Saturday 1st March 2014
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Our second full day in Rio today and we had quite a late breakfast and then decided that we would go to visit Christ the Redeemer. We walked down to the metro station only to find that this particular station had been closed for the Carnival period so we walked to the next station and caught the train just two stops from the nearest metro to Christos, found the mini buses that take tourists up to the statue which is actually inside a national park. The mini buses were very well organised and we were both ushered into the front seat next to the driver for the journey up to Corcovado (the hill on which the statue stands). It is about 5-6km up from the suburbs through the forest and into the national park and the bus drops you off almost at the base of the statue. You just need to walk up a few flights of stone stairs. The day was hazy, but fine and warm – down in the city about 31-32C but up the top it was a bit cooler. We walked around slowly and although there were many tourists taking photos and it was quite crowded, it was a different type of bustle to the city and Carnival below. Much less frenetic. After we had looked at the view from all angles and taken photos of both the statue and the city in the hazy distance, we sat down on a (pretty much the only) seat in the place and watched the people for about an hour as we ate our sandwich. We then slowly made our way down again, looking in the shops that had every conceivable design of the statue for sale. We then caught the mini bus shuttle back to the metro and walked back to our hotel in Lapa. Our friends from the trip had gone to the football game tonight so we had a drink in our room and went out for a quick dinner (20 minutes) at a restaurant where you serve yourself and once you have purchased all your food, the management weigh the plate and you pay by weight. It was very cheap, quick and a really nice meal – about ¼ the price of a normal restaurant meal. We then went back to the hotel for an early night.
Sunday 2nd March 2014
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
At breakfast in the hotel today, we spoke to an English couple who are beginning a Tucan trip on Wednesday. They have been travelling for over six months in various countries, but the guy (James) had the bad luck of his bag not arriving when he landed in Rio. They had come from Fiji, via Auckland, Sydney and Buenos Aires. Double whammy was that his bank had cancelled all their cards. His wife’s luggage arrived normally. Very strange! Anyway, we got along well with them and hoped their problems would soon be sorted. After breakfast, we went down to the hotel where some of the other people were staying and had brunch with Paul who had been our tour guide in Mexico and who travelled with us last year in West Africa. He was visiting Rio in his capacity as Operations Manager for Tucan Travel and it was also his birthday so we had a good catch up and some reminiscences about past trips. In the afternoon we went with a number of other people to a samba lesson and drum lesson! It was hot work samba-ing and there wasn’t much of a drum lesson, but we had fun. We went out for a quick early dinner at our (now) favourite restaurant – cheap….and then came back and got ready to go out for the evening to the Sambadrome where all the samba schools gather and there is an official parade. The Sambadrome is a long street with grandstands on both sides. All of the floats and dancers drive down the middle between the stands. We left at 7:30pm and walked down as a group and went into our stand (#13). The stand was terraced into steps so you could sit on the concrete or stand as you wished. There were thousands of locals and tourists packed in. It is a real party atmosphere, but the action didn’t start till 9:00pm when the first samba school started at the other end of the drome to where we were seated (or standing). Fireworks signal the start of each school. The parade takes about 30 minutes for the first lot of dancers to reach where we could see them and each school takes 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete their competition. They are judged on the quality of their floats, costumes, dancing or routines and band. Each school had at least 6 amazing floats and thousands of costumed dancers. We are told the schools are financed by the drug lords who supposedly launder their money through them. One school even had a float where a guy was shot out of a cannon, landing in a net. It was pretty amazing especially as he would have done the trick several times as he passed through the Sambadrome. As there were six different schools to do their “thing” tonight and each took 1hr and 20 minutes to go past + a gap of about ten minutes while the cleaners swept the road, that adds up to about 8 and a bit hours from start to finish. By the time we had seen five go past, it was about 4:10am and we were totally stuffed, because of course we had been standing up bopping around, joining in the fun, taking photos etc. Tonight we decided to just drink water – a good decision we thought. Lots of people dress up – we did as well in a minor way. Men in the crowd wear make up and women’s clothes, women get really dressed up as well and the costumes are absolutely amazing on the performers and the floats are out of this world with each of the floats having up to 60 or 80 people on them performing as well as hundreds of people dancing in costume on the road in front of and behind the floats. The schools must be huge – each one had thousands of people in the parade and the total cost of the whole thing must run into millions. We then walked back to the hotel – there were still people partying everywhere. We just fell into bed at about 5:00am.
Monday 3rd March 2014
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Just had about 4 hours sleep and it was breakfast time. Lynn didn’t feel too good this morning due to a sinusy headache but we went to breakfast. We had planned to walk to Santa Teresa, just up the hill, today, but after we had walked to the Lapa Steps (very famous) we came back to the hotel for a rest and recuperate. We had learnt at breakfast that some of our group had gone straight from the Sambadrome to hang gliding and other tours without going to bed. We are going out to dinner with friends tonight – they are leaving for home tomorrow. After a rest, Lynn decided that she wasn’t able to go to dinner. She still didn’t feel well, so David went to meet Dave and Joy at their hotel to go and have dinner. After a very nice dinner, he came back through the thronged and still partying streets of the Carnival and to bed around 10:30pm.
Tuesday 4th March 2014
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Lynn felt better today and we went on a Rio Free Walking tour, so we went across to Carioca Square, about 20 minutes’ walk, to meet the guide. There were about 25 people from lots of countries and the guide was very informative. We walked around and she showed us a number of historic buildings. All were unfortunately closed because of Carnival but we learnt a lot about the history of this part of the city which dates back to 1567. After the tour, which finished back near where we were staying, we again met our friends and had a really nice lunch with them to celebrate Dave’s birthday and also to farewell them. They were leaving at about 5:30pm for the airport and their flight back to Montreal. In between times, other members of our group were leaving and we farewelled them from the hotel. The first part of our trip (6 weeks) has finished. At 6:00pm, we had a joining meeting with the new group. There are 31 on this trip from Rio to Caracas in Venezuela. At least 9 of them including us are from near Sydney and we have a different tour leader for this leg of the trip. Because we had enjoyed a large lunch, we decided not to go out for dinner tonight, so we spent the evening packing for a 7:30am start tomorrow as we head north.
General thoughts on Rio:
This has been an amazing experience but we both feel that this city is not really for us. Maybe when it is not Carnival time it would be nicer. When you look down on the city from Sugarloaf Mountain or Christ the Redeemer it looks amazing with the city sprawling across the whole view from bay to bay. The beaches are beautiful too. But on the ground in the city it is grimy and the buildings look as if they are starting to crumble. There is lots of graffiti too. During Carnival there are many street parties – (Australians, think of a giant Schoolies Week) – the streets are filled with people drinking and loud music, and this starts around 4pm and goes on until 4 or 5 in the morning. When we come out of the hotel in the morning we are assailed with the stench of urine everywhere and the streets are covered in litter – bottles, broken glass, plastic cups etc. Local businesses attempt to clean in front of their shop, bar or restaurant but it is still terrible. This went on from Friday through to Tuesday afternoon when everyone had to go back to work. Several people from our hotel were robbed and we took nothing out with us except one camera a couple of days. It was great for us to see the iconic sights and the transport systems were excellent but, apart from the beaches and bays, we don’t see Rio as a beautiful city. The spectacle in the Sambadrome was amazing and it was fun to see people’s costumes in the streets but, on the whole, we are glad to move.