What they forget to tell you about the Rio favelas..

Last night was one of the craziest nights of my 1.5 months in Rio. Thanks to my french friend who is also my guide to Rio’s alternative life, I had the incredible opportunity to visit a party at the Vidigal favela, which is located right near Leblon, overlooking the beautiful coastline. This was the same favela, that last week was occupied by the Brazilian pacification police, UPP.

The night started at a boteco (small cheap bar where locals go for their chopp) in Copacabana, where I was supposed to meet frenchboy and a few friends. During my wait time, I started meeting random foreigners that drifted as well to this bar, ending up in a group of maybe 30 people, all going for this party. That’s when I found out that this outing was organized through the Rio couch surfing community (whose members were really awesome!!), which I never knew existed. So finally when the crowd was gathered, fueled on a few cheap beers and greasy snacks, we headed over to Vidigal.

The journey was an adventure within itself. It was decided that we should take the crazy van taxis that shuttle people across Rio, at very high speeds and disregard of traffic rules. We convinced one of the drivers to take us straight to Vidigal, despite the fact he was going somewhere else, and piled like 20 people into a van of 12. Being squished with 19 other strangers, gave me an opportunity to make some friendly conversations and bond with my new favela-bound friends. When we arrived to Vidigal entrance, we were then transferred to an even smaller van, to take us up the mountain. I really didn’t know what to expect at the end, and was nervously looking around me while we climbed the narrow road around the favela. Super narrow streets, mostly rundown small houses, piles of debris and trash everywhere, uniformed police/army men with huge machine guns on every corner, watching the order. This is what I imagine Gaza to look like..

When we finally arrived to the top of the mountain, I thought we must have been tricked to being robbed and killed or something along the lines. We were a group of 30 gringos with a couple of Brazilians, standing in the middle of a cemented block, with nothing around or in sight. But then… after a short hike, we arrived to the courtyard of Casa Alto Vidigal hostel. R$10 later, we were in a dubstep (the worst music in the world) party, on a rooftop sporting one of the most incredible views in town.. more gringos kept piling in overtime, and when I was leaving around 2:30 am, still more people where arriving. The place should be amazing for watching the sunset (I had to settle for a beautiful starry night with a crescent moon instead).

On the way back, yet in another crazy taxi-van, I asked my new carioca acquaintance if it will be ok for me to walk 2 blocks alone from the drop-off place in Ipanema, and she explained that at night it’s actually safer with respect to pickpockets, because they are too lazy to come out and bother robbing people.. I am not sure if I can trust this version, but it definitely made sense in the Rio context. I reached home safe and very happy after a great night in town!

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