Rio Carnival: Rainy and Raunchy !
Trip Start Nov 08, 2004
55Trip End Nov 08, 2005
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"Skol, Aqua, Skol Aqua!" cry the beach salesmen every 2 minutes as they relentlessly pace up and down their square of beach with ice boxes on their shoulders. You can buy virtually anything on this beach - jewellry, clothes, food, drinks, rugs and even tablecloths will all be shoved in your face at one point!
As the sun starts to drop behind the rocky mountain at the far end of Ipanema, the hum of chatter dies down and is replaced by the clacking of deckchairs being stacked. Every so often an empty coconut flies past me into a pile the beach cleaner is making. As the bodies and chairs clear I can finally see the perfect curve of the white sand against the blue ocean. Although lined with a busy road and high-rise hotels, Ipanema beach is magnificent especially for a city beach.
Jason, meanwhile, is lapping up the luxury of our hotel room 1 block back from the beach. 7 days of pure luxury for us after hostels: satellite TV, comfy mattress and a bed long enough for the whole of Jason to fit on... heaven!
We arrived a few days before carnival to meet our friends Ian and Anna from home and spent the build-up gazing in wonder at the views, the atmosphere and the beautiful people (though Anna and I decided by the second day that most of the women had fake boobs!). Unfortunately the weather didn't know it was carnival and the blue skies we had all expected were actually grey and rainy until carnival Sunday.
Rio is a city that truly has it all - beautiful beaches, architecture, quaint cobbled neighbourhoods, lush rainforest, never-ending nightlife and shopping opportunities
Friday night was the first night of carnival and we celebrated this and the arrival of our friends Marc and Patricia with a meat-feast Brazilian style. (Veggies look away!) Skewers of meet continue to arrive at your table until you can eat no more. Huge knives are wielded in front of you and the meat is sliced right onto your plate. After that it was off to the ´Red and Black´ ball at a club. (We had all managed to scrape together red and black outfits from somewhere!) Once inside we were all shocked, less by the nearly naked men, women and ´in-betweens´ and more by the amount of people that were squeezed in to one space, in typical Latino style. The meat market feel reminded me of Uni freshers week, except it was 10 times more wild! Aside from this though the atmosphere and the sight of 1000´s of people jumping up and down to the samba drumbeat made it a very worthwhile experience
We awoke on carnival Saturday with the samba beat still thumping in our ears. By 4pm it was time for the Banda di Ipanema - a samba band walks through the street and everyone else dances behind them. We spent most of it darting between doorways to avoid the rain, but the rain wasn't stopping the Cariocas (Rio residents) in their outrageous costumes! They have an energy and brashness that seems to spill put wherever you look. Almost everyone had a yellow bandana on their head, we were puzzled until Patty translated the words on it: "Get dressed, wear a condom. Department of Health.
Later we ventured into Rio's quaintest neighborhoods - cobbled streets, aging houses and a real old charm. We bumped into an exuberant street party. Set under a beautiful viaduct 100´s packed in to dance the night away. Further down more parties and a stage. It seemed like you could have spent the whole night wandering between different crowds of samba-tapping people!
However the big one was still to come: the Sambadrome. Originally it was a long street along which the parade went; now they have built seating right up both sides for 30000 spectators
Carnival was obviously an unforgettable spectacle, but at times it was almost intimidating. We realised this more when we experienced the last night of a small town carnival in ´Paraty´ - our next stop. Here, though much smaller and less spectacular, the atmosphere was so laid back, we danced along the streets to the beats of the samba band with a more wild abandon than we felt able to in Rio. More about this in the Paraty update next week!