Monday, January 01, 2007

City of God and Ipanema

Hanging in the hostel

So, despite being told not to go, not to go on my own, and if I really had to go, to do it on an organised tour, I ignored all of these and trundled off to get robbed and murdered by 'Lil Z in the City of God. It's a slum (they're known as favellas) of Rio, with about 200,000 people, of which only about 500 are "heavily armed". So that's okay then! After I said my goodbyes to my room mates in the hostel, and they took a photo of me to give to the news reporters when my inevitable death came to light, I headed off to the Rodoviaria, and changed on to the sinister 266 bus. I sat next to the conductor, figuring this might help me when the shoot-out commences.

We work our way out to the suburbs, the bus slowly emptying. A couple of times fire crackers went off, or exhausts backfired. I was feeling rather edgy. Apparently fire crackers are used as signals by the gangs in the favellas to signal that the police are about to descend on a neighbourhood, or as a signal that a deal is going down etc. Basically they're not a good thing to hear as a naïve tourist. Unless they're just for New Year's Eve, which is also unfortunately possible!

The bus finally terminates. I turn around. No one else on the bus. Oh. I ask the driver if I can stay on the bus if it's turning round and heading back. He says no. Dammit! So I get off, and keeping a very low profile, wander around the square where we have stopped.

Back against the wall

A few strange looking types walk past me staring, I resolutely don't make eye contact. But overall it's far more developed than the film implies. The roads are paved, there's a shopping centre five minutes away, people wander about doing their shopping. No guns. Yet.

You tell 'Lil Z I'm here for him...

I buy a pastry and some water from the shop near the bus stop and hide in the shade under a tree, watching the world go by, wondering how long before the bus out of here. 15 minutes later, and I'm safe! Hurrah! It's worth noting that where .the bus terminates is at the edge of the City of God. I could see down roads leading into the neighbourhoods that the roads became dusty and sandy, and less developed. I'm guessing this is what one sees in the film, and this was where I was not in any way prepared to go! I may be stupid, but I'm not stupid.

Unfortunately, given that I was expecting to be robbed at a minimum, I only have a few bad photos from my Sony, and no GPS reference. As soon as I've got net access I'll cheat with Google Earth and work it out for you.

Here's the police box round the corner from the hostel:

Bullet holes. I was wandering around here the same night. Gulp.

Ipanema Beach
After having my hair cut like a girl (was a rather gay chap doing it, and he treated each closing of the scissors as something not to be undertaken lightly), I hop on the bus to Ipanema. Am rather pleased that I discover a direct bus round the corner from the hostel that goes a much shorter way than I would otherwise have tried. We head past a huge cemetery, and a favella stretching up a steep hill, with a tram running to the top. I think this is St. Theresa, but may be mistaken. Past the enormous lake Rodrigo de Freitas, and out to the beach.

Looking from Ipanema back to Leblon and beyond

This part is called Leblon, but it becomes Ipanema further along before reaching Copacabana Fort, which divides here from Copacabana. This beach is more relaxed and friendly than Copa - there are baby-changing platforms, families out, people wandering the promenade. It feels safer.

Nasty fish-related incident

About half way along a band has set up on the beach and are belting out rhythm and blues, switching to classic rock after a while. [GPS: 22.98679S, 43.20509W]. A large crowd has gathered, some dancing, some foot-tapping, some too cool for all of that.

Grooving on the beach with the Brazilian Blues Brothers!

The sun sets

There's gonna be some noise

Nearer the end, an enormous stage has been set up for New Year's Eve tomorrow night, and John Legend is sound-checking. I begin to wonder whether I've made the right choice in going to Sao Paulo - this looks like it will be awesome.


Round on Copacabana Beach, there are religious hippie types performing their New Year ceremonies. These used to happen on the eve, but due to the amount of people attending Revellion, they have moved back to today. Various offerings are made to the gods, candles lit and songs chanted.

Cult action

The offerings

Time to leave Rio. On the way to the airport we pass close to the Sambadromo. This is an enormous long parade ground where the Carnival parades are viewed and judged. I can imagine how amazing it would be to watch the show, but the rest of Rio is going to be chaos around then! Overall I'd like to be in Brazil for Carnival, but definitely another city (everywhere in Brazil has carnivals around the beginning of February - Rio is just the most famous one). Maybe Salvador de Bahia.

Over to the airport. Cute touch: In Brazil, they have boxes of umbrellas by gates for walking to the aeroplane if it rains! Someone opens them for you too! What a good idea, who needs covered walkways?

Domestic flight chaos as usual

I have a nice back massage at gate, then we leave, only one hour late. Note bad! In Sau Paulo I take local buses and tubes to get to the hotel where Paul Smith, my friend and old Physics teacher from school, is staying. What a room.. he has a bath! Been a long time since I saw one of those, less used one!

Sau Paulo

Paul is staying in the Renaissance, which is a Marriott, and one of the nicer business hotels in town. Small but very nice room. It's New Year's Eve, and pouring with rain so we hit the lobby bar mid-afternoon, and sample the local beverages. Repeatedly. The other BA crew members, who turn out to be a really nice bunch, join us at a more respectable time of the evening to start drinking. Paul apparently signs off 19 beers when we leave to go to a restaurant with some of his crew friends. The group goes by mini-bus to a Churrascarria, which is a meat restaurant, where one pays a fixed price for eat as much as you want. It's heaving with people. The Lufthansa crew are there too, with some quite attractive hostesses if I may say so myself. Sadly before I have time to embarrass myself, I have to split, as Barbara is having a party at her place. I've definitely had enough beer by now! Cab to Barra Funda, then I have to persuade a cabbie to call her, as my damn mobile is refusing to work. Half an hour left till midnight! Arrive, and it's a good party. About 20 girls and three boys (!), and we work our way through Barbara's cd collection, hitting the dance floor with the Brazilian music! A good night!

Happy 2007!! As of today, I've been travelling for 73 days so far, and no regrets! Here's to another year of my journey... cheers!

Sao Paulo is a strange place. Enormous city, but today it seems like everything is closed and quiet. It's all large tower blocks with big metal grills and security guards. There's little to see as a tourist, and the "sights" section of Footprint lists a couple of parks and a road. Hmmm. Paul and I go for a walk around, but don't find anything interesting, so we head back to a restaurant that seemed busy (presumably because it was the only one open for several blocks!).

I cannot begin to describe how good this seemed with me feeling hungry!

I had fettuccini and salad. Together! Sorry Ursula!!

The meat obsession continues in the restaurant. We order a salad to share, which is supposed to have some sliced beef. Instead, I would describe it as a large steak with a few green bits as a side. Good though! Back to hotel, and (cough) time to start sampling the local beverages again. Paul orders a caipirinha, which as I warned him after he ordered it, tends to be made in ridiculous proportions - in general it's about 50:50 spirit mixer for most of South America. Which is generous, but not necessarily a good thing!

I bidshhh youuuu fair gentshhlemenn gooodsshnight!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great stuff Samuel . Nice to see someone in the world is doing something useful rather than just sitting here on the beach dying every so slowly . Keep it up . Excellent . Take care . 73's
Big Pete