Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 328 – Brazil – The Rio Sessions – Part 2

Awakening early to get a shower before the other 9 people in the room the Caiparinhas were only too happy to lay on the consequences of their consumption. In a brave and bold attempt to ensure the day wasn’t wasted we latched ourselves last minute onto a tour of the Favelas after saying a temporary goodbye to Nicole who was moving to a flash hotel for work for the week. Here we re-met Dan & Ray, both from Chicago and in town on holiday determined to take pictures and drink Rio dry. We also met Raquel and Vanessa from the greatest country in the world (apparently) Portugal, both physiotherapists on a 10 day holiday in this part of the world. The tour was insightful and interesting – the Favelas feel almost organic in the hotch-potch way they’ve come-together and the fact that we can now tour at least this one shows that they’re not as perilous as they once were – though there’s little doubt that with so many different Favelas around there still are, for the near future at least, plenty of no-go areas.

They’re effectively completely self-contained communities that in the past were also effectively self-policed and self-governed. If you’re a part of said community you’re probably safer than in most places. If you’re from anywhere else – particularly none Brazilian – you’re just plain stupid in some parts to go off wandering.

We returned around midday by which time we were all bordering on family – Flo, Steve, Jens, Tom, Raquel, Vanessa, Ray, Dan, Fi and I. We all decided to head into Centro to see the more prominent sights, led by our enigmatic and highly knowledgeable tour guide Raquel. We wandered down out of Santa Teresa and into Lapa. Lapa might be termed the party district (on Fridays and Saturdays they close off the two main streets to traffic and it becomes one huge street party) and consequently is considered dangerous in certain areas as the concentration of tourists draws pickpockets and muggers. In such a large group we felt relatively safe though we were still all highly strung thanks to the constant warnings delivered by everyone who has or hasn’t ever set foot in the city.

We were famished and Steve had spotted a cheap place to dine on a prior wander so we all filed in to fill our bellies. The place was one of a common type of eatery that I’ve never experienced before but am now totally hooked on – it’s a large buffet of a variety of hot & cold foods (pasta dishes, a wealth of Salads, barbecued meats, locals delicacies, lots of different sides from chips to cous-cous and more) where you pay fixed fee for every 100 grams you put of your plate. You’d be forgiven for thinking you wandered into an all-you-can-eat restaurant but rather than being encouraged to consume your body weight you instead decide what you want and you’re away. The rates vary dependent upon whether you decide to call down a freshly cooked steak from the kitchen for example or just stick with the dishes in the main spread (or doubtless if you’re a gringo) but you know what you’re getting yourself into before you sit down (you take a rolling receipt card on entry) and within minutes you’re tucking into the mix of foods you’ve spread across your plate. This particular place was quite cheap so we all filled up on what we wanted.

After lunch we started our tour proper with Raquel leading us to many landmark buildings including the impressive Teatro Municipal and the Museu Nacional de Belas Artes. It should be noted that Raquel had never been to Rio and any of these sights before but that it was just her superior Portuguese heritage (a running joke / enlightenment), pre-planning and ability to read associated signs that kept us all on track and entertained. Before long we’d found the Confeitaria Colombo, an old ornate coffee and cake place with high ceilings and intricate decorations wherein most people sampled the variety of cakes on offer and bashed back some quality espresso. More touring followed including churches and markets before we found the old Portuguese library which was surprisingly ornate and ancient looking – much more impressive than we (well, the none Portuguese) had expected.

A long walk back took our tired legs to the hostel where we reconvened after we’d all got cleaned up. Eduardo, a Brazilian chap from the south whose local football team Athletico Mineiro were currently sat at the top of the Brazilian A-league for the first time in their history, had moved into our room and joined us as we all took a wander for dinner to another local restaurant in Lapa. This time it was Brazilian fare in the more traditional restaurant style and with some footy on the telly in the background we took to knocking back the Brahma’s and getting on like a house on fire. South American days are exceptionally long which is something that I definitely struggled with – a man who loves sleep finds it difficult to adapt to 3 hours a night especially when he’s skipping siestas.

We’d finished dinner late and then it was over to Pedro Do Sal, a samba street party held every Monday that’s filled with both tourists and locals alike. We’d taxi’ed over there and at first we weren’t sure if we were in the right place but thanks to both Raquel and Eduardo’s leadership and ability to speak Portuguese it wasn’t long before we’d been directed toward the sounds of samba and turned the corner to the action. It was like the street party Fi and I had stumbled upon on our first night in Rio yet on a much larger scale and packed with dancing revellers. The beers and Caiparinhas started flowing and we soon floated into the early hours with only the occasional hint of a building rainstorm. Buzzing collectively as the party started to fade we jumped into taxi’s back to Santa Teresa where Tom had designs on us all continuing the night at a beautiful little bar atop the winding street and hills that Nicole, Fi and I had enjoyed one at the day before despite the now torrential rain. The majority of the lads had lost their shirts by the time we’d slogged our way to the long-shut-for-the-night venue but for me at least our soggy wander didn’t dampen the spirits. We returned to hostel at ridiculous o’clock and set about continuing drinking and failing to be quiet despite the continuing pleading of the wonderful chap on the 24 hour reception. I’ve no idea what time we eventually crashed.