Niteroi, a Favela Tour and Rio de Janeiro
While I was down in Brasil, I did get to check out a few tourist type things. I was staying in Niteroi - across the bay from Rio and linked by ferries and a bridge. It is not as affluent as Rio and it is the more industrial port area. Nevertheless a nice area, with great views across the bay towards Rio.
Street scene in Niteroi
On one of my morning runs (actually my only morning run), I stumbled across this wonderful building - more like a space ship than a building. It was designed by Oscar Niemeyer and houses a contemporary art museum. By all accounts the building is much more impressive than its contents.
Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum
I went on a Favela tour over in Rio on the Saturday afternoon. It was an interesting look at a different side of life in Rio. I was worried about it being a little too voyeuristic but these tours are becoming fairly common now and they are promoted as being run by Favela residents and allegedly they do give some money back to the community. Whether that is true or not I don't know.
I was picked up in front of the Copacabana Palace Hotel (one of the best hotels in Rio - what an unusual choice for such a trip) and whisked off up the hill to Rocinha where the housing changes from super expensive to extremely poor in the matter of a few meters.
According to the guides, the slum areas are governed by a mafia-like organization of drug dealers and crooks and the police don't even venture inside. They said that these mafia types at least organized things in the community and got a few things done, while the local government did precious little for the residents. The houses are a chaotic jumble climbing up the hillsides. Hardly anyone has a proper address as the streets and buildings are somewhat free-form, electricity is just stolen by tapping into the power lines, and when you need a new house or a room, you just build it on top of an existing one (4 or 5 levels high sometimes).
If you need electricity, just take it!
That being said there were parts of the Favela that were quite attractive - very colorful, some quite modern, and some with great views of Rio and the Ocean.
One of the more colorful and modern sections
Yours Truly and some kids in Rocinha
On the Sunday, I did the more standard tourist things - the downtown area, Corcovado, Sugar Loaf, Copacabana, etc. It was a nice day out with lots of wonderful sights. Lots of pictures. Then on my return to the hotel prior to going out to the airport, I was taking a taxi and I realized that I needed some more money to pay for the ride. I asked the driver to stop at an ATM, and then foolishly got out of the taxi, leaving my day pack in the cab. When I completed my transaction and turned around from the ATM, the taxi had disappeared along with my pack. I guess he figured that whatever was in the backpack it was more valuable than his $20 fare. He was right - 2 cameras, an iPhone, lots of miscellaneous bits and pieces. I am up to over $2,000 on the insurance claim.
That made for a sour end to the trip and a lack of photos of from that day. I can't believe I was so stupid as to do that, usually I am very careful, but I had been getting along fine with the taxi driver and I trusted him. Oh well - there's a lesson learned there. And it could have been a lot worse - I did not lose my passport or my credit cards so I was still able to fly home.