Experiences of a Dutchman living in Belo Horizonte, since December 2004, from month to month.
January 2007, part two: Cultural Student Festival in downtown Rio. Theme of the festival was: Africa.
In December, I had traveled two times to Rio de Janeiro by bus. With students of the federal university. We had stayed in the same pousada, on the border between the districts of Ipanema and Copacabana. It was a simple and quiet pousada, at less than one kilometer from the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema. Year 2007 was only two weeks old, when I received another invitation to join students to their travel to Rio de Janeiro. Not to visit the National Library this time, but to join the biannual student festival: Bienal de Arte e Cultura da União Nacional dos Estudantes. Them of 2007 was ‘Brasil-África, um Rio chamado Atlântico‘ (Brazil-Africa, a river called the Atlantic Ocean. The slogan referred to the strong ties between Brazil and mainly West-Africa, thanks to the intense slave trade, which brought millions of slaves to Brazil. The slaves brought their native cultures, which are now thoroughly mixed with the Brazilian culture.
Just before I started my third travel to Rio, my digital camera stopped working. I had bought this camera just before I went to Brazil, in November 2004. I have made more than thirty thousand images with this camera. The problems started with the protective lens shutter, which didn’t close properly anymore. The second problem was the battery compartment. It was more expensive to have the camera repaired, than to buy a new one. Unfortunately, I lacked time to buy a new camera. This travel to Rio was the first and still is the only travel without a camera in my backpack. I really have missed my camera. Nonetheless, I joined the students on their trip to the festival. This time, we didn’t need to pay for the bus, the travel was sponsored by the university. When we arrived in downtown Rio, we had to join a long queue for our registration for the festival. We all received a neon yellow wristband, as a kind of entrance voucher for all cultural events. For me, this obvious wristband was very convenient, because now I was not easily considered as a gringo (foreigner).
Now we didn’t stay at the pousada in Copacabana, but we received lodgment in a faculty building of the UNIRIO university in the district of Urca. This district is famous for Pão de Açúcar, the Sugar Loaf Mountain. which may be reached by a cable car. The faculty building was near Praia Vermelha (Red Beach), but quite far from the center, where most cultural events were about to be presented. Therefore, the organization had provided free bus travel from and to the center, day and night. We only had to show our yellow wristbands. Most students had carried tents, which they set up in the lecture rooms. One of the students had carried an extra mattress for me, I would use that during the week. From Urca, it was about one-hour-walk to Leme beach, which is the beach next to Copacabana Beach. We went there almost every day, to enjoy the sun and the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It was summertime!
Santa Tereza and Selarón
Despite the fact that I already had visited Rio two times before, for sure I hadn’t seen and visited everything! One of the day trips our ‘leader’ Jader organized for us, was the tram ride to Santa Tereza. The tram station was next to the impressive conical pyramid of the São Sebastião Cathedral, also called Catedral Metropolitana. We bought our tram fares for sixty centavos each. The tram followed the track on top of the arcs of the former aqueduct of Lapa, gently climbing to Santa Tereza, one of the oldest districts in Rio. By chance we found a little restaurant of a very old lady: Dona Elsa. Despite her advanced age, she still cooked for her guests. Her meal was delicious. We walked some more time in Santa Tereza before we walked down to Lapa, to the staircase of Selarón, a Chilean artist. He had collected a huge number of souvenir tiles from all over the world, which he attached in the staircase, together with many fragments of red, green and yellow tiles. I had noticed quited a number of Dutch tiles too.
Personally, the best day of my third stay in Rio was the day at Corcovado Mountain. On top of this more than seven hundred meters high mountain is one of the Modern World Wonders: Cristo Redentor, Christ the Redeemer. Jader guided us to Laranjeiras, where we entered a path that led to the top of the Corcovado. It was a very interesting climb, through a piece of Atlantic Forest. This forest type had covered most of southeast Brazil, at the time of the arrival of the first Europeans. The path also led along two favelas (slums), but luckily nothing bad happened that day. The climb was tiresome, even when we were walking in the shadows provided by the dense forest. But we were awarded generously: we much enjoyed the unforgettable breathtaking views of Rio de Janeiro and the surroundings. That day, it was a bit cloudy. Sometimes, the immense statue of Cristo Redentor was covered in mist. I really had missed my camera that day!
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom