Rio is a city of contrasts. A beautiful beachfront just like in the pictures and movies through time. Behind the tropical paradise setting is the real Rio, set in the shade of the favelas perched on top of the hill. The Escadaria Selaron is the gateway to the hillside.
We walked down towards the Carioca Aqueduct, a fascinating double viaduct structure glowing bright white. The peace was somewhat interrupted by a gentleman either high on drugs or life that decided to pick up a rubbish bin and a stick to create his own one man band. This resulted in him hilariously scaring a group of Americans across the park.
With the impromptu drum session heading away from us, we walked to the roadside. A local lady picked up on our accents and asked us if we were heading to the famous staircase. She then offered to take us there as her place was just at the top, how’s your luck?
Luck was something that we thought had run out when we approached the streets leading up to the staircase. Everything seemed to go into darkness, the mood changed and the characters in the street looked menacing. We turned to our guide and she quite simply said “It is very dangerous here”. I wasn’t doubting her.
This of course was home to great train robber Ronnie Biggs for a number of years. Feeling the home connection wasn’t exactly helping my nerves as we nervously walked past stray dogs and dodgy characters. Almost as if by magic, the staircase came into beautiful, bright view.
The tourists just seem to emerge out of nowhere. Thankfully it wasn’t too busy on the stairs so we could stand and admire the beautiful tiles that have come from all across the world. A large mural caught our eye which our guide translated as ‘Brazil Loves You” it was all rather touching.
Background noise comes in the form of the streams of water either side of the stairs. This is the drainage from the hillside. Other than that it is a very peaceful place to come and relax, especially early on. The mosaic of tiles creates a bright and colourful effect that Brazil is so associated with.
Our guide informed us that she planned to set up a hostel at the top of the hill. We wished her luck and thanked her. To be honest, I would recommend going as a group or going to the steps early on. Reports of muggings and robberies in the evenings have been widely reported.
This was one of the highlights of our trip to Rio. A stunning display of colour and love. We had come to Brazil with some trepidation about our safety but our experience of the locals had been a truly heartwarming one.
Nearest Metro: Gloria