After a gruelling departure from my settled Melbourne, some 39 hours of travelling including 31 of those being 38,000 feet above ground level, 3 continents from one corner of the globe to the next, I arrived in Rio De Janeiro. I was quite simply exhausted both physically and mentally.
I flagged down a taxi to make it to my hostel. Just driving through the city and streets, there was life everywhere. People of all ages on the streets, together, laughing, eating, drinking, dancing. This was at 10pm at night. I must admit, giving my journey, I was a little wired, and was a little anxious about driving near the Favelas.
However since I got to my room, checked in etc, I felt more alive and curious. That sense of settlement once you arrive and your bags are dropped was immense. My first night me and a German guy, Marco, who was volunteering there, went for a few beers. We went to the local clubs around Santa Teresa. Unlike any previous experiences, these were all Latin Americans bar a couple. No easy going this time speaking to fellow backpackers, this was real Rio. I successfully practiced my limited Portugese by ordering a couple of drinks at the bar. Quero Dose Cerveja Por Favor. Simple, but a start. The women were beautiful. The guys were chill. The music was upbeat.
After being here for 2 weeks, you get a real sense of indulgence within the culture. I’m staying at Santa Semente, a perfectly perched guesthouse/hostel in the safe part of Santa Teresa. Overlooking the city, if you want the local side of Rio for a short or long time come here. Its ran by Daniela, a Brazilian and her partner, Luke from the USA. With the city in view, sunset is a nice treat. It’s safe enough and out the way of any noise or dangers, however you do have part of the Favela’s overlooking you which gives you a sense of real local location. The guesthouse itself is great. The people are generally travellers of a more mature attitude, ranging from all ages. Breakfast is free from morning time, and there is also free WIFI too. Luke and Sheila also have other contacts throughout Rio which include volunteering in the Favelas, teaching English or taking Portuguese lessons. A short walk away are a few local shops bars and restaurant, catered for the locals. There are always Brazilians wandering the streets, happily socialising with one another surrounded by old historic and quirky builds. The old tram line is now not in service unfortunately but bikes and taxis are quite common. Graffiti is everywhere to some impressive pieces and you’ll always hear someone having a gathering or a small party.
Some travellers, expats or curious minds want the parties, the easy transfers, the westernised hostels, and to a degree we all want that. But if you want something different, to expose yourself to Rio’s bustling culture of passionate Latin people, then this location is perfect. You will feel you are part of the countries inheritance within in days. You will feel more happy to have done things the local way, to understand these people, their aim in life just wanting a chance to make it, to live happily and to see their families.
After the World Cup, Santa Semente is going to take a new direction. It’s going to get involved in volunteering. It’s a truly wonderful place to set this up. Secure but next to the Favela’s, staying here alone will almost already feel you are living here full time. People come to Rio wanting parties and beaches, but the life among the streets and communities of Rio’s suburbs is something quite different to what I’ve experienced. If you want to get involved in this side of Rio, full recommendations for this place.