After one of our shorter bus journeys (6 hours) we arrived to Rio de Janiero, pouring with rain! But as we took our taxi to the hostel (one block back from Copacabana beach) the weather started to brighten and you could see Christo Redentor overlooking the whole city. Got to our hostel, we were given the room opposite the bar and were told the bar would be open until 3am that night. We were knackered and just wanted a decent nights sleep so weren't impressed with our location or the ant farm in our room!
On our first full-day in Rio we went camera shopping for Lisa a new camera (Candy broke at Iquazu Falls). After an early dinner in our packed bar, we decided we'd put our name on the list to go to Lapa Street Party just after midnight. Midnight came after a fair few bevi's and we headed off with about 30 others from our hostel. We got there and there must have been around 20,000 people just drinking in the street, mostly locals. Ben went to purchase a couple of beers, the only brand available was 'Skol', mmmm! We setup shop outside a bar and continued drinking Skol with 3 Irish boys and 2 Norwegian girls when Ben noticed a local kid's hand in his pocket (having a good feel for a wallet). Luckily Ben had nothing in there as we took nothing of value with us. Then the Irish guys started telling the little Brazilian kids that they were gonna rob the locals, "get to you first, before you get us" they proclaimed! Was very funny! Then eventually we headed into a club, which after around half an hour we realised was a gay club, but surprisingly there were also a number of pimps with prostitutes that they were touting around to us guys! Despite feeling a little uncomfortable at first, we ended up getting pretty hammered, having a great night and rolling in around 5am.
After a long sleep in we headed to Copacabana beach to get a bit of sun and do a bit of people watching. We found the amount of men in speedos amusing, they were everywhere, sunbathing, playing volleyball, footvolley, eating lunch, walking up the street and even jogging in just their teeny weeny speedos! Ben was a little disappointed with the lack of "hot" Brazilian women on the beach and had to settle at laughing at all the old men in speedos.
On the evening we couldn't decide what to do, we were shattered from the night before and no one seemed to know where to go on a Saturday night or what to do. We had an "all you can eat" BBQ at the hostel and were content with just staying in and catching up on some sleep when we got chatting to Derek a Canadian guy who was going to the rehearsals for the Rio Carnival. Lisa's ears pricked up and after asking a lot of questions we decided we would tag along, and we were glad we did. From September the rehearsals for the Rio Carnival (on in February) start at the local Samba schools of which there are 16, and every Saturday night they open the doors to the locals and perform parts of their carnival set. We arrived at the Samba School and there were lots of people drinking and eating in the street but the main focus for us was the enormous "Sol" truck selling Sol beer for 1Real (30p). It was a huge truck with massive steel tanks of beer brewing in it, a few "Sol girls" stood in front of it and a big fat dude in a suit serving the beer - brilliant see the photos it makes more sense!
Inside it was a large hall with a stage, balcony and stalls selling food and drink, it was packed full of locals and some tourists with samba music being played live on the stage. The dance floor was full with lots of experienced dancers shaking their booty and lots of novice samba dancers (like Lisa and Ben when forced) giving a feeble attempt. The huge Samba band came out on to the balcony and the music filled the room, it was so loud and everyone was dancing to the rhythms, the professional dancers came out and danced with all the locals while the tourists formed a circle around them and took lots of photos. The main part of the evening was a mini carnival show where the dancers came out and performed a routine in the crowd, they were dressed in the beautiful red costumes with feathers and sequins, Ben enjoyed the fact that they were wearing very little and shaking every part of their body!This was an amazing opportunity to get an insight in to the Rio Carnival and we felt it was really worth going to see!
The next day, we went on an organised tour of a local Favela, named Rocinha! This is the largest shantytown (Favela) in all of South America. We took a motorbike ride up from the bottom to the top of the Favela (they are all built into the mountains) which was awesome. We went far too fast and our bikers were racing each other. We couldn't help but think, how come these people who are so poor seem to have the best views in the whole of Rio? One of the first things you notice about the Favela's is the electricity cables. These are the standard electricity poles which wire to the shops etc for those who pay for the electricity. Then there are hundreds of other cables illegally 'knicking' electricity for free, and the wires go everywhere, you even have to duck under them at times. We were also surprised at how nice some of the homes were, inside they had all mod-cons, internet, plasma screen tv's, the main difference to the normal area's was that the Favela had very poor sewage sytems, there was crap flowing down the street and rubbish everywhere, leaving a nasty smell at times. The locals were all incredibly friendly as they understood that our visits brought money into the community, so we were greeted very warmly. Each Favela is run by a group of drug-dealers (who fight with other Favela gangs) who protect the community and run the drugs and economy of the Favela. Tourists can only visit because they allow it, but we are not allowed to take photos of certain areas and people of the Favela. We bought some local food which was delicious and then returned back to the hostel late afternoon to get ready for the BIG local derby at the Maracana!
The Maracana was once the largest football stadium in the world, but is now the 12th. The game we were going to watch was Flamengo v Botafogo. Ben & Lisa got changed into their new Flamengo shirts and then got taken to the ground where we had a load more beer in the pubs outside with all of the locals. There were a group of young Brazilian girls (no more than 14 years old) who wanted their photo's taken with us, which we think was due to the hair colour and the only non-locals wearing Flamengo shirts (nobody else did as you are told to wear neutral colours). We finally got in the ground, which holds 80,000 and noticed it was only half full, as the tickets are quite pricey not all Brazilians can afford to go and watch the games. Immediately we noticed a distinct difference to English games, it actually had an atmosphere. The crowd were singing and chanting non-stop, waving flags and lighting flares throughout a pretty awful game of footy, With 10 minutes left, the game got exciting when Flamengo got a penalty and went 1-0 up, the crowd went absolutely crazy! Then for the remaining 10 minutes, the game got out of hand, and as per usual with South American football, lots of people got red cards and the crowd were going crazy! It finished 1-0, most people happy!
On return to the hostel, we got chatting again to Derek who like us, wanted to go to the "Favela Funk Party". This is a nightclub in the middle of a Favela where all the locals from the Favela go (different Favela to Rocinha). Our hostel had cancelled the weekly trip to the party, we still wanted to go, but were unsure of how to get there and wondered whether it was a good idea to go into a favela nightclub without the security of a tour guide etc. We roped in the two Norwegian girls (Anja & Maria) and Dereks mate, Remo (safety in numbers and Remo was 6ft4) and we all headed off in a taxi at around 1am. We were all feeling a little scared at the prospect of being dropped off in a taxi in the middle of a Favela, in the mountains in the early hours of the morning. When we got there, we got in (girls cheaper than the guys Lisa thought this was a brilliant idea) and it was very dark and dingy, it was packed and we stood out like a sore-thumb, 4 blondes, a chinese Canadian and a 6ft4 cockney!! After getting some funny looks we got some beers and hit the dance-floor! After about an hour, Ben being drunk thought he recognised our tour guide from the Favela on the afternoon so started chatting to him, eventually Ben realised it wasn't the tour guide from earlier but some random (Ben's excuse being that the guy had the same company logo on his T-shirt). He then invited us all up to the V.I.P section (with a balcony) and join his Brazilian mates, which we did. They had this big cooler box full of alcohol. His big mate, Felipe said to us, "what would you like to drink?" and we asked what he had and he replied "everything". He did actually have everything and so Lisa and the girls settled for vodka and coke and Ben got a whisky and coke. On the stage downstairs there was a dance competition where anyone can get on the stage and dance and the crowd either cheered or booed you! This was not just any dancing, this was true "shake your ass" samba dancing and brilliant to watch and be amazed at how quickly they can shake their ass! We got kebabs off the local street stall outside, chatted to some locals and headed home, at 6am were in the showers washing our feet and legs that were covered in black gunge, lovely!
We had a brief visit to Ipanema beach to the famous Post 9 to do some more people watching, this is where the young, rich and glamorous are meant to hang out, however the weather wasn't too great therefore the beach was quite empty and not much to see! On the night we finally had an early night and stayed in the hostel and joined in the pub quiz and came 6th we think. Our American teammate didn't help our cause by getting all the American questions WRONG!
On our last day we went to see Christo Redentor, we were hoping the weather would brighten up so that we could actually see the statue, as every other day the mountain was covered in cloud you couldn't get a decent view. We got up to the lookout point and we had a great view over Rio and the Sugar Loaf Island, but we couldn't see Christ. A cloud of fog just hung over him, it looked like he was floating, which was very frustrating that everything else was clear. Then we headed up to to the statue to take some close up photos. We could see the full statue, but not the detail on the head due to the fog, we were pretty gutted but still really glad we managed to get a glimpse of him before we left Rio for Florianopolis on the South coast!