So when I booked a hostel in a favela in Rio, John went through varying levels of grief…….disbelief…….doubt…….fear…….then acceptance.
We contemplated cancelling our entire trip to Brazil a number of times since we booked it in April due to all the negative media attention. Then we watched the Olympics on the TV in Bolivia, got thoroughly swept up in the passion, positivity and feeling of the games, packed our bags and in the end set off ridiculously excited for our trip! But we were still staying in a favela……. It would be fine I assured him as David Beckham has a house there and trip advisor has great reviews. I did book a taxi transfer from the airport though as we were arriving at night and that seemed the safest option. So we were met at the airport by a very smiley chap dressed in an incredibly floral Hawaiian shirt and we thought ‘yep we’re in Rio, home of carnival’! He preceded to give us the full tour on route to the hostel and we passed downtown Rio, Copacabana beach, Ipanema Beach, Leblon Beach all full of beautiful people skateboarding, rollerblading, drinking and enjoying the warm evening in Rio. Then we got to the square marking the turning up to the favela…..this is when the tables turned. I saw scary looking folk, noise, swathes of people, police everywhere and crapped my pants. John saw noodles, deep fried cheese empanadas, cuñapes, churros and suddenly decided the favela was a great idea………
As we climbed the hill in the taxi, motorcycle taxis sped past us with their fares. We were told the best way to get up normally was a motorcycle taxi at a cost of 3Reals……visions of kidnapping and Bolivian amputees flashed through my head, John however was all for a mototaxi another day. As we climbed he told us he’d lived there for 30yrs and the favela was like a big family and everyone looked out for each other. Sure enough he was smiled at and waved at by everyone we passed. We were still climbing and winding up narrow roads as we slowly realised why no taxis will come up there to our hostel normally. We got there and met the owner who was lovely, on the wall of the reception was lots of awards she’d won for community innovation and achievements with the hostel and surrounding area. She showed us up to our room and the balcony and all was forgotten as the view was spectacular!
The next day we got up and had a good look round our hostel in the light of day. And it was lovely! The rooftop terrace was a highlight and we went up there at least once everyday for the views and the air.
Our Bolivian training of hills and no oxygen served us well as we found we could skip up and down the vertical cliff face to our hostel with little trouble! We were definitely tourists in the favela but sure enough everyone was friendly and we actually really enjoyed our few days there. We chilled on the Vidigal beach as well which on the 7th Sept (Brazilian Independence Day) was full of families, groups of friends and couples all hanging out together and enjoying just being brazilian.