’m pretty sure we’re in the gay section, although there

Fish by the Sea

are some women and mixed sex groups about, its fine. Post 9 is the place everyone goes to ‘pull’, well that’s not what I’m here for. Everyone stares at a slim and very pregnant topless woman walking proudly along the sea. Dark skinned and a few cokes later we pack up and grab a few chairs at one of the café’s along the beach. We order a few beers and some fresh fish for dinner and chit chat. Their English is limited and my Portuguese is, well, non existent but somehow we spend a few very pleasant hours together and get to know each other. They invite me out that evening but I’m totally exhausted and decide to take it easy tonight. We make plans to see the Christ statue the following morning and I try to enjoy an early night despite the music blaring from the hostel bar until the early hours.

Bea, Me and Pri

The following day I’m ready to go at 10am but the rain is coming down. Everyone says you can’t do anything in Brazil on a wet day-and it’s quite true! I snooze for a while then head to copacabana beach with the Brazilians for a late lunch around 2.30pm. Copacabana beach is just one block away. Barry Manilow is playing in my head, although I know that this song is about a girl in Cuba but still…We meander round the shops and eventually head back to the hostel. The evening is spent in the hostel bar which is very busy tonight, and there’s a live capoeira show to enjoy. I spend the evening talking about careers, relationships, feminism(?!) and this thing called life with a Swedish young man and enjoy my last few hours with the Brazilians. We stay until we are kicked out of the bar in the early hours.

Favela Boys

Monday the 14th I go on a favela tour, the famous shanty towns of Brazil where millions have been living for years, building homes on top of each other wherever they can find space. It’s not a good idea to come here of your own accord. I get picked up from the hostel at 2pm and we drive to a spot where we jump on motorbikes to the entrance of Rocinha favela-the biggest one in Rio. The ride up is exhilarating, weaving in and out of cars, trucks and bikes. I hold on tight to my driver and feel like I’m in a movie, it’s fantastic! Our tour

Hanging Out

guide gives us lots of interesting facts and figures and guides us through. Favela gangs have guns and ammunition that is way better than anything the police own, some of the favelas are no go areas even for the police, they seem to live side my side with some sort of understanding. Many people here work in the city as porters, cleaners, doing jobs where they are paid next to nothing. Kids go to school and most have access to free transport if they live here, so the government is doing something for these people.We stop by an artists studio and see some work done by young locals, it’s a great project and the work is excellent. A few people in the group buy some pieces. We walk on and say ‘hoy’ to the locals and some of them

Favela Art

especially the kids want you to take photos of them so they pose. The narrow path descends and the houses become cheaper and more run down. The lower you go the more rubbish you see, and this is where everything from drainage pipes from the top ends up. We stop by a nursery and watch the kids playing, this is a project funded by the profit made from the favela tours, it’s really good to see where my 60 reals are going. Before we get to the exit we are told to put our cameras away as there is danger everywhere, a drug dealer for example would not be too pleased with having his photo taken. We are gutted as some of the sights now are simply amazing, as the road widens there are more people and shops and stalls, the heart of the favela but we can only remember this in our minds, no photos allowed. It dawns on me that this is exactly the kind of place I’d like to do an arts project with, perhaps something in education partnering the schools here with some in England, a dance collaboration would be fantastic…That evening a lovely Irish couple I met in Foz arrive so we spend the evening in the bar having a great evening instead of a boat party we were supposed to go to but it double in price in a day. We are in the bar again until closing time.

Cristo Redentor

Tuesday morning I wake up to a bright sunny day so go with the Irish couple to see the Christ Statue at last. I’m quite excited and the views of the city from this height are simply amazing! It looks like many other holiday makers had the same idea as the place is heaving with tourists, I guess it always is here. In the evening we go to a club called ‘House’ and I bump into many people I’ve seen on my travels it’s a lot of fun! We return at 6am and I’m shattered. At breakfast the following day I chat to a few people and get kicked out of the place again-always talking for hours!!! I finally start the day at 4pm with a walk along Copacabana beach but I don’t last long as its just too hot. That evening I’m in the bar again and am delighted when Kristi my friend from the tour I finished in BA arrives at the bar and is staying at Mellow Yellow for the night! We enjoy a few beers and she goes to bed around 11pm feeling exhausted. I’m knackered but end up chatting with my Swedish friend until after 4am.

Lapa Steps

Thursday 17th me and Kristi get a cab, pick up Michelle who was also on the tour and head to San Theresa (Lapa) and explore this area. We stop for snacks then go to the famous steps by Selaron and take some photos. I buy some more havaianas, this time green with the Brazilian flag on them. It’s a great afternoon but now I am starting to feel very ill again, too many late nights. I get the tube home and enjoy a home made lasagne at the hostel whilst chatting to Mark, an actor from Nottingham and we discuss theatres in London. I take a few painkillers but am feeling really feverish now so I have an early night. I’m supposed to be going to Illa Grande tomorrow but feel awful!
Friday the 18th and I feel terrible! I pop out for some stronger tablets, grab some lunch and hire some dvds from the hostel. After I snooze I go and watch 5 episodes of The Office before dinner. After dinner another 5 and I love it! It’s 10.30pm and I’m still feeling terrible so I go to bed. The next morning over breakfast I hear lots of stories from people that attended the Lapa party the night before, people being mugged, one guy got stabbed, so much violence and trouble-I went on the right Friday when nothing happened. Over the weekend I buy some souvenirs, do a lot of walking, find some nice coffee, and try and rest to get better.
Monday 21st I am driven by a mad man to the airport in the afternoon-I am feeling much better today but sad that my South American adventure has come to an end-it’s been superb! On arrival it takes me ages to find a trolley for my luggage-where are they hiding?! This puts me in a bad mood as I’m already tired and still a little poorly. I look at the departure board and it says my flight is cancelled. My heart sinks. I go to the American Airlines desk and queue, I’m going through all of the potential scenarios in my mind. The woman behind the desk looks at my passport and 5 minutes later tells me to stand to one side. Three woman and a man are dressed in red santa outfits and start to sing jingle bells, the first Christmas carol I have heard this year. My eyes fill with tears and I dry them with my hands before they roll down my face; I have to get home for Christmas. I go back to the desk and am told only my flight to Sao Paulo is cancelled. They put me on another flight with a Brazilian family to SP that is delayed. We make it in the nick of time and have to collect our luggage and check in again for NYC. It’s crazy, so many people and no one speaks English or Spanish-yikes! I make my flight and watch Julie & Julia and Adam-love them both. Good bye Brazil hello New York City!

Harpreet in beautiful Rio!


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