13th February 2013
One of the things I definitely wanted to do while I was in Rio is do a Favela Tour.
What is a Favela? Well, a Favela is a shantytown or slum that resides on hillsides on public and private property and are also considered illegal. However, so illegal at one stage that they developed an awful reputation for being controlled by drug dealers that kill and maim people whether they are locals or tourists. It was considered a huge no-no to go into a Favela.
So you may be thinking now…why the heck do I want to go into one?!
Have no fear, in recent times thanks to a fantastic co-ordinated police effort, the drug dealers are pretty much wiped out and in prison leaving the favelas free from their control. Now, they are welcoming and desperate to prove that being in a Favela is not bad as it sounds. I mean after all, so safe that hostels and hotels are opening in many of the 950 favelas situated around Rio.
But still, it’s not exactly recommended that you freely go into a favela yourself on your own. So on the day before, just before we went to party at Carnaval, we rang a prestigious and well known Favela Tour company aptly called Favela Tour, and booked for the afternoon slot the next day. We needed the afternoon slot seeing as we were going to be hungover from the partying!
Favela Tour, is run by Marcelo Armstrong, started from 1992, he wanted to show tourists that Favelas are not bad as they are made out to be in the media. Also recommended by Lonely Planet, both Auston, David and I decided that this tour was the way to go.
So meeting up out front of the Copacabana Palace Hotel, ooh la la, on Copacabana Beach, we were picked up by the Favela Tour company. It was also inopportune for me that David and Auston decided to be American Tourists to hold everyone up waiting as they searched for the bathroom to relieve themselves. ‘Why didn’t you go before we left the hostel?!’
Picking up other people in the van, we were truly in for a very humid day. Not even the aircon in our van could stop the sweat rolling down our backs and everytime I leaned against someone, I would slip and slide. Not a pretty sight anyway. Giving greetings to our fellow tourists, I inwardly grimaced to myself about some of them. Two haughty Americans who liked to make their voices heard over the guide’s and I took an instant dislike to them when they patronisingly asked the guide where the bathroom was. No this wasn’t Auston and Dave. An old Canadian couple who looked like they wouldn’t survive the trip, two european girls who were never off their phones texting all the time, and also a nice young couple who were quiet. The last were our favourite.
Speeding down the motorways and bouncing up and down to weak suspension, we had to screech to a halt when the old Canadian woman had to climb out and proceed to puke all over the road for the oncoming traffic. Oh, did I tell you she was right next to my window and I saw the whole thing?
But netherlessness, I was very sorry for the guide who was so super nice. She really had to put up with everyone else! She explained about the day and the reputation of the Favelas and that we would be going to Rochinha and Vila Canoas Favelas.
Pulling up first in Rochinha, we were introduced immediately to the school set up there to promote education in the youngsters. Unfortunately, we couldn’t meet the kids as it was the school holidays due to Carnaval, but it was very interesting to see how their education is put to good use. Most learn on computers, and also learn how to manufacture and build up a trade. We saw some of their products on display and I’m pretty impressed by the artwork that they did.
Moving on, we were taken deep into the intricate network of the Favela that goes down a hilltop. You would definitely get lost in this and possible never get out alive. But fortunately for us, the guide knew the way. What was so interesting was how the settlements are built and powered. For every floor of a house, the materials of that floor differs to that of the floor below. This is because for every new generation is born, another floor is added on top of the building for their families in the future. So basically, each floor looks totally disjoined from the other. Another interesting observation was that there were gazillions of wires draped overhead to power every single place. It was almost comical!
Check out the pics I took there.
Jumping back into the van, we went to Vila Canoas and had a wander at the old market there and also checked out the views of the Favela on this mountainside. Pretty sweet eh?
After all that, we were dropped back at the Copacabana Palace Hotel. Now, thoughts about the tour. It was mixed for me. I was pleased to have gone into the favelas and gave me an introduction to what happened and also the way of life there. But discussing with Dave later, we felt that the tour wasn’t that much interactive and we would have loved to speak some people there rather than the people at the markets or stallholders who spied an opportunity to sell their wares. But other than that, it was a pleasant and cultural afternoon to partake in.
Now then guys, hold on to your emotions as this next post will have you waiting in anticipation with glee. 3 words. Copacabana…me…speedos….