After yesterday’s thunder and tropical rainstorm we woke up to another beautiful day today. Breakfast was provided on the balcony, and then it was off to Rocinha favela on an official tour. 12 of us including Belgians, Finnish, Irish and Singaporeans were chaperoned by Fernando who was going to do his best to prevent us being killed. This isn’t actually a joke! We were taken by van to the very top of the favela, and there deposited into a completely alien environment. We climbed higher through tiny steep alleys, and the sickening, invasive smell of faeces (both animal and human) was constant. Sewage was running through the streets and filth was everywhere. It reminded me of Seacroft. Whilst on the rooftop at the highest point automatic gunfire could be heard from the other side of the favela. This was daily business apparently. Fernando gave us a great commentary full of interesting facts, which mainly came down to the fact that the government and police were all corrupt, and no progress would ever be made. More pertinently he explained that the favela had been constructed by a team of West Yorkshire builders called “E. Costello and S. McGaughran Construction Ltd (Brazil Dept.)”. Apparently they creamed millions of pounds from the favela projects and spent it all on Bongo vans for their own personal use. They had previously been barred from any structural work in their own country, but the same rules didn’t apply here.
Fernando explained that although the favela was “peaceful” it was still controlled by the Mafia, and we were there only because his company paid for them to let us. We were able to take photos apart from at points where we were told to put the cameras away. This would be when we walked past youths who were openly carrying firearms as they moved drugs from one cache to another in the never ending game against the police. All the gangsters were in touch with each other using radios. It was a real eye opener, and even after years at Chapeltown I’d never seen it like this with weapons blatantly carried in public.
It was a very worthwhile trip, and both me and Charlotte would like to do it again as there was so much to see. Also, the company we went with, bealocal.com use the profits from the tour to fund and support a community and education centre in the favela, which is apparently being very successful.
We had lunch in the Centro area which was a bit like the backpacker streets in Thailand though even more tacky! And then for lunch we went to our first Kilo restaurant, which is a brilliant system – unlike our all-you-can-eat buffets in England which favour the likes of Aidy (or any of the ACT Team come to that) where you can stuff as much in your fat bellies as physically possible, with this system you pay by the weight of food on your plate! Obviously this is ideal for light eaters such as myself, but would see most of my old team at work bankrupted! I would like it to be recorded here for posterity that my plate weighed less than Charlotte’s !!!!! 😀😀😀
On the way home we visited the enormous modern dodecahedronal cathedral which looks awful from outside, but amazing inside. That was followed by climbing the famous Santa Teresa stairs in 35 degrees.
Currently we’re having a late siesta, then we’re into Lapa again tonight because it’s Samba night!! Looking forward to that!!
again, wrote the above earlier. We’ve just had the most amazing night out but I’ll have to tell you tomorrow, as it’s very late now. So late in fact, that we’ve designated tomorrow a lazy morning and a beach afternoon! Yeah!!!!!!!