Beautiful, partying Rio

Trip Start Aug 12, 2011
Trip End Jan 31, 2012

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Thursday, October 6, 2011

What would you do if you had four days in Rio? We don't know what you'd do, but we can tell you what we did. We thought it a good start that our hostel provided us with a transfer from the bus station. It was the first time we had been greeted by a guy holding a sign with our names on it. So we were taken to the hostel which turned out to be really cool, providing info about where the happening place was on any given night and a great breakfast cooked
by Pedro the chef. There was also a great crowd of people
staying there. Plus later in our stay they organized a trip to
a soccer match!!

Our first full day we walked the length of the Botafogo beach and into the Centro district. We spent most of the rest of the day wondering around, getting lost and acquainting ourselves with the city. When we got back to the hostel we drank our complimentary welcome caiparinhas while chatting to some cool French people. Mim certainly relished the chance to speak some French, and it beat trying to learn Portuguese in four days.

That night there was a street party in Lapa, an inner city suburb. This, we discovered, is a regular thing (most Friday nights say), but you've never seen anything quite like it. It extended for blocks and blocks centered around a replica white aqueduct so you could generally figure out where you were. Shop fronts that are just roller doors in the day open up to reveal vast quantities of spirits. Topless built Brazilian males wander about with trays of fluorescent shot glasses. Street drinking is either legal or so prevalent noone is going to change it. There are clubs, gay clubs, transvestite clubs, restaurants with men still in suits out after work at 3am and women just dancing in the street. There were random bands set up in the street and grandmas with the most ancient of eskys selling drinks and kebabs and god knows what else. One of the guys from the hostel watched a group of pickpockets at work. There was all kinds of people, not just the tourists out for a big night but beggars from the favelas, businessmen, hippies and Rastas, pretty much most of Rio's populace seemed like they were out in the street. In short, it was insane - and that is just a regular Friday night. Makes you realize what carnivale might be like!

There are two major lookouts from which you can appreciate why Rio is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The first is sugarloaf rock, and the second is Christ the Redeemer. However feeling obliged to see Rio's major drawcard meant going mid-morning on a Saturday, with no clouds present. We got on a local bus (they drive like the possessed, and you are required to negotiate a turnstyle after paying your fare whilst the bus negotiates traffic), and then another bus and then lastly another, smaller bus. At the top, we could barely move for the crowds that had engulfed the concrete platform. After waiting endlessly in queues up to top and down again, we agreed (two argentinians, a german and us) that Ipanema beach was what we needed. Finally, a sandy beach! Replete with ridiculously good looking Brazilians doing backflips, presumably in preparation for carnival (but who knows). There were also those wearing g-string bathers loud and proud even if perhaps they might have been imprisoned for a similar offense in another country. Speedoes were definitely in, and generally pulled off better than Tony Abbott.

Mim had been hanging out for some samba ever since the first night some of our hostel bunkmates had headed off to Democraticus. We tried to find our own way there to no avail, but we did find the Lapa street party again which seemed to be still going. After hailing a cab and were given the tourist shortcut to the club (it was just around the corner), we entered the samba dance hall Democraticus. There was a stiff door charge that saturday night, due to the band. The club was upstairs and once you got to the top of the stairs it had the feel of an old dance hall. We were ushered to one of the tables around the dance floor. Caipirinhas were soon in hand (sugar cane spirit just goes so well with lime and sugar). The club was quiet, so we sat for a while although it was hard to stay sitting down. The band had two clarinets, a few guitars and a banjo, a keyboard, a sax and they were almost all vocalists. There were probably more instruments, Buena Vista style, but the clarinets stole the show because you just wanted to dance. We realised we had been too early. The club filled up, and the band took a break. The bandmembers could dance almost as well as the club members on the floor, who were easy to pick because they commanded attention. They looked like they were born wearing cummerbunds and flowers in their hair. It was really quite intimidating, but we couldn't resist getting up and having a go when the band got back on stage. Mim managed to attract the attentions of one of the instructors for a dance, who gave her a few tips.

The breakfast was particularly fine the next morning. Pedro the chef was in a good mood, the hostel's resident hound had had his teeth cleaned with a toothbrush by the chef's wife and was now having a mid-morning siesta helpfully in the centre of the passageway. We were looking
forward to the soccer match - Flamengo vs. Fluminese. We left in a minivan with a group of us from various hostels. The thing is to get there several hours before, in order to a) have a few drinks and indulge in taunting the opposition and b) so you can physically get to the stadium through bad traffic. Not unlike Aussie rules really. Luckily we had a guide!! Not for explaining the rules, more for who the teams were and who was the shoe-in and who was the underdog Everyone loves to hate Flamengo, because they win, and we had chosen well because we were nominally supporting them and they did in fact win - but not by much. There was fierce to-and-fro taunting across the stadium, even before the game had started. The occasion had the feel of party, with lots of stamping, dancing, clapping and smoke bombs. The Brazilian´s like the rest of South America, take their futbol very seriously. In front of us, there were two older guys living and dying with every turn in the match. There was significant paraphernalia present, in addition to the smoke bombs there were inflatable Flamengo "sticks" to wave about, guys with huge flags some with Ronaldinho on (it's his home club) and occasionally a giant sheet with team colours was sent up across the crowd. No goals were scored until late in the second half, when there a flurried exchange with Flamengo coming out 3:2 on top. Truly an awesome end to our short time in Rio, as the next morning we were on a plane to Cuzco, Peru.
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