Posts tagged ‘Bob’

BBC correspondent starts hotel in favela

Here is an article about Bob’s Hotel, The Maze in Tavares Bastos.
Tavares Bastos
Amazing views over Rio and a steady stream of celebrity guests . . . no, it’s not a glitzy hotel but a guest house in one of the city’s notorious favelas. The view from the veranda at the Maze Inn is one of the finest in Brazil. The hubbub of central Rio de Janeiro stretches from the base of the hill on which the house is perched until the shores of Guanabara Bay. Across the water, dotted with yachts and fishing boats, I can trace the paths of cable cars sliding up and down the iconic granite peak of Sugarloaf Mountain.
Such panoramas are one of the few privileges of living in one of Rio’s favelas – the multitudinous cascades of slum housing that coat the city’s hillsides.
“It’s all due to a Portuguese design fault,” says Bob Nadkarni, English-born owner of the Maze, Brazil’s first favela guesthouse. “They couldn’t be bothered to build up the hills, and the favelas gobbled up all the best views!”
Bob has been in Brazil in various guises since the 70s – as a journalist, a BBC cameraman and a documentary maker – and moved to the favela in the 90s having driven his ill maid home and been gobsmacked by the views.
In 2000 Bob pounced on the then governor of Rio, Anthony Garotinho, at his inaugural international press conference, and presented the plans of an abandoned warehouse behind his house on the favela’s peak, challenging him to station a police squad there.
Forced into action by such a public challenge, the authorities agreed and by the end of the year the police had pushed the drug-runners out, and made the favela one of the safest districts in the city.
Behind us, the Maze is buzzing with activity. Scattered around a multi-level lounge, pinned by large pillars and clad in demolition wood under a large skylight, dozens of people are whizzing to and fro. Inexplicably, the Maze is home to the cast and crew of Hulk 2, the Incredible Hulk. I’m informed that Edward Norton isn’t on set today.
But this is just the latest chapter in the Maze’s extraordinary story.
Even before it was made into a guesthouse in 2005, Bob had a variety of interesting guests turning up, fascinated by tales of an English film-maker living in a Rio favela.
George Martin recorded a chapter of his Rhythm of Life series here, and Alan Parker and Stephen Frears have visited. When film companies heard about a favela where they could “shoot without being shot at”, they started knocking on Bob’s door. Episodes of Brazilian soaps and a Snoop Dogg music video have been filmed on Tavares Bastos’s cobbled streets using the Maze as a base, and now, of course, there’s the Hulk.
But the Maze is mostly a rather unique guesthouse. Eight double rooms above the main lounge area – each with original paintings by Bob – are arranged around asymmetric arches and multicoloured broken tiles. It’s a beautiful, organised chaos that imitates the favela around it.
I ask Bob if this is the beginning of some kind of favela gentrification. “It’s already happening! We have regular live music nights in the lounge, and we get locals coming up who would never have gone anywhere near a favela in the past. We put on jazz bands, bossa and samba nights, and they come, drink R$5 (about £1.30) caipirinhas and walk home safely at 3am. OK, right now we are the only favela that is totally safe, but 200 years ago Hampstead was the most dangerous favela in London.”
The Maze’s temporary role as a film set means that there’s no room for me, but since arriving at my hostel near Copacabana I’d been asked various times whether I had “done” a favela yet. Since entering the international vernacular via films such as Fernando Meirelles’s Oscar-nominated City of God, various companies have been running tours into the slums. Just like Sugarloaf and the Christ Statue, the favela experience is another box to tick when visiting Rio.
“Some of it is voyeuristic,” says Bob. “The tour people take you to designated areas where the locals know you are coming. But you can’t observe anything in that way without changing its behaviour.
“At the Maze Inn it’s safe enough to be on your own . . . spend a week in Tavares Bastos and the locals get used to you, and you can drink with them in the cafes, or maybe play snooker in the bars. And when you want a change you can head down the hill to the bars in Lapa, or jump on the metro to Copacabana and Ipanema.”
We head to a small cafe behind his house where a couple of women and their children sit watching the TV. Then Bob’s phone rings.
It’s a guest booking herself in over Carnival. Dutifully, Bob ambles back to the Maze to confirm the booking. I head down to the base of the favela, past flaking buildings and vested locals who had directed me to “Casa du Bobby” on the way up.
I button my pockets and shove my camera to the bottom of my bag, leaving the only patch of Rio hillside that, thanks to a slightly eccentric Englishman, manages to be safer than the flat land beneath it.


November 9, 2009 at 10:21 am Leave a comment

Gringolado! Gringos luv Favelado lifestyle.

An interesting article from the Associated Press
Bob, The Maze in Tavares Bastos
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Most of the massive hillside slums that rise up around Rio’s posh Ipanema beach district are places where middle-class Brazilians would never go. But a growing number of tourists are shunning the beachfront zones with their pricey hotels and shops to get a taste of the “real Brazil,” one outsiders rarely see up close.

Gabe Ponce de Leon is one — he came to Rio as a college exchange student in 2001 and lived the high life until he discovered the slums. Teaching English for pocket money, the Brooklyn native got his first taste of a “favela” when a student took him home to Rocinha, a place whose very name makes many Brazilians fearful.

“Rocinha looks daunting from the outside, like an impregnable fortress,” said Ponce de Leon, 27. “But inside it’s like a hamlet, with kids playing in the streets, and you know all your neighbors.”

Ponce de Leon decided to rent a room in his student’s home for $75 a month and immerse himself in the favela life.

“There’s a lot of fun there. There are samba groups, ‘funk’ dances and more bars than any other business. It’s a cop-free zone, no lawyers, no bureaucracy, no corporate regulations or commercialism,” he said. “But there’s also old-fashioned human warmth; people help each other out. For a guy who grew up in Brooklyn, you see this way of life still exists.”

While there is no exact count of how many foreigners live in favelas, Rio’s Federation of Favela Associations says the number has risen sharply, from dozens a decade ago to hundreds today, especially from Europe and the United States.

Most got their first taste of favela life on the Jeep and walking tours of shantytowns that began in the 1990s.

More recently, bed and breakfast inns have opened up in some of the less violent favelas, even advertising in English on the Internet to attract more adventurous travelers.

One service, called “Favela Receptiva,” offers rooms in favela homes, plus airport pickup, free breakfast, bed linen and telephone service.

“Favelas have a negative image of drugs and violence, but visitors find out it can be different,” said Marcelo Mendonca, who rents out a room in his house in the Vila Canoas favela. “People love to go to the bakery and the corner bar. They help the local economy.”

So far, Mendonca has hosted guests from England, Australia, Hong Kong and Spain. Some complained that his favela, one of the city’s safest, seemed too nice.

Mabel Taravilla, 29, doesn’t consider that a problem. She rents a bedroom for $200 a month including breakfast, sharing Mendonca’s house with his wife and their two children. “It’s cheap and peaceful and not linked to the drug wars,” said Taravilla, an anthropology student from Acobendas, Spain.

For many years, Rio’s 600 favelas occupied a romantic space in the Brazilian imagination, as the birthplace of samba and the carnival groups that draw thousands of upper-class Brazilians to Rio’s Samadrome parade grounds each year.

That changed in the 1980s as heavily armed gangs defended a rising cocaine trade. Today, few middle-class Brazilians have ever visited a favela, and few have any desire to do so.

While some favelas offer spectacular ocean views and a population more accustomed to foreigners and tourists, most lay behind the back of the towering Christ the Reedemer statue, on Rio’s low-lying north side, and are brutal, dirty places with homicide rates approaching war zones. Stray bullets are a constant hazard, and shops often close on orders from drug bosses.

But a cruel form of justice meted out by drug gangs makes Rio’s infamous street crime less common in the favelas, where people with a high tolerance for risk are sanguine about flying bullets.

British painter Bob Nadkarni made his move in the 1970s, to the Tavares Bastos favela, at the top of a winding cobblestone street reminiscent of the colonial era, where the road ends abruptly and a labyrinth of alleys, shops and bare-brick apartments begins.

Nadkarni discovered the favela when his maid got sick and he had to take her home. One glimpse of the spectacular Sugarloaf mountain view was enough — he decided to build his own home there. Now he rents rooms to visitors and features a monthly jazz night that attracts scores of outsiders, Brazilian and foreign.

Nadkarni, burly man of 64, says many Brazilians are unjustifiably afraid of favelas.

“They’ll even brag about it, and compete to see who is more afraid,” he said. “But I couldn’t live anywhere else.”

November 8, 2009 at 9:14 pm Leave a comment

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