Our last night in Rio is upon us. And wasn't it a whirlwind! Hard to believe we will be trekking to the bus stop tomorrow morning to continue the adventure south. I'm hoping the south brings with it some cooler climates. Rio is beyond hot. People keep saying "but you're from Australia, surely you're used to the heat?"
Not the case, people! When you have 50% Tasmanian blood in you, cooler climates are very welcome.
This post may be a long one, so please, get snacks/coffee/tea now.
We arrived on the fourth of February and had our taxi driver Mario waiting for us. I was put in touch with him through our Airbnb "host" and he was brilliant. He pointed out sites, gave us information and even set us up with a bloke for decent Sambadromo tickets. We were extremely lucky to have a contact while staying here to be able to point us in the right direction.
The first full day Justine contracted a 24 hour bug. Or I may have poisoned her with gluten or lactose... Can't be sure. So I wandered the Copacabana beach. It. Was. Packed. Nothing at all like Nine Mile beach back at Dolphin Sands. (To explain: The beach is nine miles long... If you see another group on it, it's crowded and you might as well go home...)
The water is pretty filthy and we were told numerous times about the used tampons people saw in the water.... What a delight. So we chose not to swim there. Ipanema beach was a much safer option.
Day number two we went on a small group tour to Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf Mountain. There was a massive confusion when the bus arrived. Luckily we were waiting with a pair of Americans who got to the bottom of it. As Justine and I would have just shrugged and said "okay" when the tour guide said we were meant to be on bus number three. Turns out - he was wrong. Americans - 1 vs Brazillian Tour Guide - 0.
We were some of the first people up at the statue. I say first, because we definitely beat A LOT of people up there. Lots of people lying on the ground trying to get the perfect photo, makes for dangerous walking. The statue was ridiculously impressive up close. Also amazing how you can still see it from so many different points in the city.
Our new American friends were starting to fade at this point. Turned out they had been to a bloco (Carnaval street party) the night before and were yet to sleep. But onward to Sugarloaf we went. Two cable carts get you to the top and the views are mind blowing. You can see so much of Rio! I would recommend it to anyone. If you rock climb, I think you can do that too. But I won't be joining you.
Now - this next part of the story probably won't surprise many of you. But it just so happens that a mate from wakeboarding was in Rio at the same time! I know - shock horror - Sam bumps into someone she knows... I can hear a collective groan from you all reading this right now...
Anyway. After our tour we met up with Alex and a couple of peeps from his hostel and we went to the Ipanema bloco. It's basically like a band goes down the street and you follow it, people sell drinks, you dance, you have a time. But the Dutch girl we met described it best... "When people ask you 'how was Carnaval' you will be like 'oh yeah, it was great. I had the best time standing in a queue to go no where...'"
That is effectively what you do in a bloco. You're jammed in and you're just following the crowds. We followed along for a bit, then moved to the beach where hundreds of locals had set up for the night. We were drinking Caipirinhas which is effectively just like yukka, except you don't make it in a bucket... And it uses their local alcohol made from sugarcane instead of vodka.
Eventually we got dragged into a dance circle with a bunch of locals who kept calling us the kangaroos. I couldn't stop staring at one girl who had a condom for an earring... But, she would have pierced the condom getting it like that. So I just really hope she didn't end up using it....
Anyway, tried as we might, we couldn't move our hips like the Brazilians. It's like they're all double jointed or something. So much twerking. Eventually, we decided to save ourselves from further dancing embarrassment and leave for Alex's hostel where everything went downhill and I won't bore you with stories of the shots and the cocktails and whatever else. Just know that we felt very sorry for ourselves the next day.
Sunday night was when we went to Sambadromo! It was incredible. We went out for a Brazillian all you can eat feast beforehand. Which was epic. So much meat! I chose not to try the chicken hearts... But hey. Have a few more days in Brazil so I might come around... After this we headed to Sambadromo to watch the schools parade. And wow. Photos will never do it justice, as it's not just what you see. It's the music, the people, the atmosphere. It goes all night long and each school has around an hour and a half to get from one end of the Sambadromo to the other. I don't know what they're judged on exactly, but I think there are heaps of categories.
Today, we did a Favela tour. It is the slums of Rio. There are numerous within the city and we were told that the gangs and drug dealers are often in charge. I couldn't help but notice how our guide kept saying we were in the west of Rio - so it must be a common occurrence, because I assume all the drug dealers live out in the west 'burbs of Australian cities too! Just kidding guys... We walked from the top of the Favela to the bottom. Through tiny alleys where water was running down the stairs, past the houses that are just concrete slabs, the bags of cans that they collect from the beaches during Carnaval so they can earn some money. (It's like that South Australia tax for bottles and cans.) It was a pretty confronting experience. But also rewarding as it means they too can benefit from Brazil's tourism.
Sãu Paulo tomorrow. On a bus around midday. We shall see what that city brings!