Carnaval in Rio!

Trip Start Jan 04, 2010
Trip End Mar 23, 2010

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Sunday, February 14, 2010

   Our travel day to Rio turned out to be a bit of a gong show. We arrived at the airport in BA a good 2 hours before our flight (luckily). The plan was to connect to Rio through Sao Paulo. When we went to check in we were informed that all of our flights had been canceled. Because we had missed our flight in La Paz, the airline's policy was to cancel ALL flights thereafter. Riiiiiight....not the kind of thing you want to hear when you still have several flights ahead of you. We managed to get the Rio flights reinstated, but were left feeling frustrated as there was still another flight later on in Quito that was canceled and they were telling us we'd have to buy another ticket for $800 each! We decided we'd speak later to our travel agent to sort out.

We landed in Sao Paulo with 3 hours before our next flight. Plenty of time...except we were instructed numerous times by different people to get into a long line-up for security and into the wrong terminal. So, when we realized we were in the wrong place we had to talk our way backwards through security. We realized how amazing it had been in the other countries to speak Spanish and felt a little helpless not knowing Portuguese. We found a lady who translated from Spanish to Portuguese to a security guard (which was quite amusing as it sounds the same) and we were able to get to where we needed to be. We arrived just before our luggage was about to be taken away to the lost luggage black hole. From here we had to check in again for our flight where it was an absolute zoo, and we finally reached our gate as it was boarding.

We finally arrived in Rio and jumped onto the bright blue bus as instructed by Mike and Renata, our gracious hosts in Rio. We arrived a little later than expected (12:30am) but thankfully our friends were still awake but probably just barely (they had been out the night before participating in a Carnaval parade). A big thanks to Mike and Renata for making our Rio experience very memorable!!!

Our first Carnaval party started the next morning, when we heard the sound of music from our apartment. The neighborhood we were staying in (Leblon - amazing location right on the beach) was having one of the many street parties/parades that pop-up all over the city during Carnaval. Basically a float carrying speakers and a bunch of people singing and dancing slowly makes its way through the neighborhood. This attracts the street vendors who provide the alcohol and before you know it there is a huge party in the street with people dancing, singing the classic Carnaval anthems and wearing lots of crazy costumes. The day was very hot so we didn't spend too much time in the crowded streets but rather made our way to the beach to enjoy the refreshing ocean and a beer or two or three. We ended off the day at an amazing restaurant where they served sliced beef in its raw state along with a small grill so that you could cook it to your liking. The next day was more of the same, touring around the city and seeing all the beautiful scenery that is around ever corner in Rio.

On day three in Brazil we decided to take a four hour bus to a town south of Rio called Paraty, sandwiched between the jungle and the ocean, known for its colonial town established in the fifteenth century by the Portuguese. Our time in Paraty was short (one and a half days) but we definitely enjoyed ourselves despite some rain (luckily the temperature was still about 30 degrees). The highlight was a trip on a schooner where we visited secluded beaches and islands, took in the jungle, and swam off the boat. We spent our two nights at a very nice hotel called Pousada Paseigm where we caught the 11:30pm to 1:30am Brazilian Olympic coverage, which was entertaining because it was the same person covering all events and you know he doesn't know the first thing about winter sports. It's amazing how he made Luge sound like you were watching a Brazilian soccer match.

On a quick side note, while in Rio we discovered a fruit called Açai, which when blended with banana and granola makes one of the most amazing smoothies. For any health nut out there you may be familiar with Açai thanks to you local organic health store who markets this as a super-fruit and sells its anti-oxidant rich juice to you at a ridiculous premium. Well I would like to inform you that this fruit is everywhere in Rio and it is the same price as any other fruit drink. Conclusion - we are being scammed.

Anyway, we arrived back in Rio mid-afternoon to conclude our final day in Rio and in Brazil. While Mike and Renata finished up work we went to the beach for a swim and watched the surfers who were enjoying a particularly big wave. One our way back to the apartment we ran into Mike who had forgotten about his volleyball match. Knowing that I love volleyball he invited me (Mike) to join. After almost two years without touching a ball I was a little rusty but had an amazing time. I even got to meet a Brazilian beach v-ball olympic champion who just happened to be hanging out around our court. Unfortunately, after witnessing the mad skills of the two Mike's he was afraid to set foot on the court for fear of losing and ruining his reputation.

Well, an amazing time in Rio with great hosts! Wish us luck as we have to leave the apartment at 3:45am to catch a 6:00am flight to Bogotá...don't anticipate much sleep!
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