I Go To Rio… De Janeiro

When my baby, when my baby smiles at me I go to Rio. De Janeiro… Now see how long it takes you to get that damn tune out of your head. Ha. Yes, it could be something akin to legal torture but I’m sorry, if you’re gonna come on this journey with me you have to suffer with me too and I had that tune rolling round my brain the entire time I was there.

The world famous Copacabana Beach. I went there because it’s the done thing but it’s mostly just a large expanse of sand, and I really fucking hate sand.

I’d decided not to be in Rio for too long as I’d rather spend the time in cities with my mates. I mean, Rio is fabulous and I really did like it there but finances are thin on the ground and I figured I’d just get the landmarks out of the way and move on. The obvious landmark of course being Cristo Redentor, the 33 metre tall statue of Christ the Redeemer, sat atop a sod off great big hill. After devastating landslides due to heavy rainfalls a couple of months earlier, the train that takes you up aforementioned sod off great big hill was closed for repairs. The only way up, the staff at the hostel informed me was by taxi (and the drivers were cashing in, $R50 to take you there and back), a tour, or to walk up.

It seems this is the only photo I have of the equally famous Sugar Loaf mountain. Sorry it’s shit.

I’m sorry what? Walk? Fuck that, what time does the tour leave, please?! The tour was R$85 but it’s a full day effort and you get taken to other places too, not just up to the statue and it’s well worth the price. He takes you to see some of the Tijuca Forest including Cascatinha Taunay and the pregnant tree. Legend has it that if a chick puts her hand on this tree they fall pregnant. Tree babies. Ew.

Cascatinha Taunay

The forest is also home to Oscar Niemeyer, the 102 year old world famous architect. Well it’s home to one of his homes anyway, he used dynamite to blast it out of rock. He actually lives in an apartment near the beach and apparently if anyone asks him what his favourite building is he’ll say his “little home in the forest.” Clearly doesn’t like it enough to live in it, but. He should give it to me. He’s the one who designed Brasília amongst other things and there are examples of his work all over the country. Bottles’ mum pointed out a couple of his designs in a park in São Paulo too. Brazilians are very proud of this man who, at his age, is still working and designing.

I mean, the statue is cool but the view from the statue is better!

Anyways, on with the tour. We headed up to the statue and hung out for a whilst taking photos of it from every possible angle and oohing and ahhing at the view, and that view warrants a shit tonne of oohing and ahhing. It’s worth the trip up the hill just so you can look out over the city and the sea, never mind that there’s a world famous landmark stuck on the top of it. You’re quite unlikely to get any photos of the statue itself without various tourists in it, invariably standing with their arms stuck out to the side like it’s never been done before. And yeah, damn right it did it too, pretty sure it’s the rules.

After we’d gotten our big, concrete statue fix we headed onward to Lapa to look at some steps. But they’re really pretty steps, made of tiles from all over the world. It’s the work, nay, obsession of an artist called Jorge Selarón who started it in 1990 as a tribute to the Brazilian people but it’s never going to be finished, he constantly renews the tiles section by section with tiles he paints himself or tiles that have been sent to him by foreign visitors and he says the work will only finish the day he snuffs it. He calls it “The Great Madness”. Well, ya gotta have a hobby I guess… But the steps are fucking cool.

The work of art that is the Lapa Steps.
An example of one of the tiles painted by the artist himself. This pregnant woman shows up in a lot of his work.

What else do you think of when you think of Rio? Don’t say Sugar Loaf, I didn’t bother with that and I’m far to unworldly to even have heard of it. I think of guns and drugs and violence and favelas because I watch too many movies and there are tours on offer to Rochina favela, the biggest in Rio if not Brazil with over 200,000 inhabitants. Hmm. I was in two minds about this one ay, wandering through someone’s neighbourhood, their home, gawping at them like they’re monkeys in a zoo. I was torn between my apparently quite shakeable morals and potentially missing out on something really fucking cool. Apparently things are fucking cool today. Not just cool. Fucking cool.

So basically I was sold when I was told the mototaxi ride to the top was worth it alone and it wasn’t one of the tours that takes you to the top and drives you slowly back down like a safari. They park the van at the bottom and you take the mototaxi up (win for the riders) then walk through the inside of the favela, being taken into shops and stopping at a day care centre who the tour company donates food to every month. Win for the shop keepers when the tourists buy stuff and win for the day care centre when the clucky straight girls donate money to them because they can’t resist the cheeky smiles of the tiny little childreney things. Personally all I see is snot and drool and my money’s going to the guy up the road who sells cakes and beer thankyouverymuch.

The mototaxi (a motorbike that which is also a taxi) was fucking cool though. Yes. Fucking cool. I hadn’t been on a bike for so long, at first I was torn between nonchalantly holding onto the rails at the back as if I frequently ride pillion on a motorcycle controlled by a crazy Brazilian up to the top of a favela or clinging onto the guy in front for dear life, possibly bruising one or two of his ribs. Then I relaxed and wished I knew the Portuguese for “Faster, bitch! We’ve got a race to win!”

This… This makes me uncomfortable… I kind of want to sit down and try to untangle it all.

At the moment, the police are occupying the favelas one at a time trying to eradicate the gang control and the drugs which are very real. Our guide told us when we could and couldn’t take photos and told us if anyone walks past holding a gun then please don’t photograph them because these people are gang members and drug dealers and don’t want their photo all over Facebook. We didn’t see any sign of them apart from their tag, ADA, Amigos Dos Amigos, the gang that runs Rochina.

You can almost see where the poverty ends and the wealth begins.

And that was my surprisingly epic Rio De Janeiro adventure in a largeish nutshell. Hope you got through all them words in one piece.
Other than that I watched England’s embarrassing draw with the USA at Fifa Fan Fest on Copacobana beach then left the city the next day to go catch up with my mate Ricky in Belo Horizonte. The end.

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Stayed at: Walk On The Beach Hostel

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