We are now out of Rio and in Paraty, which is a small colonial city on the coast, 4 hours south of Rio. We had a great start here, arriving after midnight to a guesthouse firmly locked up. After some time we found a door bell, so shortly after that the owner was asking for our passport numbers. This is when we realised that our travel wallet, with all kinds of important stuff in, was absent. Jodie worked out it must have fallen out in the bus so hence I found myself on a bike with no lights, cycling frantically through a strange town to a deserted bus station asking 'donde esta auto bus' to those still around. I amazingly got directions to the garage where it spend the night, found the cleaner and recovered the wallet. Phew.
After once again sobering up, we decided we could manage to go to the football and still make our bus. What an amazing experience, especially as I have never been to a football match anywhere, a fact which was completely incomprehensible to the football crazy Brazilians. They would have been less shocked if I declared my bottom was the same colour and shape as a Baboons. The guys we met the previous night met us at the Metro and guided us to the stadium which is absolutely massive. The game was between a Rio team (Flamengo) and one from Sao Paulo and was the equivalent of Man U Vs Chelsea to decide the Premiership. The stadium is the cathedral of the football religion as far as the locals are concerned, which is probably why there was so much praying, crossing oneself and kissing crucifix necklaces' before kick off. Everything was massive; the noise, the flags, the singing, the mountain backdrop and the mood swings depending how the game was going. When Flamengo scored the first goal very quickly it was decided that we foreigners had brought good luck, so as Flamengo pulled ahead we were hugged and kissed from all directions. Thankfully we had to leave before the end as the final score was 5-2 to Flamengo and there is only so much hugging an English man can handle! Alexandre, Marina and Marcel were fantastic hosts and ensured that we got there and back safely and also had been such good company the night before; it really makes the experience richer to feel more a part of things. They will always be welcome at Box Hedge Cottage should they come to UK.
This friendliness has been a real theme of Brazil and whilst we know the place is dangerous (35,000 deaths and 500,000 injuries from gun shots per year - that makes Afghanistan look peaceful) we have always felt safe. The bus drivers often took us under their wing to make sure we got to the right place (usually far too quickly, relying far too much on God to keep us safe), the shop assistance tried to work through our appalling mix of Spanish, Portugese and English to get us what we needed and the partiers in the Samba schools talked and joked and danced with us (then invariably told us to make sure we got a taxi home). We went in to the same very busy café two days in a row, where treated like old friends on the second visit and the waiter could remember what we liked to drink. That kind of welcome can take months to foster in UK, and believe me, with the £ nose diving the way it is we were not getting the treatment of big tippers! The only bit of hassle we have had was from the same 'youth' in the same place for two consecutive days who grabbed my shirt collar in a attempt to intimidate some money from me, but was rather easy to brush off.
We met a lovely and energetic Italian lady in the favela we visited, who had come to Rio 10 years ago and fell in love with the place, and over the last 10 years has mad the transition between Real Estate Agent in Milan to running a not for profit organisation in the favela she now lives in. The organisation she set up helps educate young people, assists those trying to breakaway from the drug gangs and provides a maternity centre. She was so animated we could not help to be impressed and humbled by her love of life and desire to help others. She insists her time living in a Favela has been the best of her life.
The Samba school on Saturday night was a real 'must do if you are in Rio' As already mentioned, we were up for an early night after a hectic Friday night, but were met by the B&Bs owners as we walked through the door. Fernando obviously thought we were mad coming home at such an early time and told us that if it was not for work commitments, he would be in a Samba School and he would book us a cab. Shortly afterwards we found ourselves heading towards god knows what, but I was rather nervous when considering the raw info I had; it was past midnight, we were in a cab which was not going to wait, heading towards a party in a drug gang run shanty town in one of the worlds most dangerous cities - I am sure you can see my point. I tell you this though, drug gangs can't half organise a good party. As soon as we left the cab (some way from the samba school due to all the hundreds of people in the street) I felt ok as there was such a mix of old, young, rich and poor. We found the school, paid our money at the ticket booth (which was a couple of bricks out of a brightly painted wall through which money and tickets could be exchanged but allowed nothing else), went past the sign letting everyone know that guns were not allowed, were subjected to a thorough frisking then entered a huge hall full of people, colour and noise (and big blokes with tee-shirts reading "security "and hats reading "order and discipline" stationed on pedestals around the hall). The Samba band were up on a balcony consisting of about 30 drummers, a similar amount of percussion players and singer (or more accurately, a chanter) and a couple of guitar players and they banged out some amazing rhythm. Occasionally they were joined by a very fit, tall and beautiful lady, dressed in heels, a spangled bikini top and very short dress who 'danced' which essentially meant shook her bottom a lot. Fantastic.