Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Okay, you can't REALLY blame it on Rio. It's not Rio's fault. I just like that title.
After Bonito and Pantanal and sickness I headed to Rio where I.... was sick.
Bronchitis bit me in the ass, and though I am finally FINALLY feeling mostly better, I pretty much lost Rio in the process. As I did Bonito really, even though I tried to play it down. Much of my time was spent in a cloud of fatigue and hacking up nasty phlegm. Sleeping lots and losing my voice. It made for a very lonely, dark couple of days honestly. Very dark.

I was at the Pura Vida hostel. I booked it online off the Lonely Planet recommendation. It's in Copacabana, 600 feet from the beach in an old Mansion! How cool!... kinda. It was kinda gloomy and dark. Wifi addicts sat around the lobby texting all day, and it lay at the bottom of a Favela, which meant the whole street leading up to it was really gritty. In fact, GRITTY is the word I would use to describe Rio. I know, not what you might expect. But it really is a gritty town. Now, this isn't bad by any means, but behind the very thing fascade of glamour and beaches is a whole lot of GRIT. Homeless people. Drugged out folks stumbling around. Dirty sidewalks. And that's just in the normal areas...

This isn't to say it's a pig sty. Just that it's Gritty.

Now, I met some cool folks at the hostel. Kim, Jonas and Sylke, all Dutch and all great. It led to some nice dinners and a few adventures.

Such as a MARACANA FUTEBOL match.
It was a couple of the local Rio teams, but this is like seeing a game at Wrigley Field or other classic stadiums. We were all really excited, until we arrived and stood in a 1 1/2 hour line to buy tickets which led to us missing most of the first half of the game. And we were there early!  And there were people who were in the line WAY after us. I have no idea why they were still standing there.

The game we saw was fun. The fans have lots of songs and sing and dance around. We were in the less crowded side, which was a bit of a bummer, but we made it work!

After we headed to Lapa, which is a heavy nightlife area of rio. (And realllllly gritty. Tranny hookers on the corner, some very homeless folks who have seend better days sleeping all about. Some sketchy dealings on dark corners. Oh, and the raw sewage pouring out from a drain and running down one street. That was fun!) (Jesus, it sounds like the biggest shit hole written like that. It's a lot like Bourbon Street in New Orleans. If that gives you any indication). There were some girls who wanted to hang out with us.... back in our rooms.... likely for a price. Since it only took 2 minutes of chatting to get to "Let's go back to your place", we kinda figured there MIGHT be some sort of business exchange that they were desiring. We declined and headed to a Samba club.

It was fun! TONS of energy and dancing and singing. I did the best I could with my limited energy. And I wasn't drinking thanks to antibiotics and wanting to get better. But I lasted a couple hours before I had to head home. It really is fun how much dancing is part of Brazilian life. They dance and let loose and I love it.

The Next day I slept. Rested. Talked with Skype. Slept. Bought medicine. Finally the right stuff... Amoxicillian. And I'm on the healing path.... whew. Thankfully the Pura Vida folks let me have a 4 person dorm room to myself for the last two days I was there. I really needed it. To sleep, and also to have my own space. I haven't had ANY of it since I arrived. First rooming with Devin, then all these dorms. (Normally I wouldn't do so many dorms, but the difference in price to a private room in most places is quite significant).

But all in all I didn't get to do most of what I wanted in Rio. No Sugarloaf, or museums, or really beach days. Or... or.... or... It rained most of the time I was there. I feel like I kinda of missed much of what Rio had to offer.

However, on my last day I went on a FAVELA TOUR.

To Rachina, The largest one in south America. It was fascinating. Our guide was 27 and grew up there. He told us about how in 2009 the Brazilian government began the Pacification Police Force, which is essentially what has cleaned up many of the Favela's in Rio. The thing is, it's all the ones in the South (Rio has 765 Favelas!). As in, all the ones the tourists might see, or that might affect tourists. Though you see Rio a million times on TV, you really are only seeing a small part of it. The amazing hills, beaches, lakes, bay, bridges etc. There is a huge amount of Rio that is north of the mountains that's endless sprawl. Graffitti. Run Down. Dirty. The Real Rio if you will. The divide of rich and pour is very clear.

Especially in a place like Rachina. See, in Rio back in the 50's and 60's as the migrants came from the pour rural areas of the nation seeking opportunity, there was no place for them. So the gov't said: You can build cities and homes, AWAY from the beaches. Away from the rich folk. So they built up the hills. So ironically, the best views in Rio are from the Favela's. The Slums. The Shantytowns. And MAN it has  a great view. IT's a fascinating, beautiful patchwork of totally random buildings stacked on top of each other towering up to the sky. I loved the twisting roads, the stairs and walk ways twisting between homes and shops. It's a true maze, much like the Medina's in Morocco, or Venice in Itally. But even more so. No planning. No logic. Just determination and ingenuity to build these places. That on the outside look run down and hodgepodge, but inside have wifi, bigscreen TV's and everyone has a facebook account. Because, the thing about Favela's, at least the Pacified ones, is that they aren't all dirt broke people. They have jobs, they have some opportunities, they have a community. Some of them choose to stay there because they don't pay water, electricity, property taxes. It's cheap to stay there. So some choose to. Some have no choice.

There are dangers too. There are no rules. So driving is wild. Stairs are broken and random. The sewer is an open concrete ditch that runs down the side of the hill, with houses build on and around it. So the "river front property" here means you have shit running outside (or under) your house. And MAN did it smell like.... well, you know. Also, the electrical and phone lines are just tapped in. However you want. So when it rains there are places where you get shocked because the electricity is live and open. And of course, there are drug dealers.

Now, they've lost their power in some favela's. Been forced out by the Pacifying Police Forces. (Which look like full tactical cops. AR-15's. Bullet proof vests walking in pairs around the streets). The drug dealers uesd to extort money from folks and have gang wars. Now many are gone, but drugs are still sold. Our guide told us to not take pictures in a couple different spots because that's where drugs were sold... and he even said hi to some of the dealers. They're his friends, and he hates that they won't change their ways.  In the Favela it's Marijuana and Cocaine. That's it. No Crack or Meth. Nothing that makes you lose your mind. They want repeat customers after all...

So glad I got to do the tour. It made something real that I've known about and not understood for so long. I'd've liked to see more and explore more and get to know people there, but my illness took my energy away. This will have to do for this trip.

And finally.... with the last day of the Favela tour I felt mostly better. SO I rallied with the hostel folks and headed to one of those Hostel Dance Party Nights at a club. And honestly... it was a TOTAL BLAST.
Man did I need to dance and have fun. I even said "why not!" when it came to the free Caipirinha's too!  The hostel folks were great. We met lots of other travelers, and also lots of Brazilian's too. Including some lovely ladies who danced with us all night and showed us some mad Samba moves. It was really really fun.

Perfect... now I'm mostly better..... and the trip is almost over....


Ain't gonna lie, having 10 days of a 23 day trip eaten up by an illness sucked. I know these emails I show the positive side of it. But in truth, it's been a hard 10 days. Yes, I've had fun, and seen some amazing things, but I've been dragging myself through each step. Losing my voice. Spitting up phlegm. Coughing fits that hurt my stomach and caused my eyes to water up so bad I couldn't see. Having to pause going up stairs because I was so exhausted. 

Now, I don't want to be ungrateful for the fact that I'm here in this amazing place with amazing people. But when I felt as bad as I did, everything was through a fog, and it wasn't until yesterday that I finally fully woke up and came alive since the illness kicked in. It makes me a little sad that this trip will always have this huge tainted piece of it.

 But I guess that's life. Sometimes everything comes together. And sometimes the obstacles mount up, and we have to push through and keep going. Because there really isn't any other choice.

No comments:

Post a Comment