26 December 2008
I got a window seat on Aerolineas Argentina. And as we touched down in Brazil, all I could see were lush rainforests and meandering river mouths, I was already in love.
Brazil! I’ve always wanted to come here. Besides the jungle and the writhing spawning anacondas, Brazil has fascinated me no end.
My stepfather told me I’d be accosted the moment I step off the plane. I wasn’t. ‘Carioca’s’ or Rio Locals love blonde hair. Something I do not have a strand of. So I was about to blend in nicely.
Immediate mindfuck though. Suddenly the two weeks of Spanish I’d garnered in Argentina was obsolete.
And they speak funny here. It’s an extremely nasal Portuguese, so anything I’d learnt from Mozambique trips in the past wasn’t going to be tremendous help because the accent here is something else.
I kept on saying ‘Grazias’ instead of ‘Obrigada.’ My cab driver and I communicated by him using twangy nasal noises and I just smiled and waved.
They have this long high-faluted drawl here. ‘You are staying in Copacabannnnnnnnngya?’ Yes Copacabana, sim, sim.
I was in love though. The moment I felt the tropical air on my face, the moment we were driving towards the city with favela’s or ‘slums’ on either side of us, and the mountains filled with jungle just rising out of nowhere, I was transfixed. I haven’t felt this taken with a place since I visited Bangkok and New York.
I was so excited I didn’t know what to do with myself; I was mesmerised. Hello gringo.
I was also terrified, as the cab driver communicated with hand gestures that if I pull out my cellphone I’d die, basically.
Bring it the fuck on. Coming from a dangerous city like Johannesburg will lead me in good stead, I am ready to kick any assaulter square in the balls should he threaten me.
Dropped my backpack at my youth hostel and had to mentally prepare to go outside. Would only pull out my camera when in a restaurant; would run through the streets like a caged animal.
I ran to Copacabana, only two blocks from where I was staying.
There are kiosks selling caipirinhas and coconuts which they slash open for you. Every twelve metres. So if I was to walk the entire beach, I’d be comatose at the end.
I slotted two caipirinhas and was consequently on my ear.
They’re strong. And they’re gooood.
Go back to youth hostel and meet my first dorm mate. An American who was rather…chatty in a bend-ear-off kind of way. Also a German dude who seemed cool. The people here were so welcoming and friendly. “You must be Peas from South Africa!”
We went and ate a buffet dinner together. Piled out plates with ‘feijoada’ or traditional stew and meat and fruit. They food here is very tasty. God I love the tropics.
27 December 2008
Whaddoyoumean there’s a tropical rainstorm outside? Fuck.
Went on a favela tour, regardless. The tour goes through Rocinha, the biggest favela in the country. Rio is an especially interesting Brazilian city because the favelas bleed into the urban environment. You have a rich neighbourhood like Ipanema, and on the hillside, right next to it, there’s this slum just chilling there.
It has parallels to our townships, but these slums are heccctic. They’re owned by drug lords and not even normal Brazilian locals can enter them. They’re completely lawless communities run by gang rings, and they consist of millions of dilapidated makeshift houses with tiny little alleyways in between.
Basically if you’re shot here, your body will never be found.
There are over 750 favela’s in Rio. We were going into the largest.
Because we were with a professional tourguide we had no reason to shit our pants, but if the cops came while we were there, we’d probably die.
The cops come in every now and then to try and kill the various top henchmen guys, and then they fight back and there’s gunfire all over the place and stray bullets have killed civilians walking around there many times before. Basically, it’s a bloodbath.
Dudes on motorbike taxis took us up, and I wrapped my arms around the driver as he skirted in between buses and cars on the wrong side of this windy road that edged its way up the hill deep into the slum.
I thought I was going to die at least four times from a vehicular collision and was screaming ‘Fucccccccccck. Shitttt! Cuntttttttt!’ most of the way up.
Then we walked through the thing. As I heard a gunshot. I was living life on the edge; fuck I was on fire.
There was gunfire.
Wweaved and walked our way through tiny alleys watching the big dudes at the corners holding AK47s. There were wires everywhere, they steal everyone else’s electricity. And stopped at a community centre filled with art, not unlike our own in the townships.
It was amazing. Because of the rain, there was raw sewage running everywhere, but I found the favela beautiful. Everyone smiled at us gringo’s, and we even stopped for a ‘pao de quiejo’ (cheese puff…it’s their vibe)
It was amazing, I enjoyed it – although so many people criticise these types of tours saying it’s too voyeuristic. At least we’re supporting the community centre and have a good idea of what real Brazil is about.
Convinced another ten people at the hostel to go forth and do it, it was such an experience.