An Australian tourist has spent hours with armed drug gang members in one of Rio's battle-scarred favelas after asking an Uber driver to take him to the most dangerous one in the city.
Hugo Stanley-Cary, 34, a construction company salesman from Scarborough in Perth was drinking in Rio's Lapa nightlife district at around 3.30am on August 16 when he decided on the jaunt and was dropped at the Complexo do Alemao favela.
He said he wanted to experience one of these teeming communities after spending a month in Nicaragua surfing and three weeks in Brazil.
"I am a fairly unique person. I have been in a few tricky situations," he told AAP by phone after landing in Melbourne.
Most of the favela is controlled by the Red Command drug gang, but its rivals, the Pure Third Command fights over some of its densely-populated areas.
Police also maintain a base in the community which has been rattled by nearly 250 gunfights this year alone, according to Crossfire (Fogo Cruzado), an app that measures Rio violence.
On arrival, Stanley-Cary was met by three men carrying machine guns and used Google Translate and sign language to convince them he was not a police spy.
"I showed them some of my tattoos and I think they could just see from my body language and the energy I was carrying that I was no threat to them," he said.
He spent much of the following day with gang members as they moved around the favela and was even shown how to load a revolver.
"They were switched on and once the ice was broken they were cool," he said.
"This was just my experience. I don't know the history of these people and what they're capable off."
By 3.30pm the following afternoon, Stanley-Cary had left the gang and was drinking beer and entertaining local children with magic tricks.
His mobile phone battery had died and he was drunk. Concerned locals charged his battery and called Rene Silva, 25, founder of the favela's Voz das Comunidades newspaper, who speaks English.
"He was in the community drinking and they were wondering what he was doing there," said Silva.
"He said he came to make friends."
Silva organised an Uber back to Stanley-Cary's hostel and said he did not mention meeting gang members.
Stanley-Cary now wants to fund raise for education projects for the favela's children and said he hoped other tourists would not visit the favela uninvited.
"I would hate some drunken idiot to go there... and them to be hurt based on what happened to me," he said.
Australian Associated Press