Since the pacification of the hillside favelas across the city over the last few years, a wealth of alternative nights out have sprung up in venues previously considered off-limits to most tourists. The original, and still one of the best, is undoubtedly at The Maze, where the regular jazz session run by Englishman, artist, inn-keeper and raconteur Bob Nadkarni, has now gone now twice-monthly.
And so it is that on the first and third Friday of every month, Nadkarni helps make the winding journey uphill to Tavares Bastos favela in a van or a taxi (or on the back of a moto-taxi for the brave) worthwhile with an increasingly popular, well-run night of music, drinking and dancing. Framed by stunning views out across Guanabara Bay from the terrace, the party has become a firm part of the community's make-up, and an incongruously smart bar has even appeared on the way up to accommodate overspill. Not easy to find even when you get to the top, however, there are plenty of friendly faces to point the inevitable lost souls uttering the question 'Maze?' in the right direction, through the tight alleys to the front door.
Exhibition space, music venue and hostel rolled into one, the crowd is always international, as are the original band members who have been knocking out the jazz standards with varying degrees of success since day one. The only things to have changed over the years are the size of the place - expanded with new bars and terraces to cope with the crowds - and the prices, which have been elevated to try, apparently unsuccessfully, to keep the numbers manageable. 'Traditional' favela beer prices these are not. With that in mind, an early arrival will pay off if a quick caipirinha with the terrace less than shoulder-to-shoulder packed is a good idea, but, all told, The Maze is an experience not to be missed.
Most taxis will make the climb (albeit reluctantly in some cases), but the regular VW vans (R$3) head up every ten minutes or so from the corner of Rua Tavares Bastos and Rua Bento Lisboa, leaving when full. Moto-taxis (R$4) - licensed motorbikes - wait on the same corner, but are not for the fain-hearted, especially on the way back down.