We have one more day in Rio and we are not going to let a little thing like a gun being waved in our face stop us from enjoying it. We want to get away from the tourists and explore the neighbourhoods of Rio to get a feel for the real city. We ignore all the warnings not to do this on our own but will follow the warnings about not wandering along deserted streets.
We make our way to a flight of steps we have heard about that has been tiled by a local artist. It has taken him years and he still hasn’t finished:
They lead us up to a neighborhood called Santa Teresa, where we quickly discover all the streets are deserted, which is a little worrying. It is one of the older neighborhoods and it is supposed to be quietly being discovered. But we are on the fringe and here any discovery that is going on is being done so quietly it is almost silent. There are steep cobbled streets which could be charming, but the first thing that needs doing is to reclaim them from the ever encroaching jungleThere are large colonial houses, their past glory fading behind rolls of barbed wire and more jungle:
There is certainly charm, but the deserted streets and the occasional unsavoury character following us a little too closely makes us nervous, so we quickly make our way down the hill to a much busier neighborhood called Lapa. Here there are some striking examples of art nouveau architecture:
fascinating old shops
and interesting graffiti
but so much is in a sad state of repair including the inhabitants.
It’s a very different Rio from the fabulous beaches of yesterday, but we still find it fascinating.
On the way back to the ship we visit one of Rio’s oldest churches and one of the wealthiest. Inside everything is covered in gold, the walls, the ceiling, the statues:
It is a shocking and infuriating display of opulence in this city where over twenty five percent of the six million inhabitants live below the poverty level.
Back on board ship, we hear of three separate passengers who have been robbed, one at knife point. The ship of course advertises none of this and these three incidents are the only ones gossiped about. How many more are there that we don’t hear of? Fortunately no one was hurt and nothing of great value lost as we had all been advised to carry very little with us, but it taints our enjoyment of this fabulous city.
If they can’t curb the crime before they host the World Cup next year and the Olympics in 2016, these events will be a disaster. It is a huge problem, and perhaps the only solution is to melt down all the gold in the churches and distribute the proceeds amongst the poor!
But to make sure we don’t lose the original excitement we feel for Rio, the ship has laid on a Samba show for our last evening, inviting on board a local dance group. We see the group arriving in their street clothes and they are a seedy looking group. If we had come across them on the quiet streets of Santa Teresa we would have fled. Most samba dancers are from the slums and this is an important way to make money. Once they are stripped of their street clothes and adorned with just glitter, feathers, gold and a patina of sweat they look terrific. Add a pulsating beat and they, just like the city they come from, put on a fabulous show.
And this brings us to another passenger of the week. It’s not just the dancers who can be a little seedy, so can the passengers – especially this one who becomes a little over enthusiastic about audience participation
Geez, that is amazing the extremes you witnessed. I find what I imagined Rio to be, according to you and Gordon, not to be the case at all. I think that that poverty must be quite depressing to the obsever and clearly to the residents. My gosh if that doesn’t warrant a few cosmos….I love some idiot participation onstage uninvited. Makes you proud, huh.