So, after plenty of partying, we decided to do some more cultural stuff and give our poor livers a holiday (well, a mini-break at least).
We decided to get outside our comfort zone and went on a tour of the favelas (shantytowns) of Rio, which are hard, lawless societies up in the hills where the sound of gunfire is an everyday occurance. The tour began by us being taken into a favela called Rocinha on the back of motorbikes driven by scary-looking male residents of the favela, which was a hair-raising experience in itself as they drove at break-neck speeds without crash helmets up the winding hills, weaving in and out of buses and other vehicles who were all driving erratically themselves. This favela is home to 300,000 occupants who all live in extremely close proximity in tiny houses that they have literally thrown together themselves. Each woman has on average 7 children, all living in one or two rooms. As the favelas are so overpopulated, people then sell their rooves for around 2000 reals (about 650 quid), and another family then build their house on top. Some of these "houses" are about 4 storeys high and it´s amazing they even stay up. We were told not to take photos as we entered the favela as there are children who sit at the entrance with walkie-talkies, keeping watch for the drug barons and reporting who enters and leaves the favela. They had guns and hand grenades and just stared at us with cold expressions as we went past. Aside from this, everyone else that we met was pretty friendly (as 60% of the tour fee goes to the residents they are generally tolerant of tourists).
There was clearly a lot of talent and creativity amongst all the poverty and filth. We watched a group of young boys playing the drums and singing and they were really skilled musicians, yet their "instruments" were just old cans, paint drums and sticks. We also saw the graffitti which covers the walls, some of which were fantastic works of art. Apparently some international footballers came from this favela.
As the police stay away from the favelas there are no laws or authorities, so hundreds of wires hang down in the narrow streets as people attach their own cables to the electricity supply and water mains, and siphon off their power for free. Some of the huts even had free Sky TV and internet!
It was an interesting and humbling day, and as there are 52 million Brazilians who live in favelas around the country it was something we wanted to see first-hand to really get a feel for how these people live. Of course there are also rich areas, but only 2% of the population account for over 90% of the country´s wealth.
Of course, Liam wouldn´t have been happy unless we saw a football match before we left Brazil, so we hooked up with a group of people we´d become friends with at our hostel in Rio and headed for a game at the Maracana stadium. It holds around 110,000 people, and although there were only 28,000 at the match we saw (Flamengoes v Impatiga (I think!)), the atmosphere was electric. We were right in the thick of it, with everyone chanting, playing the drums, waving huge flags and generally going mental!
After an action-packed week in Rio, we decided to travel to Paraty (Para-chee) to chill out for a few days before our flight to Buenos Aires. Our hostel was gorgeous (a word I never thought I´d use to describe a hostel) and right on the beach, so we could hear the ocean as we dropped off to sleep. This was a really beautiful town: quaint, with cobbled streets and great views. Locals even tied their horses to lampposts whilst they stopped for a quick cerveja in a bar.
After soaking up the sun (we are still anaemic by the way, thanks to our factor 30 emulsion and temperamental weather conditions) and relaxing, it was time for another bustling city...Buenos Aires, here we come...