Global News cameraman Trevor Owens will be giving a behind-the-scenes look at covering the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro throughout the Games.
The traffic in Rio de Janeiro is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, from motorcycles zipping in between cars to erratic and aggressive drivers.
Christ the Redeemer overlooks the entire coast and it’s located approximately 26 km from my hotel. I had a driver, Filipe, available to me and I wanted to see it. He entered the destination into his GPS and the ETA was well over an hour as we approached sunset.
As the Rio Summer Games get set to begin, Global News cameraman Trevor Owens shows what the city is like.
Weaving in and out of traffic, avoiding cyclists and pedestrians, we made it to the narrow road leading up the mountain to Christ the Redeemer. The road barely fits a small car, yet there are many cars and motorcycles whipping past us. The higher we went, the closer we were to the edge of the cliff, somehow avoiding head-on collisions, which we narrowly missed more than once. I made it to the monument by the time the sun went down and I was able to capture amazing footage. I felt fortunate to experience the view at prime time.
I hiked back down the mountain with all of my gear to find Filipe asleep in his car. It had been a long day with many stops. He wanted to get back to our hotel as soon as possible so he entered in an alternate route to the hotel in his GPS. Thankfully I could see the screen and thought I recognized the street names.
I was very wrong.
Instead of taking the main road, he took us through one of the worst streets I’ve ever seen. The buildings were extremely run down with garbage piled so high you couldn’t see over them. I tried to remain calm and listened to the English radio station he had blaring, only to notice we weren’t changing our course. The deeper into the slums we went, the more my anxiety grew. I used my camera to focus on something other than the sheer panic of being lost. I was able to snap a few interesting shots from inside the car.
After 30 minutes, we turned a corner where the street lights vanished and my driver began to tell me a story in Portuguese. I had used Google translate for the entire ride up the mountain so by this point my phone was dead and I couldn’t understand him — except for the two words “very dangerous.”
I began to make the gesture of a gun and said “drugs” as best I could in Portuguese. After nodding his head a few times he used his Google translate, it said:
“They kill police here. Many cars burned and chaos everywhere. Very dangerous. It’s the City of God but around here they kill. “
Terrific, my phone was dead. I was lost and alone in an area the driver described as the worst place to be under these circumstances. All I could say at the time was “vamos” or “go!”
We drove through this part of town for another 30 minutes before finally coming back onto the main road near my hotel.
We laughed a little as I tried to speak Portuguese and he tried to speak English. The Google translate app spit out some hilarious phrases to ease the tension like “I want to sit on my couch.”
The drive back lasted about an hour and a half and we thanked each other in Portuguese and had a few more laughs before he drove off.
Looking back, it was a great adventure and I’m happy to come back with a story, photos and a few laughs.
Perhaps it’s a little redemption for poor judgment while travelling alone at night.