Our Family Blog

Copacabana Beach

May 18th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 16-Brazil - (1 Comments)

Our last post on Rio and where better to finish than with Copacabana Beach.  It is where we spent most of our time and will most likely be our last beach on this trip!

undoubtedly one of the world’s most famous beaches and located right in the heart of the city.  We were just two blocks away, a 5min walk.  The place is crazy, dangerous and beautiful all at the same time.

I think Sam got some great pictures, I was in the water most of the time.  I did manage to get the pictures of the chick at the end – wow – she was, as are most Brazilian women, absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.  And she can play footie as well. Make sure to have a look at the video, you’ll see her doing her thing…

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Samba night with a twist

May 18th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 16-Brazil - (0 Comments)

By night, Rio de Janeiro’s Lapa district has a reputation. On Friday and Saturday – after 11pm to be exact – the artisan neighbourhood descends into a denizen of sex, drugs and samba (Lonely Planet).

Yes, it was samba and Caipirinhas all the way.  Being rather cautious, and avoiding the large and sometimes dangerous crowds, we ventured out a Wednesday rather than the Friday or Saturday night.  We had a fantastic time and met some fabulous and amazing people.  We did have a dance but sadly have no photos to prove it. 

While in Rio we’ve been out most nights and rather mery on occasions but sadly had no camera with us to take photos of our good times.  When we went to Lapa we through caution to the wind and risked taking our old camera and if it was nicked so be it.  Little did we expect anything would happen…

We got a taxi from Lapa back to Copacabana which pulled up outside a burger joint one block from our hostel.  As I was paying the fare, some dude tried to yank Sam’s handbag off.  I shouted at him and ran over by which time three guys pounced on me and I got a puck in the mouth which split my lip.  Sam managed to hold onto her handbag and while I was fighting these guys off I managed to grab and pull her into the restaurant.  Just as we made it inside another came brandishing a knife…

The bastards stood outside laughing in at us.  Thankfully, and apart from a swollen cut lip, we were ok.  Unbelievably, these guys were aged between 10 and 25.  I’d like to say that I beat the shit out of at least one of them but I didn’t, my eyes were focused on Sam and all I wanted to do was get her inside – no time or place to be a hero – get away from the situation.  After I cleaned up my lip, the manager escorted us to a cab for a one block ride back to our hostel. 

Whatever good things people say about Rio, including us, it really is a dangerous dangerous place to visit.  These street people are so poor they will go to great lengths to acquire money for food and that includes sticking a knife in somebody – harsh but true.  The ironic thing is, we had left the so called dangerous area and were back in the not so dangerous part of Rio.  Thankfully only one day before we had back into peaceful Argentina.

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Stairway to heaven

May 18th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 16-Brazil - (0 Comments)

One couldn’t visit Rio without a snapshot of Escadaria Selaron, a set of world-famous stairs in between the Santa Teresa and Lapa neighbourhoods.  They are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selaron who claims it is his tribute to the Brazilian people.

In 1983, after travelling, living and working as a painter and sculptor in over 50 countries around the world he decided to settle in Brazil.  In 1990, on a whim, he began renovating the dilapidated 125 metre, 215-step stairway which runs past his front door. Neighbours mocked him for his choice of colours. He covered the steps in fragments of blue, green and yellow tiles – the colours of the Brazilian flag.

Today, the stairway has become one of Rio’s must-see tourist destinations. It has been featured in commercials for Coke-Cola, American Express and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Photographers from National Geographic, Wallpaper and even Playboy have all clamoured for a shot of the artist and his work. Snoop-Dog and U2 have also shot some video too.

Selaron, now 57, is mostly un-phased by the attention, as the project has always been more personal than professional. No sooner has the stairway been ‘finished,’ than Selaron embarks upon yet another ‘section,’ constantly chopping and changing the tiles.  One cannot miss the prolific motif of a pregnant African woman running throughout the tiles, some 300-odd of which have been hand-painted by Selaron and incorporated into his work. It’s a moot point which Selaron prefers not to discuss.

‘A personal problem,’ is all he will say. ‘In my past.

Such is the drive of the artist that he plunges the little money that he earns selling his paintings back into the stairs. Since 1977, he says, to get by he has sold an estimated 25,000 portraits all featuring the same pregnant woman.

When he began working on the stairs, Selaron used any materials he could find – leftovers from construction sites, bits and pieces he found foraging though Rio’s ample urban waste. These days, however, he uses tiles donated to him and sent to him from over 60 countries across the world.

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City of God

May 18th, 2009 | Posted by Davey in 16-Brazil - (0 Comments)

We thought long and hard about going on the tour of Rocinha, Latin America’s largest favela or shanty town. The voyeuristic and danger sides to it did not appeal but after speaking with others whom had been we were ready to see the unique kind of city dwelling made famous in the movie ‘City of God’.

Rocinha is one of 515 favelas in Rio and all bar four are run by drug lords.  Each has its own set of rules but the general slogan is: nobody robs, nobody hears, nothing is lost; those who are wise obey those who give orders.

The tour started on the back of a motorbike, racing up one of its only streets and where houses are built upon houses up the jungle-covered mountain. At the top we slowly walked down through the tiny passageways, stopping to visit an artists’ studio, a kids’ day-care centre and some friendly locals who were learning about the politics and laws of living in a place where police and rubbish-disposal removers rarely enter.  When police do to try and control the drugs, almost always a bitter feud ensues with no shortage of blood shed.  Last month some 50 gang members were killed and one tonne of marijuana airlifted.

Home to some 300,000 of Rio’s citizens most of whom are teenage drug gangs and we did see some rather young members armed with gold-plated guns which was a little too close for comfort – and not the time to start flashing your camera. 

Overall the tour company, Be a Local,  was highly sensitive and respectful to the residents’ privacy.  They are well respected because of their affiliation with the schools and the income they bring in by way of tourists.  That aside, it is still a scary scary place and you know in the back of your mind that it would only take one coked up uneducated 10 year old gang member to take offence, pull out his piece and pop a cap in our ass – game over!

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One of the main reasons we visited Brazil and an absolute must see while in South America was the stature of Christ the Redeemer.  A symbol of Christianity, the statue has become an icon of Rio and Brazil. 

Standing at over 30 metres (98ft) tall and overlooking the city of Rio it is one of the tallest statues in the world.  It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone – our friend Tim, an engineer and a concrete junky, would melt peering up at it .  Designed by the engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, it was conceived in 1921, construction started in mid-1926 and was completed in 1931.  The statue sits on top of Corcovado Mountain located in Tijuca National Park.

From the statue we had superb views of Sugar Loaf Mountain, downtown Rio and Rio’s beaches.  It was, as expected, a truly magical experience and one we are unlikely to forget.  Beneath the stature there’s a beautiful little church and one couldn’t visit without saying a few prayers.

Not only is Christ the Redeemer a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was on 7th July 2007 named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. 

UNESCO World Heritage Site  #33.

New Seven Wonders of the World #4.

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