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!
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
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.
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
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
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.