The day after our epic walk (which, bee tee dubs, NO ONE ELSE EVER DOES!!! We did not pass a single other ‘stroller’ on our mammoth trek; most peeps have the sense to get a bus or drive or get an over-priced taxi, but NOT US!!!!) Rich and I went on a tour of a local favella. Rocinha, Brazil’s largest favella, had just been occupied by the military, so there was a strong police presence and a LOT of big black jeeps and tanks and dudes with machine guns. Reassuring…
When we got to the entrance, our guide gave us a run down: he’ll let us know when we’re good to take pictures (but DON’T take pictures of any people), keep to the right, stay out of peoples way. We were going to make our way to the top of the favella by Moto-Taxi (a motor bike that’s a taxi); after a quick lesson in how to get on and off without burning our legs on the exhaust pipe, and how to stay on (ie. girls can hold onto the driver, guys can NOT hold onto the driver), I was escorted to my bike, given a helmet, and we were off!
The road to the top was windy, muddy, slippery, and congested with buses, jeeps, military vee-hick-ells and other bikes. When we took off, I was quite certain that I would have a heart attack on the way up and/or be thrown from the bike in front of a truck; but guess what? I didn’t, and it was actually amazing and fun.
My guy was the first to leave the ‘depot’ and was a bit of a leadfoot, so we got to the top super quickly. He dropped me off on the side of the road and took off back down the hill, while I waited for the rest of my group to arrive.
We all assembled on a muddy path and our guide gave us another rundown of rules: Stay together. Don’t dilly dally. And he reiterated the “Don’t take photos until I tell you it’s OK” spiel.
So in we went. It’s like being inside a labyrinth; narrow paths snaking everywhere, steep steps built into the side of the hill with low-hanging ceilings (us tall-ies in the group got several warnings to mind our heads…), cats and dogs and chooks all over the place, woofing and eating and rubbing their heads against crumbling concrete walls and pecking about in the dirt. Surprisingly, there are HEAPS of trees around; we spotted a family of tiny monkeys in one, and, in some places, houses were actually built around the tree, like this one:
Our first stop was up an uneven, slippery-tiled staircase (with no railings and with quite a steep drop to one side) and onto a rooftop overlooking the favella. The size of the place was pretty mind-boggling, and, even though you’re in the middle of a slum, the view was pretty magnificent… Along with red brick lean-tos, there are rows upon rows of brightly coloured houses, and the scene looks a bit like a big patchwork quilt.
I was expecting to feel a bit sad and glum being here, but the sense of community was overwhelming. Lots of kids running around, two teenaged boys playing drums on an old bucket and a tin can, singing and smiling. Women making jewellery out of thread and old telephone wire. We walked down one narrow alley that housed a bakery, and popped in for some delicious donuts. Yummo!
Our last stop was at the local creche. Up another rickety staircase, and suddenly we were in a room filled with cots and sleeping babies. Splayed out in their beds in pastel pyjamas, legs askew, thumbs contentedly being sucked. Twas super cute, and a lovely way to end the day. We popped some money into the donation box, and headed off into the rainy afternoon.
NOTE: So, you’ve probably noticed that the photos in this post (and the last one) are a bit fuzzy and low res and not that great. Because I am a TOTAL DERBRAIN I didn’t take my camera out at all while we were in Brazil. Why? Who knows… Did I think it would get stolen on a tour? Yes, I actually did. Sheesh… Anyhoo, all these pics were taken with Rich’s Crackberry. Thanks Rich!