Week 27 - Rio Carnaval to Ilya Grande

Trip Start Aug 01, 2007
Trip End Dec 19, 2008

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Friday, February 15, 2008

Feb 1st - Rio

Waking up late with a rotten head I stayed around the hostel and organised a day at a Brazilian league game. I've always wanted to catch a Brazilian team live and this was my chance. So at 3pm me and a group of 12 of us headed to the Macarena stadium to watch Botafogo play Vasco De Gamma. Catching the Metro we were caught up in the excitement of local supporters singing and chanting (drums as well) to which we all joined in. Some really catchy tunes being sung.

Arrived at the stadium and bought some bargain tickets for $10 and I entered the magnificent place. It was abuzz with activity as the first game of the day was being played (B team). Beer was flowing as the beer sellers walked around and the mood was getting more and more electric. The chants and terrace songs from the opposing supporters were getting louder and more catchy as classics were being sung (so I was told by a local Botafogo fan). Our seats were by the halfway line..well good position but we all looked longingly at the home and away sections at the top (fireworks, flags, singing and mayhem. Later found out for an extra $5 I could have gone there).

Kickoff was at 5pm and the play was smooth and skilful right from the start. As with most good games the time went really quickly and before I knew it the 90 minutes were up. It ended as Bota 3, Vasco 2 with a sending off. The atmosphere was electric as fans went mental all the time. Interestingly there was a mix of fans everywhere and no sign of trouble (well, during the game anyway). The skills on the pitch were as to be expected...awesome.

Shaun acted the goat as usual and ripped a top off a Bota fan (all good natured) but then refused to give it back at the end, stating that it was a gift. In the end we left him because he refused to budge.

On the way back our group was buying the metro tickets and just as one of the girls went to the bathroom we heard a gunshot and people running everywhere. Some injured police were running up the stairs from the platform. It seems a fella had run out of the metro car and fired a shot. If the girl in our group hadn't gone for a pee we may have been caught up in the bloody thing.

The metro ride back was a bit tense but we arrived safely back at the hostel and continued the drinking there telling everyone our tales of gunshots and football. Danced around the hostel a bit then collapsed in bed. Top, top night had by all.

Feb 2nd - Rio

Today's daytime activity was a Favella tour. Favella's are the slum areas around the major Brazilian cities (well, in theory they are all around South America). A strange concept this Favella tour but since the film City of God people really want to see what it's like to live in one. Half the proceeds of the tours go to the Favella community so everyone wins.

The Favella Rohcina is the biggest in South America and is bunched up on the slopes of a big hill on the outskirts of town. It houses 200,000 people and is run by the gang RG (can't remember what it stands for).

First was a hair raising bike taxi ride up the hill followed by 2 hours of walking around the really rank smelling narrow streets. The people were pretty friendly as we trotted along in their streets but they did look poor indeed. Met quite a few dodgy looking characters along the way including gangs of youths having a puff. Shaun nearly got himself into serious trouble by making an attempt at snapping someone who happened to be standing in front of a gang member. The guy shouted 'no photo!' and walked towards us to which we immediately scampered off.

There was then an impromptu street performance by a group of kids on drums (cans, buckets and metal plates). Really awesome to see.

Later on it was time for beer and everyone headed to another Block Party (me, Shaun, Surekha and Krina and loads of others). This one was a monster just down the road from Ipanema. It was absolutely rammed with people dancing in the street and being merry. At first it was quite intimidating (even a trained-since-childhood Notting Hill Carnivaller was awed). Some weird masks and costumes everywhere and loads of girls wearing skimpy gear (what a sight to behold). Met and chatted to loads of different people from different countries and had what I would state as being a wicked night. It ended with some more drinks back at the hostel and prancing around all night.

Feb 3rd - Rio

Recovery day as I headed to Copacabana beach with Will and chilled there all day. Loads of gorgeous girls here as well so no time for sleeping. Not easy to relax here as touts and sellers roam the beaches and harass you every 2 minutes but after a while you develop the skill of ignoring and saying no with your eyes closed.

After frazzling in the hot sun it was time for one of the main events of the Carnival...the Sambadrome. This is where the main Samba schools have their processions. Tickets were a hefty $30 but as I was to find out later on, worth every penny.

Caught a cab to the dome (brightly lit up even from a distance and the place is really huge) and sat down for the 8 hours of drinking, dancing and astonishing parade watching. The floats and costumes passing down the middle of the dome were truly amazing and very weird in some cases. Each school float and procession would last 80 minutes so there was pretty much always music playing for dancing goodness. The colours were absolutely amazing and the imagination and time gone into each just hard to fathom.

Some of the floats were themed as follows; animals (one had a huge bird, tiger, penguins), Oriental (having lucky white cat (I think it's a Japanese thing), Sony Robot and space manga) to name but a few.

The crowds were really friendly and dancing nonstop all night (even when the heavens opened). After each procession some of the dancers would come and sell their head dress for the pittance of $2.50 to anyone interested. We bought quite a few.

Every Samba School had its own Samba tune (written by someone especially) to which everyone, including me would clap and sing along to (yes, I knew most of the Samba's because our hostel had played most of them all day long to get us acquainted with them).

Over the whole night had a long chat with Surekha (nice girl from Birmingham, her nice mate Krina, a cool dude from France called Dongey and a cute Colombian girl (I think she was quite fascinated with my enthusiasm for Colombia).

The only downer for the night was that two people from our group had their cameras nicked by nifty pickpockets as they went to the toilet (right in front of them).

Feb 4th - Rio (Happy Birthday Rowley)

Well, happy birthday to me. Woke up feeling rough but while I was drinking my morning tea I was generously given a rendition of happy birthday by the whole hostel in the outside terrace (such a nice touch).

Also, the strange creature of the hostel known as 'my Precious' (from LOTR) caught me laughing about something and got paranoid. He then started poking me in the shoulder muttering 'Precious will kill you' (funny guy...I laughed at him).

Most of the day was spent recovering (that's a regular occurrence during Carnival) and apart from a short trip to the beach I didn't do much else all day except check emails. The main event for tonight was Sambadrome pt.2 but as the evening wore on and I drank more and more beer I fancied going to a club instead. I was joined by Surekha, Krina and Jorge as we had a boogie for the night. The music wasn't great but I was pretty much too lashed up to care. The club itself turned out to be a kind of Brothel disco for elderly desperado's (a bit embarrassing at times but good fun anyway).

Had a really great birthday all round and even better than that I had one of the best weeks ever during this whole Carnival week. I've never had a week of drink, fun and frolicking like it in my life...loved every minute of it. Sadly tomorrow is my last day on this fabulous city.

Feb 5th - Rio

My last day today and on waking up realised that I had been to Rio for a week but haven't even seen the Mountain with Christ. So off I headed with two reluctant girls Surekha and Krina) catching a cab to the tram that rides up the mountain. The statue was much bigger than I expected, so well impressive. The view was nice but not amazing because it was overcast and rainy.

Back at the hostel El Misti I made the decision to go to a Place called Ilya Grande (a beautiful beach island south of Rio) for a few days rest. This last week really has been nonstop drinking and mindless dancing (well, my Samba must have looked mindless...but I kept reminding people I had no formal training). I've been on the piss pretty much every day from lunchtime so a chill and detox was in order (in fact writing this and last week's blog has only been possible after the end of the festivities and has caused me to lose a few of my valuable hairs trying to remember what happened...and when it did. Also, there was a virus going around which is rapidly spreading through the confined and dirty hostel that is the Misti. Everyone's coughing, sneezing, feverish and tired (of course the drinking load didn't help).

A word about my home for this last week. El Misti is the best hostel I've stayed in as regards to the crowd there and atmosphere (there was such a good crowd of people and everyone got on. There was none of that stupid gang and group mentality...but..it is the worst one as far as organisation, hygiene, space (I was in a 12 bed dorm the size of a single room) and value for money and getting sleep was concerned. The bunk bed above mine had some support slats missing (making the poor fella in the bunk above me, Goose's back arch like a hunchback's) so I have dubbed our room the Great Escape room. But really, I didn't give a monkey's arse at the time because...well, I was in Rio and was enjoying a wicked Carnival).

Said my goodbyes to most of the hostellers (was especially sad to say ta ta to Shaun who is one of those larger than life characters and was most definitely the life of each and every party....top bloke, Claudette, Will and the young English group from the Great Escape room) and staff (Marianna and Carolina) and headed to the bus terminal with Surekha and Krina. There caught a bus to a small port town ready for the boat to the Island. Was very depressed sitting on the bus as I pondered leaving such a beautiful city and such a great week. It's very addictive...could have stayed for months (mind you my bank balance wouldn't have).

Stayed overnight in town as the next ferry wasn't till the morning. Had my first proper night's sleep in a long, long time. What joy to sleep in a bed that doesn't threaten to collapse and kill you in your sleep.

Feb 6th - Ilya Grande

A late wake up this morning and everyone nearly missed the only boat leaving to the island at 8am. Had a beautiful 1.5 hour ride around stunning islands and coves and eventually arrived at the beautiful Ilya Grande.

Although me and the girls spent the next 2 hours desperately trying to find a hotel within budget we eventually hit the jackpot when an old woman approached Surekha (sitting on a bench waiting for me and Krina to come back from the hunt) and offered a really nice room with garden and chilling area for $20 each.

As we settled in the room I was ribbed endlessly by the girls because it seemed the two elderly hotel owner ladies had a soft spot for me and flirted with me shamelessly (well, they're only human).

The afternoon was spent walking around the pretty quiet beaches and a spot of swimming. There are quite a few locals here now, most of them getting away from the Carnival in Rio. A quiet dinner and early night was had by all as recovery and sleep was needed.

Feb 7th - Ilya Grande

What a sleep I had last night. Woke up to bright blue sky and a bright sun (something I forgot to mention was the weather in Rio was pants for most of the time. After the first few days it rained nearly every day).

First mission of the day was to find a bike rental place. Mission failed as apparently roads are crap. Second plan was just to walk to a beautiful beach. This was no problem whatsoever as there are great beaches everywhere. So me and the girls walked 30 minutes through some pretty tropical jungle and plotted for some swimming and sunning. Water was crystal clear and the sun boiling hot (this combination had the usual repercussions of me getting frazzled...never learn).

After a spot of lunch and siesta it was time to meet some Rio stragglers that had just turned up at the island. Had a few beers and chatted to Helen (most of the talk was about El Misti, Rio and Shaun).

The plan for the next week is leave the island tomorrow and head to the apparently amazing Iguazu Falls on the border with Argentina. Spend a few days on both sides then head to Buenos Aires.

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