On Wednesday me and Elisa undertook our first Couch Surfing adventure. Yuri, and his friend Igor, were locals of Rios neighbouring island Niterói and offered CS a tour of the area. So at 6am our trip began with a bus ride across town and then a 20 minute ferry across the bay.
Our guides profile picture was of him dressed as a pirate, expect the unexpected came to mind. We were met by a young man who spoke fluent English and who was not dressed as Jack Sparrow. Yuri was currently attending university, he loved his home and it's history and wanted to work in tourism.
2 August 2016
The view from The two brothers was spectacular, one I'll never forget. We were met after a 45minute steep climb by a dark blue, a distinguishable light was heralded the approach of Sol, our sun.
The best show on earth, everyday, and it's free. You just need to be willing to meet her. We were.
The kaleidoscope of colours was amazing, the wind in our faces and the occasional dust storm reminded us of where we were.
To cap of a beautiful morning (it was only 07:30) we got the Mototaxis back home. This time, in the sun our journey back was more of a lap of honour. It was incredible. Not bad for R$40.
31 July 2016
Bbq with friends. Having already finished our two week volunteer program me and Alina returned.
The reason had been to collect her missing passport, but afterwards more reasons stacked up for us to stay.
A day painting at the day care lead seamlessly into a lovely and very tasty BBQ at Ruben's and Vanessa's.
I've started to feel comfortable here. After finishing the food I decided to stay at Rocinha for the night. The next day was spent painting, eating, laughing and having fun. Afterwards I walked down alone through the chaotic tangle of alleyways and tunnels of the favela to get the bus back to Copacabana.
29 July 2016
Rorchina Day Care.
Today was perhaps the last day at the day care. After two official weeks (and one unofficial) of volunteering my time in the favela has finished.
While I've enjoyed meeting the kids and staff, the language barrier held back what might have been an incredible experience. But it did feature as a lively backdrop to the friends I did make on the program.
Solo travellers can approach the world with their guard up. But throw into the mix like minded people with an eye for adventure and you can make friendships for life. I was fortunate to meet 9 of them.
In just two short weeks it became hard to see them go, knowing we'll probably not meet again. The wishful promises of reunion in 4 years did little to conceal the truth.
Beautiful people, wonderful adventures, come together, but now no more.
27 July 2016
This morning we woke at 04:00 to start are trip to see the sun rise from the Two brothers mountains.
The early morning departure first required us to get motor bike taxis (or Motor taxis for short) to the start. This would be my first trip on a motor bike and one I won't soon forget.
Lesson one, make sure your helmet is time. It's nice to make these discoveries are you howl off into the night at 90mph. The experience however was incredible. Seeing my five friends each riding on the back of their own dare devil rider was great.
The beginning of the actual hike was throw into doubt almost straight away. The footpath we were due to cross was chained closed. However to the adventurous mind this was but an obstacle. Two illegal fence hops later we were on are way into darkness, really really dark darky darkness. In a jungle, did I mention the jungle?
But as our goal was to arrive at the top before then sun what should we have expected?
The trail was steep and perilous in places.
24 July 2016
On Friday we took the "alternative" city tour. Met by Nicky the naked traveller from Couchsurfing.com we dove into Rios Red Light district and underworld.
We started off in Lapa at 22:00, where we met out guide or sorts. Then it was a dark bus ride into the night, destination unknown.
(I'll be sure to check out the Journi's location map, because non of us were site where we were.)
The bus pulled up and we set off to a bikers bar. The type were entrance says 'Open Parraa' or 'We're fucking open', where you clean your own fucking table. The distinctive red glow of the neons inside, coupled with Rock metal music and accompanying memorabilia indicated we had reached our destination.
The red light district/underworld a few minutes later proved to entirely different.
I was a little hesitant, because of bad timing I had to take my bag with me. Not the best place or people's to be walking with valuables.
Today we embarked on the official Rio city tour. The weather could not have been better. Clear blue skies and an air conditioned mini bus met us as we left the hostel.
Our first port of call after a steady incline of cobbled roads was Christ the redeemer. A land defining masterpiece that was started in 1922. The view was incredible, the statue more so. Holding his arms out to Rio as if to embrace it, the majesty of 'Christ' is a glory to behold day or night.
22 July 2016
Fun in Rio.
Despite being here during the Brazilian winter the weather is surprisingly warm, abet cloudy at times.
With the 2016 Olympics fast approaching Copacabana has been getting steadily busier. The Rings have officially arrived.
Here are some snaps from Rio!
20 July 2016
After leaving the nursery for lunch break we came across a neighbourhood art project. Organised by Vanessa and Rubén, they range for volunteers to paint the homes of the Favelas. Three hours later we had turned a grim grey alley into a bright friendly experience.
19 July 2016
While at the pharmacy looking for insert repellent a man over heard our conversation and added his thoughts. He turned from fluent Portuguese to a distinctive American accent. "That stuff will only get them drunk", he said as one with authority on the matter. "And the spray'll give you cancer". He appeared to be a expat of sorts, a veteran of Rios favelas. He came across as a hardened edge, but one which concealed a fragility. He looked as if he had stared into the favela and had not blinked when it glared back. "I've had Dengue and Zika" he finished. I was felt wondering if I should buy the spray or not.
While we looked down on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, I saw a small girl playing with a Rubik cube. She asked me if I spoke Spanish, I told her that I spoke a little. She then switched to fluent and lightly accented English. We took it in turns to complete the cryptic puzzle. Several times her puzzle toy broke into pieces but she was quick to fix it.
It was after I had bought a souvenir that realised that this girl who spoke at least three languages and who was clearly very intelligent would probably not amount to more then running her little stall.
While taking our walk through the favela we came across an open door way that lead from our dark alley to open sky. The gate keeper of this phenomenon was an old man who sat on a rusted fold out chair. His kingdom was a roof top that over looked the entire southern Favela of Rocinha.
Hilarity enfolded when Nino (our local expert) asked the old man to take our photo. With shaking hands he first tried taking a photo as if the iPhone had a SLR view finder. He conceded the first point after failing to take a picture with the iPhone flat to his face. He had looked as if he was wearing it as a mask. Secondly he held on desperately with ageing shaking hands and managed to take several photographs of him self, and of us, with 30% of shot blocked by his finger.
I've been to a fair few shanty towns across India and Peru. But the favelas of Rio are on another level, literally. Where as I have experienced a two dimensional slum before, a favela is a stacked upon itself. It wraps the small world around itself. Like an Escher painting of a clip from David Bowies Labyrinth, the favela is like a three dimensional maze. There's no evidence of the mountains foundations here. Every inch is concrete piping and cables. The alleys and lanes snake through the leaning structures as if they have formed by erosion.
Within the first 10 minutes of our first climb we encountered our first statutory armed drug dealer. Later that evening as we past close to the top of the favela we passed shoulder to shoulder with an armed convoy of gang bangers. Dressed in black attire and casually holding tactical shotguns and machine guns.
Ećai - made from ećai berries, blended and then frozen. A sweet desert which is made sweeter with a wide variety of toppings. Good luck teeth.
First day at the nursery. I'm still learning new names.
17 July 2016
First day in Rio, already made friends with some Columbians.