Day 1 (The Beginning)
Touched down around 15:30 on Friday 17th and jumped into a taxi (which cost twice as much as normal) and made our (Leeanne and I) way to the Arcos Rio Palace Hotel. First thing that one notices is the mental driving that’s done here. Kids running across the highway with cars barely paying attention to them. Buses taking corners so fast it looks like they will pop a wheelie. Alas, we got to our hotel safe and sound. After dropping my bags off, it was obviously time to take a walk and see what is what. Didn’t stray too far as I did not yet have a map but it seemed that the street we are situated on is the street to be at anyway. Hundreds of people.
Met up with a fellow traveler (Sophie) who had arrived earlier. Headed out to see what we could find for food. Picked a little restaurant where they served buffet which was weighed by the plate. Everything is so expensive (in comparison to life back home). Supper cost about $12. Street food for me from now on! Dinner as followed by a walk up the street to the archway (Arcos) which is an old aqueduct. What took me 8 minutes to walk to during the afternoon took us 45 minutes due to the mass of bodies everywhere. Hundreds of thousand of people flowing along the street. Bars and clubs lining the road blaring samba music. People selling beers, soft drinks and other beverages. Food stalls cooking up sausages on sticks, popcorn and what looks to be fried rice cakes. Severely jet lagged, we all decided to call it a night and refile our energy levels for the next day after a walk through the crowds with Sophie and Laura.
Up early for a buffet breakfast at the hotel, met up with Laura and Alicia and the others. Beach day today. It is down to Copacabana. This required us taking a bus. When we weren’t stuck behind street parades, we were holding on for dear life as the bus weaved through traffic at 100km/h. That in itself was an adventure! We made it down to the beach and its is just like the photos. To be quite frank, its not all that nice. People for as far as the eye can see. Finding a spot to sit on can be a chore. The water is freezing and has an incredibly strong undercurrent. Got wonderfully sun burnt but at least I can say I felt the sun on Copacabana. No desire to go back there. Mombasa has a way better beach.
Back home, had lunch by the pool on the roof. Next was hunting for some fancy dress to help us blend in with the rest of the masses. Laura suffered a bit of sunstroke so Alicia and her stay behind. Walked for miles through hives of people. Perused the wares of various street vendors. Not feeling like blowing all my money away, I just went for a mask. Got back to the hotel two hours later. Time to organise a little dinner. Found a restaurant around the corner which was filled with more locals than not so figured it was a good choice. Food was reasonable and portions large. I didn’t order any as I was saving myself for some street food. Sat with the girls as they ate and ended up eating half their food as they could not finish it… So I had a free dinner :-P
Out again this night (obviously) and this time we got into a club. Sneaky Russians! There is no entrance fee. They give you a card with a number on it. When you buy a drink, you hand it in. Only when you want to leave, you have to hand your card back and they hit you with a bill. R$ 40! Not going back in there again. Would have been nice if they could mention the entrance fee before hand and have a price list of drinks when inside. Anyway, got home at 4am. Was a good night regardless and hey, only in Rio once hey!
Time for a recovery day. Little Laura was a bit under the weather so 3 of us stayed in and watched a couple movies. Even thought I’m in Rio and there is so much to do in this foreign city, it is nice to just sit back and take a moment to catch your breath. The others went off into the slums of Rio (its a local tour you can do) which I wasn’t really interested in. I’ve seen my fair share of slums in Africa. A little lunch then time for an hour nap. At 7pm, it is time to get ready for the Sambadrome!
What a night! The Sambadrome is huge! There must easily have been over a 50 thousand people in the crowds. There were 7 Samba schools performing. Each had 10 floats with approximately 5,000 people taking part per school. Each procession last for about 1.5 hours so the entire event took just over 8 hours to complete. It was a long night but well worth it. The floats and costumes where incredible. Animatronics, acrobats, water fountains, LED displays. Apparently it takes each school almost 8 months to prepare for this event. I wish I had pictures to share with you right now but unfortunately the Internet at this hotel leaves much to be desired. I will make sure to dedicate a post to pictures only when I am next in a place with the required services.
Day 4 (The Finale)
And here we are now. The last day of Carnival. Slept till 2pm after the all nighter at the Sambadrome. Now here I sit putting all this on paper (or pixels rather). This has been a truly incredible experience. Expensive but well worth it. Tomorrow, I have booked the Rio city tour which will include highlights like Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf mountain. They will be the focus of another blog post later. Have a tour meeting at 8pm after the city tour and we leave on Wednesday. If its a long trip, will probably write that post then. Hoping the next stops we make have Internet like there is here. But there you have it.. RIO CARNIVAL!!