31.01.2008 - 02.02.2008 32 °C
Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand
Just like that river twisting through a dusty land
And when she shines she really shows you all she can
Oh Rio, Rio dance across the Rio Grande
Rio by Duran Duran
Hello from Rio De Janeiro. We only arrived on January 31st but we have already been up to loads, so let me laucnh straight into an update for you.
Thursday January 31st
We flew out of Santiago at 1.30pm and landed in Rio at 7.30pm local time. We are staying at the beautiful Casa Aurea Hostel in the funky district of Santa Teresa. It is by far the best hostel we have stayed in, a converted mansion run by a Swiss guy. There is a good crowd of people staying here, it is social but far enough away from the madness to get a decent nights sleep.
We got picked up from the airport and checked in, dumped our bags and jumped in a taxi into Central Rio to meet our friend Fraser who is out on a two week holiday. We arrived at Fraser´s hotel at 10pm and he was waiting in reception. It was great to see a familiar face. We have been very lucky to have been visited by Lynn´s folks, Fraser and our friend Craig who is coming to Peru. We have also stayed with Ken and Gwen and various family members in Oz and NZ, so we have never been lonely.
We headed down to Copacabana Beach and had a good few beers catching up on all the news and gossip from back home. There were a few colourful local characters hanging around and some of them were hanging out of their tight tops! Boob jobs must be big business in Brazil! We had a fairly quiet night ahead of the carnival, back in bed before 2am.
Friday February 1st
We slept late and got up at 11.30am to be met by a lovely continental breakfast. We had fruit, nice cheese, ham and rolls, orange juice and tea. Lynn phoned her friend Pheona through Skype, a brilliant invention. After that we headed into town to meet Fraser, lifted some cash ahead of carnival and went back to Copacabana for some food. We admired some Brazilians playing football and marvelled at Sugar Loaf Mountain in the distance.
At dusk we jumped a cab back to Santa Teresa for a couple of beers and headed to the Bloco (street party). The place was jumping. Everyone was dancing, singing, banging beats on percussion and drums, wearing colourful clothes, singing, smiling, drinking and dancing some more. It died down and we went to our hostel for a couple of beers before going back out to another street party with a full on samba band and singers. It was jumping and great fun. Everyone seemed so happy and the streets were jam packed with people having a great time.
This was the night before carnival officially started so it left us eager to see the official start on Saturday. With this in mind we called it a night at 2am. Fraser got a cab to his hotel and we walked back through the crowds to our hostel and feel asleep to the sound of samba drums playing in the distance.
Saturday February 2nd
We woke to the sound of samba drums playing in the distance and dozed until 11am. By 12pm we were out back on the streets of Santa Teresa with me sporting an orange wig and sparkly red tie and Lynn wearing a tiara. The sun was out in force, people were firing water pistols at each other, everyone was wearing something crazy, people were out in their gardens with hoses and firing them at people on the street to help cool us down from the dancing. The samba drums played their tunes, people sang, danced, partied and generally looked incredibly happy. You can´t help but smile at it all. Carnival had officially started.
We spent a couple of hours dancing and wandering through the crowds. People of all ages and backgrounds, nationalities and race, coming together to dance and sing. You can´t beat it. We went back to our hostel as we had booked tickets for the Vasco da Gama v Botafogo football game at the world famous Maracana Stadium. We were going with 4 Aussies and booked tickets through a company called www.bealocal.com
The cost for transport and tickets was a little over 20 quid, well worth it. The bus picked us up an hour late at 5pm and we wound our way through the carnival traffic, making it to the ground at 5.45pm. The game was due to kick off at 6pm and Vasco took to the field on time but Botafogo didn´t come out until 6.15pm. Typical South Americans, never on time. The ground was only half full but the fans were in full voice. I should add that half full in the Maracana is still 50,000 people. We were in with the Vasco fans and I sat next to a nice young Brazilian guy who spoke English. My lucky day. We had a good chat about football, hooligans (we were near the hooligan section), Scotland and Zico!
Botafogo took the lead with a ripping shot from around 30 yards. It was an open game with lots of skill on display, some tough tackles, and some great noise and colour from the fans. Botofogo scored a second and looked to be in charge of the game.
It all changed after half-time, Vasco looked a different team and scored from a corner. Shortly after that Botafogo were reduced to ten men after a needless chop on the halfway line. It was a red card tackle! Vasco equalised and looked to be heading to victory until with ten minutes to go they gave away a penalty and had a man sent off. This sparked riots among the Vasco fans and we were lucky to be up in the top half of the stand. The penalty was scored and the game finished 3-2. 5 goals, 2 red cards, a mini riot and outrageous skill and tackles. Just your normal Brazilian game then!
After the game we got dropped off at Frasers hotel, after a bit of a roundabout route. There was a massive street party on just across the road and we grabbed some beers from a stall and joined in. Floats, samba bands and dancers were parading down the street prior to going to the sambadome.
We got chatting to one of the samba schools directors and I told him I was Scottish. He shouted over a dancer who was dressed as a caveman/warrior and said Éscocia´. He immediately took my beer off me, handed me his hat, arm tassles and loin cloth and ushered me into the samba school to take his place. I left him standing in his blue y-fronts with Lynn and Fraser as I danced with the band and dancers.
I was with them for almost an hour. We had a warm up and then stood around for ages before we got to the section near the judges and then the full samba drums kicked in and we were off. I got a few strange looks and laughs from the crowd as I was the only white guy among the dancers, with a bit of a beer belly! It was a great feeling and I was soooooooo pleased to have taken part. Lynn and Fraser walked along the side drinking beer with their new Brazilian friend and ended up buying him 3 beers. He was in no ruch to take his place back.
After my dancing stint came to an end we hung around and watched some amazing dancers, costumes and floats. The effort put in by the Brazilians, some who are very poor, is nothing short of incredible. Kids, Mums, Dads, Grans and Grandads all take part, you can´t really get a babysitter during carnival!
We got home at 3am, exhausted and elated and looking forward to more.
Who knows what I will have to tell you when I next write!
Murray and Lynn