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Exploring Rio From the Stairs to the “Tunnel of Death”

Normally, you don’t go to Centro—Rio’s historic downtown—on a Sunday. You don’t go on a Saturday either. Actually, if you want to play it safe, you don’t go at all, but if you insist, pick any weekday because during regular business hours, Centro is packed, therefore Centro is safe. Stores are open and you’ll fight with office workers to get a seat at popular comida por kilo buffets. But it empties out quickly around 6 or 7 p.m. and wandering around isn’t recommended at all.

We quickly realized Sunday would be one of these rainy days. No point in going to the beach, may as well head to Centro for a walk through some of the districts of Rio de Janeiro people warn you about.

We took the subway, got off at Cinelândia, took a quick look around and decided to skip Centro Centro, i.e. the deserted business centre. In fact, it’s not that deserted, it’s home to those who don’t have a home, not even in the favelas. I’m not sure when and how the shift handover takes place but at one point, white-collar workers disappear and enter less fortunate Cariocas carrying tents, old mattresses and all their belongings. They camp out under store canopies and bridges, and presumably leave at one point when office workers come back the following day.

I’m not scared of homeless people, but Centro is their place during weekends. We don’t belong there.

So we started on Santa Teresa, a couple of blocks from Centro, at the famous and colourful Escadaria Selarón. Artsy and gritty Santa Teresa is relatively safe by Rio’s standards, so we walked around a bit after climbing the stairs and we checked out the Arcos da Lapa, the Carioca Aqueduct.

From there, it’s a fascinating two-hour walk through Rio and the main five social classes. The city is stuck between mountains and the ocean, so you’re basically walking straight. Well, mostly straight.

After Lapa and Santa Teresa—questionably safe—you’ll get to compact and quiet Glória where people sell whatever they can find on the sidewalk, from tape players to broken toys, from second-hand clothes to broken suitcases.

Catete, Largo do Machado and Flamengo are a bit fancier, just plain working-class neighbourhoods. You don’t buy stuff off the street but in stores, woo-hoo!

Keep on going and you’ll eventually get to Botafogo, home of many expats and a somewhat fancy mall with the best view on the Pão de Açúcar from the top-floor food court.

It takes another twenty minutes to get to the “tunnel of death,” the nickname Feng and I gave to the tunnel linking Botafogo and Copacabana. It’s a fairly unpleasant walk through a dark tunnel with heavy traffic. There’s always a police car parked on both ends but plot twist, the car is always empty.

You made it to Copacabana, Rio’s most famous neighbourhood. Keep on going, you’re climbing the social ladder, Ipanema isn’t too far now.

And these are a few sides of Rio, a complicated city in a complicated country.

R. Manuel Carneiro, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
R. Manuel Carneiro, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
R. Manuel Carneiro, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
R. Manuel Carneiro, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
R. Manuel Carneiro, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
R. Manuel Carneiro, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
R. Manuel Carneiro, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
R. Manuel Carneiro, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
R. Manuel Carneiro, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
R. Manuel Carneiro, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
R. Manuel Carneiro, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
R. Manuel Carneiro, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
R. Joaquim Silva, Centro, Rio de Janeiro
R. Joaquim Silva, Centro, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Rio Centro from the top of Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Rio Centro from the top of Escadaria Selarón, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
Aqueduto da Carioca, Lapa, Rio de Janeiro
Aqueduto da Carioca, Lapa, Rio de Janeiro
Aqueduto da Carioca, Lapa, Rio de Janeiro
Aqueduto da Carioca, Lapa, Rio de Janeiro
Market, Glória, Rio de Janeiro
Market, Glória, Rio de Janeiro
Market, Glória, Rio de Janeiro
Market, Glória, Rio de Janeiro
R. do Catete, Catete, Rio de Janeiro
R. do Catete, Catete, Rio de Janeiro
View on Botafogo from Botafogo Praia Shopping, R. Praia de Botafogo, Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro
View on Botafogo from Botafogo Praia Shopping, R. Praia de Botafogo, Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro
View on Botafogo from Botafogo Praia Shopping, R. Praia de Botafogo, Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro
View on Botafogo from Botafogo Praia Shopping, R. Praia de Botafogo, Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro
View on Botafogo from Botafogo Praia Shopping, R. Praia de Botafogo, Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro
View on Botafogo from Botafogo Praia Shopping, R. Praia de Botafogo, Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro
View on Botafogo from Botafogo Praia Shopping, R. Praia de Botafogo, Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro
View on Botafogo from Botafogo Praia Shopping, R. Praia de Botafogo, Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro
The "tunnel of death" between Botafogo and Copacabana, Túnel Eng. Marquês Pôrto
The “tunnel of death” between Botafogo and Copacabana, Túnel Eng. Marquês Pôrto
The "tunnel of death" between Botafogo and Copacabana, Túnel Eng. Marquês Pôrto
The “tunnel of death” between Botafogo and Copacabana, Túnel Eng. Marquês Pôrto
Praia de Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Praia de Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Praia de Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Praia de Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Av. Vieira Souto, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Av. Vieira Souto, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Praça General Osório, R. Visc. de Pirajá, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Praça General Osório, R. Visc. de Pirajá, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
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Zhu

French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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