We arrived in Rio late Saturday night and formed a 7 after meeting Heather's mate Frenchie at the airport. The hostel looked like a prison from the outside! Luckily we were only due to stay for one night and inside it wasn't too bad. The owner was slightly crazy (don't think we've met one Brazilian person that isn't) and had no record of our booking but fortunately had enough beds for us all to squeeze in!
Next morning, true to weather forecast it was cloudy and a bit rainy, but as we were staying for ten days we were hopeful it would pick up- wrong!! Despite numerous promises from hostel owners and tour guides etc it stayed like that the whole time, except for the day we left when there were clear blue skies!
We were getting the impression that Rio was conspiring against us (particularly Ste, who had wanted to hang glide as it was his birthday during the week but was not able to due to low cloud).
Anyway, there is loads to do in Rio even if the weather is not great. So whilst we did spend a lot of time pottering around and chilling out, the highlights included:
Monday we went on a tour of the biggest Favela (slum or shanty town) in Rio, called Rocinha. These communities sprung up as the cost of living in Rio city is too high compared to the minimum wage for a lot of the jobs (cleaners, bar tenders etc). They are also controlled by the drug lords -different gangs control each Favela and around 4m reais is made each month from the drug trade.
Jonny did not come on this trip as he had done it all before! Was thinking he knew what he would be letting himself in for and might have been trying to get rid of me, ha!
We got to the Favela and took motorcycles to get to the top of the hill. This was really scary as the traffic was manic and the roads were so small and windey I was worried I might die- as a consequence I hugged the driver really tight, clinging on for dear life! As stark contrast, our guide was hanging off the back of one of the other bikes, cigarette in one hand and mobile phone in the other!
After surviving the motorbike ride, we then walked down through the town and learned lots about the community. Notably how safe we actually were there, if anyone commits a crime within the Favela the punishment is to be put on a BBQ and burned alive! Although the downside is that innocent people are sometimes hit with stray bullets during gang warfare or police attacks - swings and roundabouts!
Also there are certain areas where you are not allowed to take photos. We understood why when we turned a corner to see a drug deal going down and two guys with machine guns on their laps! Bit different from my usual Monday morning with my audit files!
Tuesday we went to a big market in the day and bought souvenirs and pressies (plus at least two pairs of Haviainas each- seriously we are keeping that company in business). Then in the evening we went to see a football game - Vasco against Santos. As the home side we were supporting Vasco who were also the underdogs. The atmosphere was amazing - we just happened to be sitting down the end where the drums were being played and spent the whole match dancing, jumping round and chanting with the locals! Seems that is just as big a part of it as the game itself for them. Jonny was trying to join in with the chants in Portugese and this little kid next to me kept looking over in dismay, he was probs thinking "who is this random gringo making up Portugese words?". Vasco won 3-1 and the game had everything- penalties, red cards, last minute goal... We really couldn't have picked a better game to go and see! And some local asked Jonny to switch caps with him, so Jonny got a brand new Vasco hat whilst this guy got an old skanky hat he has had for years! Wonder who got the better deal?!
Wednesday we went to Copacabana beach and played football then in the evening had a Dominos pizza and played poker. Jonny went out straight away (he's "unlucky" at cards). I actually did quite well and was winning for ages then true to form I crumbled under the pressure.
Thursday was a day spent faffing and sorting stuff out, and then in the evening 7 became an 8 when Riggers' friend Mary arrived!
Friday was Ste's birthday so as we were unable to hang glide, plan B was to go to this national park. However the bus never showed up, so we decided instead to get the ferry across to the island of Niteroy, which we had been told had good views of Rio.... Except that it was too misty to see anything! There didn't seem to be much to do on Niteroy except go to the cinema so we went to see Wall St 2, which I didn't really understand and also fell asleep part way through. Ste also hated the film... So in his eyes Rio had won again!
That night we went out in Lapa which we had been told would be like the street party in Salvador. So after presents and cake and drinking games in the hostel we headed there. It turned into a bit of a messy night (not helped by not having much dinner which is always upsetting) and I don't think we really explored Lapa enough.... But we ended up in a club with green lasers so I was happy. It also had free beer and free vodka but no free mixers so we had to improvise! Was a brilliant night, made even better by the mcd's at 4 in the morning!
Saturday we headed off an a city tour including Christ the Redeemer, the Maracana stadium, the Samba Drome and a modern cathedral that looks like a Dalek! We were impressed by the statue but couldn't help but feel slightly short changed by the rest of the trip, especially the Maracana as we were only allowed in the reception and didn't get to go on the pitch or anything!
Sunday's highlight was the Favela funk party to celebrate Riggers' birthday which was in a huge warehouse at the edge of the Favela we had visited on Monday. Was a good night even if I was slightly disappointed by the lack of green lasers!
Monday was the night we had all been waiting for which was going to a traditional Brazilian all you can eat BBQ (think BEM Brazil). Was absolutely brilliant and so much MEAT it was unreal! Afterwards it really did hurt to breathe!
So we caught our 24 hr bus on Tuesday in the brilliant sunshine feeling that Rio had got one over on us again but were excited for Iguassu Falls!