Saturday, 12 July 2014

Rio, Rio, Rio!

A city I have wanted to visit for so long has not disappointed me. It feels like we've been here for ages and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to do justice to the things we've seen and done, but I'll give it a go.
We've been staying in a gated community for Brazilians, which despite being noisy has allowed us the opportunity to speak to the local kids. On arrival we were pleasantly surprised at being given the only room with a private bathroom.
The football has gone by in a haze of beer and shouting at a big screen; a blur of excitement and being whipped up with the crowds, and the inevitable desperate disappointment. I can't say 7-1 wasn't a bit of a kick in the teeth. We were at the Fan Fest on the beach at the time, and everyone just started leaving. Bloody Germany! (Although now I'm rooting for them in the face of the alternative- I don't think the Brazilian population will cope well if Argentina win the world cup). I've finally plucked up the courage to wear my England shirt and even joined in with some boys one evening in a rendition of "I'm England till I die..."
We travelled in a van up the tiny winding road to Christ the Redeemer, and had a perfectly clear sky for the view. The next day we took cable cars up to Sugar Loaf Mountain, which to me was even more impressive. We sat for ages on a bench (and made friends with a little monkey) entranced by the view. There's something truly beautiful about this city; the mix of trees and mountains with skyscrapers, the shiny buildings interspersed with grotty.
Without realising it, we managed to rent a place right in the popular area of Lapa, famous for its white arches that run across the main street, and its serious night life. The place gets so busy that people can't even get into the bars, instead drinking in crowds on the street, drinking caiprinhas from vendors. We've met so many people, listened to so much live samba and drums, the only downside being that the place often stinks of p*ss.
As with Sao Paulo, in Rio it's impossible to ignore the massive problem of homelessness, and the scariness of many people's complete lack of acknowledgement for the desperate circumstances others are in. One situation that stands out in my head is when a group of heavily armed police laughed at and mimicked a man walking past, dirty and barefoot. The sad thing is that it can be scary and sometimes threatening to be approached by someone asking for money, and often helping one person leads to having ten more come your way. I did get a bit unnerved one day when Lee gave money to a boy, to which many more then came running, grabbing at the notes Lee held out, fighting with each other over it, or crying desperately because they didn't get any. I hope that this holiday has taught me to be kinder and not to ignore the suffering of others with some justification that it's not my problem. 
I've seen more police here than ever before in one place. They are mostly military police, armed to the absolute teeth with body armor, batons and guns. We even saw a man jogging up to Christ the Redeemer holding a machine gun! To which the driver said, "He's a policeman" as if that would reassure us.
We've discovered so many gems in this city. It's easy to walk past the ugly as hell cone building in the centre of town that resembles an industrial chimney, missing the beautiful cathedral it is on the inside. We discovered the Escadaria Selaron steps which are brightly tiled with pictures representing countries from around the world, from the ground all the way up to the monastery at the top. We walked across the disused railway line that runs across the white arches of Lapa. We visited three different beaches and discovered hidden roads, restaurants and random markets. We've gone swimming in our underwear and even jumped the waves next to David James!
As I said, it's hard to do it justice in writing. Hopefully the pictures will do a better job.


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