All of Rio de Janeiro is a Favela

15 Mar – 22 Mar

The title is in jest – if your delicate sensibilities are offended, well, I don’t really care.

Rio de Janeiro is not too far from Paraty, and we managed to catch a relatively early bus, so when we arrived, it was mid afternoon. Honestly, when we arrived, I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. Rio seemed rather filthy, with a vague air of malice hanging about it. Perhaps it was because of all the hype, but I was not impressed.

Leftovers from Carnival, adding to the generally unsavoury atmosphere in Rio. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Leftovers from Carnival, adding to the generally unsavoury atmosphere in Rio.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Anyway. Dona Raquel, Daniel’s mum, had invited us to stay with her, so we headed over to her place, where we met Daniel, who was in Rio as well. After lunch and a quick shower, we headed to the bus terminal to buy Daniel’s bus ticket back to Paraty, a journey during which Daniel and Junior tried to spook me with horror stories of Rio (Junior had lived there for most of his life before he moved to Paraty). It kinda worked, probably because the area around the rodoviaria is pretty shady, with a significant number of homeless people (who looked like they were drunk or drugged or both) wandering around aimlessly. Well, once that was done, we headed to Niteroi, Rio’s less (in)famous little brother, the city on the other side of the bridge. It was a nice bus ride over, with a great view of both Niteroi and Rio.

No picture of the bus ride, but here's a picture of the sunset instead Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

No picture of the bus ride, but here’s a picture of the sunset instead
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We ended up in a tiny town called Manilha, where we first headed to their friend’s home (he is also called Daniel) for tea and then to church, where Daniel was giving a guest sermon. It was a pretty nice evening, and Daniel (of Niteroi) gave us a ride back to Dona Raquel’s place.

Happy churchgoers! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Happy churchgoers!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The next day was Sunday, and Junior wanted to go to his parents’ house to surprise them. But first, he took me on a little tour around Rio. We saw the Maracana stadium (only from the outside, sadly),

THE Maracana Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

THE Maracana
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

went to a park

On the way to the park - in the background, some mountains that pretty much surround Rio Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

On the way to the park – in the background, some mountains that pretty much surround Rio
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

and visited a museum that used to be the old residence of one of Brazil’s governors

Gorgeous building, really Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Gorgeous building, really
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

but had an exhibit on dinosaurs (and a whole bunch of other things) instead.

Yay dinosaurs! But really, a history of Brazil's Portuguese colonial times would have been more fitting. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Yay dinosaurs and mummies! But really, a history of Brazil’s Portuguese colonial times would have been more fitting.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

After that, it was to Junior’s home in Rio, which (according to him) is in what used to be one of the worst favela’s in Rio. Honestly, it didn’t seem that bad, but there was a significantly larger population of scantily-clad women and cars with Funk music blaring out of their boots.

Big open market where the bus dropped us off Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Big open market where the bus dropped us off
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

But back to the surprise! Needless to say, when his mum opened the door for us, her expression was absolutely priceless. She (and the rest of Junior’s family) was absolutely delighted to see him, and it was really good to see them all again as well (even as I write this, several months later, the memory brings a smile to my face). I got to meet the rest of Junior’s wonderful family, and it was an absolutely lovely day.

Newest addition to Junior's family - Vitor! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Newest addition to Junior’s family – Vitor!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Well, since my phone died in Paraty, I was essentially uncontactable in case of an emergency, so I wanted to buy a new phone in Rio. So that evening, Junior brought me to one of the million shopping malls in Rio to try to find a phone that suited my needs (i.e. cheap smartphone with whatsapp capability that wasn’t blocked for international SIM cards). The bus ride there was absolutely insane – a less experienced driver would surely have caused an accident at the speed he was driving at, on the kind of streets he was driving on, but we arrived to a delightful surprise! There was a funfair going on, and being the children that we are, Junior and I decided to go on the most exciting ride they had. Super fun and such a throwback to childhood days.

Funfairs turn adults to kids again! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Funfairs turn adults to kids again!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Well, the mall was boring after that, and I found a phone that worked but didn’t buy it because the store closed while we were distracted by ice cream. So it was another roller-coaster bus ride (all bus drivers in Rio, and possibly in all Brazil/ Latin America have superpowers, I’m sure of it) back to Junior’s house after that, where we called it a night.

After lunch the next day, we headed back to Rio to explore a little more. I also got a truly Carioca experience, because we took the train back to downtown, something tourists never do, apparently. It was a really interesting experience, and I got the chance to see what Rio’s favelas are like. I even made a video of the train ride, secretly.

It is apparently common for people to hang out of the doors (which they force open) of the train Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

It is apparently common for people to hang out of the doors (which they force open) of the train
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Favelas don't look that bad, but maybe I'm blind Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Favelas don’t look that bad, but maybe I’m blind
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Having made it safely back downtown, we explored a bit of Rio, checking out some of the iconic sites there. It was great having Junior as a tour guide, because I could focus on soaking in the city without worrying too much about where we were going (or how to navigate the crazy traffic).

Cool building in downtown Rio Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Cool building in downtown Rio
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

After wandering around for a bit, we caught a ferry over to Niteroi!

Crazy queue for the ferry though. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Crazy queue for the ferry though.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

If the view on the bus was good, the ferry was better.

Rio, from the ferry Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Rio, from the ferry
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

And cheaper too (God only knows why anyone would take the bus instead).

Niteroi, from the ferry Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Niteroi, from the ferry
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We walked around Niteroi(‘s shopping centre) for a bit, and then took the ferry back to Rio.

Row of lights which is actually the bridge which connects Rio and Niteroi Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Row of lights which is actually the bridge which connects Rio and Niteroi
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We caught a really strange, but interesting performance at a museum

Performance art, where people actually talked to us. It was odd and we didn't quite understand what was going on. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Performance art, where people actually talked to us. It was odd and we didn’t quite understand what was going on.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Rio at night is a lovely(ish) sight Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Rio at night is a lovely(ish) sight
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

and then it was back to Dona Raquel’s house for me to get my stuff and head to my CouchSurfing host’s place.

It was, quite frankly, the worst CouchSurfing experience I have ever had. Well, to be honest, I was somewhat aware of the situation, but I guess it was just more than I had expected. So, I had sent CouchRequests some time back, asking for a place to crash for Carnival. This guy had invited me over, and when I checked his profile, he had quite a number of good references, but also a bunch of people who had said that his place was dirty, because of the 7 or 8 dogs he had. Well, generally, a dirty places don’t bother me too much, and I’m a big fan of dogs, so I thought I could deal with it. Unfortunately, this was not the case, because when I got to his place, I was greeted by a very strong smell of unwashed dogs as well as poo and pee. He informed me that one of his dogs had just had puppies, so there were now a grand total of FOURTEEN dogs in his relatively small apartment. He showed me to the place where I was to sleep, and left me to my devices. I tried to settle down to sleep, but unfortunately, the entire atmosphere of the place was making me really uncomfortable. To top it all off, the dogs spent the whole night yowling and barking, which was really just…I don’t even know how to describe it. I decided that I couldn’t stay there any longer, so in the morning, I made my excuses and left for a hostel. The guy seemed pretty cool about it, but he later sent me an angry message, so I guess not 😦 such a pity, because he seemed pretty cool, despite the state of his house. Well, in any case, that’s in the past now.

After dumping my stuff at the hostel, I went out to meet Junior and finally bought my phone. Good thing Junior was there too, because non-Brazilians apparently can’t buy phones in Brazil (weird system, I know). Armed with my new phone, we set off to climb Pão de Açúcar.

Pao de Azucar, which is now commonly known amongst tourists as Sugar Loaf heh Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Pao de Azucar, which is now commonly known amongst tourists as Sugar Loaf heh
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Well, actually the smaller hill next to it, but you know, same difference. It was an easy trek

View from a secret spot off the trail Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

View from a secret spot off the trail
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We met a little monkey on our walk too! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We met a little monkey on our walk too!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

and with great view of the bay area.

I'm not part of the view, but it was a cool tree to perch on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

I’m not part of the view, but it was a cool tree to perch on
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We even got to take the cable car down (for free!) which was the perfect icing on the cake.

Cable car view! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,

Cable car view!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

After that, we headed to Copacabana beach for a leisurely evening stroll,

Copacabana beach - that's the full moon in the distance! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Copacabana beach – that’s the full moon in the distance!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

unfettered by the hordes of tourists who usually occupy almost every square inch of space during the day. Lovely day that really got my mind off the CouchSurfing fiasco.

One of the most famous things in Rio, apart from Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, is the giant statue of Jesus Christ, Cristo Redentor, on Morro do Corcovado. And get this – despite having lived in Rio for most of his life, Junior had never been to visit it. He finally had an excuse to, with me around, and we decided to go the next day. As I was heading there, I met a Brazilian girl, Dani, and her two Argentinian friends, Wally and Dario who were also heading there, so we decided to go together.

Pretty cool view on the train up to  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Pretty cool view on the train up to Morro do Corcovado
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Despite being quite expensive, it was worth it – fantastic views,

Overlooking Rio Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Overlooking Rio
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Back view of Jesus Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Back view of Jesus
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

And the front! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

And the front!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

and good laughs at the silly tourists who were making the typical pose (I plead guilty as well).

Silly tourists Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Silly tourists
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

After that, we split from Dani and friends who were heading to the beach, and wandered around Rio a bit more before heading to Arpoador to catch a gorgeous sunset.

Walking along Ipanema Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Walking along Ipanema
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Sunset  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Sunset from the Arpoador – View of Morro Dois Irmaos
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

We chilled out there for a while, and then it was off to Lapa to check out Rio’s famed nightlife. Maybe because it was midweek, but it didn’t seem particularly impressive.

Lapa at night Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Lapa at night
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The famous arches of Lapa Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The famous arches of Lapa
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

I still had fun though, and Lapa, despite its distinctly hobo vibe, still seemed like a quaint, bohemian place.

The steps of Lapa, which are (also) famous and add to the bohemian vibe there Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The steps of Lapa, which are (also) famous and add to the bohemian vibe there
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

It was quite late by then, so I accompanied Junior back to his home for the night.

After being in small, quiet little Paraty for almost three weeks, being in Rio was rather overwhelming (I really am a small-town kinda girl at heart!), so we had a quiet (or as quiet as a home with more than 10 people living in it can be) day in Junior’s house, just hanging out in the pool and watching TV. Very coincidentally, there was a program on TV about Singapore (can you believe that!) which I enjoyed watching, but which also made me miss (the food back) home. It also happened to be Junior’s mum’s birthday that day, so in the evening, there was a celebration with the rest of Junior’s family. Such a lovely bunch of people, and being there reminded me of my own family celebrations back home.

Feliz aniversario mae! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Feliz aniversario mae!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The next day, it was time to say goodbye to Junior and (my) family (in Rio), as Junior was heading back to Paraty. Back in Rio downtown, I had a relatively calm day, running errands and taking it easy. That night, I went with Dani and friends with some other people from the hostel to Lapa again, and it definitely was more vibrant, with lots of people partying on the streets. Very fun night, although my wallet fell out of the taxi as I was getting out without me noticing and I lost maybe R$40 due to my own stupid carelessness. 😦

One of the people I met during the church retreat in Paraty was Camila, a really sweet girl who lives in Rio. She had invited me to hang out with her the next day, so we, along with her friend Mimi, headed to the Jardim Botanico, for an afternoon of sightseeing

Giant trees and a tiny Camila Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Giant trees and a tiny Camila
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The largest lily pads in the world! Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The largest lily pads in the world!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Cristo looked quite cool, shrouded in clouds Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Cristo looked quite cool, shrouded in clouds
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

and camwhoring.

The garden trio Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

The garden trio
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

A very pleasant day we ended by going to Copacabana beach and chilling out to Camila playing the guitar and singing.

Entertainment for the evening Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

Entertainment for the evening
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mar 2014

With that, I had had enough of Rio for the time being, and I decided to get back on the road. But not for long, because my next stop was Buzios!

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