In Rio we went on one of the Favela tours. We chose Rio Adventures and they were not very good. I learnt very little about the favela and I learnt a lot about our guide. Unfortunately, I learnt he was a tosser. He seemed most keen on convincing us he knew everyone in the favela. If he had spent as much time talking to we who had paid him, rather than they who had not, the trip may have proven more informative. I did learn that the tosser knew the word for favela in 27 different languages and, tediously, he stepped through each one until even the favela cat (who spoke no languages and had the most to learn) got up and walked away.
Rocinha is a “pacified” favela which I think means the drug dealers have gone but the method of their departure was unclear. I could have taken a view from the guide from Rio Adventures, unfortunately, he gave nothing more than superficial background, made his spiel in dented english and ran. I surmised the running was to prevent anyone asking a question that would reveal his ignorance.
According to our guide the favela has 280,000 residents. According to the website of the company that employs him, Rio Adventures, it has 120,000 residents. According to the Brazilian Government census of 2010 it has 69,161 residents. According to various web sites the census understates and the true number of residents is between 100,000 and 200,000. All other numbers and statements here are unconfirmed repetitions of the guides words. They should be treated with more scepticism than would usually be applied in respect of a paid guide. The residents have title to their homes, but I saw none for sale or rent. When the drug dealers went the residents were compensated with cheap satellite TV. The guide suggested the drug dealers still own the legitimate businesses in the favelas. There are 631 hairdressers and 1200 motorbike taxis. The moto taxis are novel. The favela is built on a steep hill and the moto taxis ferry people, as pillions, from bottom to top for R$ 2.5 ( about 1 USD) ……….with a loaned helmet for passenger safety. The garbage truck picks up twice a day, everyone has electricity and although the guide didn’t say if everyone had water and sewerage it did seem to be the case from what I could see. I thought we were looking at a poor working class suburb built on a steep hill, without adherence to building codes or electrical safety standards, or any standards. It felt safe, although I suspect all favelas are not like this one and this one wasn’t always like this one.
As part of the tour we got to sit and wait in a burger joint while the guide went and got his truck. For 45 minutes (at lunch time!!! ) in Bobs Burgers, no one bought a $5 hamburger, not one person. In Ipanema we queued for ten minutes to buy a small cup of ice cream for $5, which reflects the different purchasing power resident in each of the two areas.
We were pleased that we visited the favela. We really enjoyed the walk down through the favela and the visit to a residents home. These two things took about an hour and a half. This isn’t Trip Advisor, but Rio Adventures were very poor value. Four of us paid AUD240 and there were another four people we knocked into in the back of the open truck, no seat belts. Its just a shame the guide was of such poor quality. But then again are any of the other operators better?