Saturday, June 20, 2015

Day Twelve – Favela, Maracana

We started our morning by being met by Alex, our tour guide from Be a Local, in the hotel lobby.  Alex had arrived in a van to take us up to the top of the Rocinha favela and for us to walk our way down.  Favela means “little farm” in Portuguese and while the term favela is still used, Brazilians now prefer the word “community” in place of favela.  For Rocinha specifically, the community has existed for about 100 years and contains about 25,000 houses and about 75,000 people.  I was blown away by the living conditions and the way that all of these people were packed together.  I will say…I wish I had been warned to wear sneakers instead of flip flops, as there were a few times that we had to jump over raw sewage running down the pathways that we were walking in. 

We started our tour at one of the highest buildings at the top of the hill (and climbed some uneven/short staircases to get there), which rewarded us with a lovely view of Rio.  From there we were able to see how each of the houses is fed water; through a gravity fed pipe-system that is set up with rain barrels, it basically flows through the pipes all the way down to the bottom of the community.  It was extremely overwhelming to see the significant demographic experience from the top of this building to the shore of the beaches that we overlooked. 

After our trip through the favela, we headed back to the hotel for a couple of hours of down time.   When 2pm rolled around, we were picked up by Be a Local to go spectate at the Flamengo v Atletico game that was happening at 4:20p at Maracana stadium.  However, we were “early” (we think that this is planned by Be a Local to feed into the local tourism) so we stopped by a gas station near the stadium where we were allowed to drink beer, get some food, and buy jerseys from a man on the sidewalk.  It was an interesting experience and it became clearer as quite a few Be a Local vans showed up that this was a planned stop by the tour provider.

When we got close to match time, they loaded us up into the buses and dropped us off at the Gate to the stadium.  We were in the North gate, section 221, so we got frisked and went into the stadium to find our seats.  Oddly enough, we sat in seats all together (even though our tickets weren’t together) in a section that wasn’t indicated on my ticket.  No one said anything, though.  This experience was out of this world.  Almost everyone was in a Flamengo jersey (home team) and there were people chanting and waving extremely large flags throughout the entire match.  Even though Flamengo lost to Atletico 2-0, we had a great time watching not only the sport event, but the people that were there as well!

You could tell that this stadium was newly redone as the seats and everything were spic and span.  Maracana was used for the World Cup and will also be used for Rio 2016 and can now hold up to 75,000 people (down from the original 200,000 people, including standing spectators, that the stadium originally was built for). 
Once the game ended, we waited around for the stadium to empty out a bit and then left to find our tour van. We were able to easily find it and we were shuttled back to the hotel.  Instead of dispersing, though, we all decided to find a place to eat together.  We walked a couple of blocks down the beach from our hotel and ended up at MAB’s.  The restaurant wasn’t frilly, but the food and the drinks were good.  I ordered a cachaça (when in Rome, right) and a grilled chicken breast with rice and beans, true Brazilian fare.  The group split up after dinner and I walked back to the hotel and went to bed relatively early, after an extremely fun day.

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