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Adrenaline in Rio de Janeiro

Added: August 04, 2010

Tags: Brazil RTW city photos
Wednesday, 23rd of February. It will not be completely stress free day today. It is our second day in Rio de Janeiro and Zuzka decided we are going to visit Favela. Favelas are poor neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro and it is not safe to go there alone. You need a local guide. Somebody reliable and respected there. Her colleague James (thank you) recommended us to find Paulo Amendoim, they had great time with him in past.

Who is that? We don't know him

We found Paulo's phone number on Internet together with 2 or 3 short recommendations. We asked receptionist in hostel to make a call for us. They started to object against our decision. Who is that? We don't know him. I think the problem was not so much in competition with guided tours they could book for us, but in our security. It really can be dangerous and later I realized it was kind of stupid to find some phone number on discussion forum or trip advising page and go for it. Any kidnapper could do that and have good business...

We made an arrangement and Zuzka was looking forward to this trip. From previous sentences you could get an impression I was not convinced and you would be right.

Rocinha Favela

To ease any suspense I might have unwillingly made ;-) I should say I found the same numbers and email address also in Lonely Planet later. Here they are:

Paulo Amendoim, phone: 3322 8498 or 9747 6860, email pauloamendoim@hotmail.com

Paulo was late about half an hour, because he could not find it (well hidden entrance without any clear suggestion it is hostel). He was the most funny and entertaining guy I have ever met and it was clear since the beginning.

He stopped local public transport pickup their Favela operates and we went in. He was chatting with everybody (also with us, but we were paying for it :-) ). We went quite far, at least in that traffic it seemed really far, but looking at Google Maps it was only 9km.

We went up hill and stopped nearly at the top. We got off and Paulo could start his show. He was greeted by everybody, he talked and laughed with everybody. School children greeted him too and he acted like their father or teacher. It did not take me long time to realize I should have taken my camera. I was afraid as usually to be robbed and left it in hostel. But we felt completely safe with Paulo. Following photos are courtesy of Zuzka.

Later we met another group of tourists and their guide introduced Paulo with words "You have to meet this guy, he is a local legend". Since then we really knew we picked the right guide.

We went through narrow and curvy streets, went to local artist house, got to roof to get nice view of the Favela. Everywhere we went people were happy to see him. Some were making jokes with him or about him. He told us amendoim means peanut and showed us a person who calls him roasted peanut.

At one place we met local boys playing on old buckets and other garbage. Despite modest budget it sounded fantastic. They really have music in themselves.

Paulo posing (not dancing or singing as you would guess) while boys are busy making money.
Paulo Amendoim in Rocinha Favela

Small houses below are part of Rocinha.


It was really interesting - all those houses built in organic way, narrow streets and passageways. We went down to neighbourhood shown at previous photos in distance. We came to market where Paulo borrowed a microphone from local seller and made a short speech. He thanked his friends from Czechoslovakia :-D as well as other visitors for finding time to visit Rocinha. It felt good.

Then he got an idea we should buy a swim wear there and could go to nearby beach (that is empty unlike Copacabana). But we had plans for afternoon and even without them we were not sure it is safe to be there without our guide.

So he found a (proper) bus going back to city, and we got in. Paulo was still talking, this time about Leblon, how nice place it is, then about Ipanema. He got out later, but he assured us the driver will tell us where to get off, He is my friend. And the driver did not disappointed his friend (despite they knew each other only for 30 minutes).


Our program for afternoon was visiting Corcovado. The famous hill with statue of Christ. Buses 583 and 584 are going there from Botafogo.

It took long time until the bus arrived. Fortunately there were more tourists inside so the driver told us when we arrived to Rua Cosme Velho. We were immediately surrounded by taxi drivers explaining how cheaply they are going to take us up there. I don't think anybody got befooled. On the other hand we were waiting for cogwheel train for about 1 hour...

Something's going on. Workers and lot of scaffolding around the statue.



Corcovado was crowded. To get good view of Sugarloaf we need to push against the crowd and when we got to position I was disappointed. Visibility was not very good and also sun was not low enough yet to provide nice colours and atmosphere. Still we stayed for longer time than we usually do.

Panorama of Rio de Janeiro from Corcovado. Sugarloaf we have been to yesterday is in the middle. Botafogo below. Only good panorama from many I have made.


Zoomed to Favela Rocinha, we went there in the morning. Notice the tall building and find it at next photo.

Another view of Rio from Corcovado. Favela Rocinha is in the distance (middle).



We got down to city quickly. No long waiting for train. And the bus arrived immediately too. Great, we still might have some time for going to the beach. We did not plan to stay so long.

I was looking forward to beach too quickly. It took ages to get back to the city. After some time I realized I can see hills we have seen in the morning while going to favela. This bus is not going to Botafogo, but somewhere to Leblon! But it is 583, the same we used afternoon!?! That is strange, maybe it is circular route. But what if it has terminal station somewhere in dark corner of some favela? It is getting dark, who knows how long we are going to wait there. I started to stress out and stopped only when I was sure we really turned around in Leblon and I could see hints of beach on the right (meaning we are heading in correct direction). Another half an hour or more passed before we were back to Botafogo where we happily got off. Sorry, no beach today :-(