18.06.2010 - 19.06.2010
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So, where were we? Ahh, yes, the favelas.
Well Friday was our last day in Rio. We got the ´infamous´ open-sided tram up to Santa Teresa, with the aim of finding the Lapa steps to walk back down them. The tram was a crazy experience; the general rule is that if you hang on to the side and don´t have a seat, you ride for free. So for the entire journey there were people jumping on and off the tram, clingin on for dear life as we passed buses and vans, but they didn´t care- it´s obviously an everyday experience- but for the sake of 0,60 cents, I´d rather not risk my life!
We got to the top of the route and asked the conductor where we could find the Lapa steps, he vaguely motioned in a downwards direction (we were at the top of a massive hill by now) and so we set off. We never did find them. Instead, we followed the tram line as far as we could, went down some random (non-Lapa) steps when we couldn´t go any further and, by some miracle, found the metro station on the other side. When we went back to Lapa that night for the street party, two of the people we were with- Jess and Brad- pointed out where the steps were...we were so close but yet so far!
Before the street party we headed on down to Copacabana beach to watch England v Algeria, where we bumped in to some more people from the hostel and had a few beers. We were in the actual FanZone this time- which meant wristbands and beer tokens, but it was bloody immense. There was a decent-sized crowd for the England match, but that paled in comparison to Tuesday´s Brazil match. The less said about England, the better. Heskey *shakes head*.
That evening, it was time for the Lapa street party. We and about 15 others from the hostel headed towards Lapa at about midnight and were greeted by what seemed to be a night market...selling all types of cocktails, spirits, beers and God only knows what else. It was absolutley packed and you could tell that this was a weekly tradition for the Brazilians. We indulged in a Caprihnia each (priced at a very reasonable five Real- about two quid- considering it had about six shots of cachaça in, according to Liam´s estimations. It also had three very large spoons of sugar in), which were really nice. We stood around chatting to Jess and Brad and eventually everybody decided to move on to a club- lead by the hostel staff. What they had failed to tell us was that there was an organised army of pick-pocketers awaiting our arrival, who had formed their own version of a guard of honour outside the club. The scenes around us were chaotic and within 20 seconds Liam had been obviously patted down on his left while some kid robbed his camera from his right pocket, despite the fact I was stood within centimeters of it and it being fastened with two buttons- one of which was undone when we realised the camera had gone. It´s quite sad really that these 14-year-old kids are absolute professionals, working in teams to steal whatever they can just to get by. By the time we realised it had gone, the camera was probably miles away.
Brad and Jess tried to reason with the kids, telling them we only wanted the memory card and not the camera- they could have that- and one genuinely appeared to feel some compassion, but there was no way he was going to do anything about it. Liam and I left before entering the club and got a taxi home. This is probably a good thing as we heard some awful tales from the others about what went on through the rest of the night.
No need to worry, though, we have finally left Rio, both feeling a bit let down after our high expectations of such a reknowned city were shattered. The iconic parts of Rio- Christ, Sugarloaf, the favelas, the beaches- are all you imagine them to be and more and we are glad we have been, but we´re also glad to be out. Rio is all about taking your money- be it through a scam, overpriced goods or robbery- and there was a constant feeling of unrest. We didn´t go out at night until Friday, when we didn´t even make it to the club before something happened. It´s strange because you can walk around the favelas with your expensive camera around your neck and no-one will even look twice (other than to smile for a picture), but in the city of Rio, you just feel you can´t. It´s a shame that such a highly-regarded city can be so unwelcoming for tourists.
Copacabana wasn´t a great area- apart from the beach front- and from the little that we saw of Ipanema, it seemed like a much nicer place to be and we would probably recommend staying there instead of Copacabana. There were one or two times when we were going to move hostels and stay in Ipanema, but we were just too lazy!
Saturday 19th June 2010
This morning we got up at 6:45am- much to our dismay after not going to bed until 3am. We hopped in to our taxi transfer, made it to the bus station in good time, bought our tickets to Angra Dos Reis (32 Real each with Costa Verde bus company) and jumped aboard the coach that was to be our home for the next three hours. At Angra Dos Reis we grabbed another taxi, made it to the port, got a ferry (16 Real each- weekend rates) and after seven hours of travelling and no sleep (until the ferry), we caught sight of Ilha Grande and all was right with the world.
Ilha Grande is- as you may have gathered- an island just off the coast of Brazil. There are no more than 6,000 inhabitants- and we think about 4,000 of these must be dogs. It is stunning. We were greeted by the sight of white sandy beaches, boats anchored in the harbour and picturesque bars and restaurants lining the cobbled streets (there are no motor vehicles on the island). Stupidly having forgotten to write down the directions to our hostel, we were about to call when we saw a man holding up a Hostal Holandes board. We told him we had already booked, the owner came to get us and lead us up to paradise (but not before a helpful porter demanded to carry our bags up and we weren´t going to say no. At one point he was carrying both of our rucksacks and still refused our help).
The hostel is amazing. It is like a holiday or jungle lodge, made up of chalets, littered with hammocks (where Liam lies now, dictating lines when he doesn´t like something I´ve written) and all against a backdrop of tree, ponds and the forested mountain that is sits on. All this for just nine British pounds per night...you´ve got to love being here in their 26 degree celcius winter!
The people here are so friendly, it is the complete opposite of Rio. Everyone seems to know eachother (we´re already frineds with local shop owners Bruno, Juan and the other one whose name we can´t remember!) The kids don´t even flinch when they see you walking past- the days of ´gringo´ are long gone.
We had a Brazilian barbecue for our dinner- our table was right on the beach front, sand under our feet and the waves gently lapping the shore infront of us. We´re going to like being here and have already decided we´re staying an extra day.
Tomorrow we´re up early again to head out on a boat tour of the beaches (snorkelling included), it´s heading out at 9am instead of its usual 9:30, in order to be back in time for the whole town to stop what they´re doing and watch their national team play Ivory Coast. After that we´re expecting a few of the guys we met at the hostel in Rio, so will probably be having a good booze (Liam shouts from the hammock!) Monday will consist of hiking for 2.5hours to go and see one of the official top ten beaches in the world- Lopez Mendes. We´ll take lots of pictures.
That´s about it for now kids- this blogging takes longer than we first realised, sorry for the essay! As always, pictures to follow!
Jaz and Liam xxx