City exploring and carnival craziness
17.02.2012 - 22.02.2012 32 °C
A bus ride up the coast and we were back in Rio. To orientate ourselves we took a cable car ride up Sugar Loaf mountain. Wonderful views over the coastal setting of this city.
We met Adam and Rubia (who helped formulate our trip itinerary) for dinner. They bought me a stupid looking mohawk multicoloured wig and we hit the streets to get into Carnival fever. This was Friday night, two nights prior to the Real start of festivities, but don't believe it, the place was crazy busy! Thousands of people in the streets, drinking, samba dancing, all dressed up, music everywhere. We danced in Ipanema square for a bit then walked along a couple of blocks and got into Banda de Ipanema, pushing the rope along with everyone jumping and generally going mental.
The following morning we met Hui, who pioneered handgliding in Rio. He's been doing it for 30 years and holds various world records, including longest flight. Last week he took Trevor Nelson out for a flight. He took us to his studio flat (interesting to see living in Rio for normal people is similar spaciously wise to Honkersland) to see an instruction video. Then it was our turn to run off the side of a mountain. Slightly scary, but it wouldn't be an adrenalin buzz if there wasn't an element of nervousness. It was beautiful soaring over Rio, very peaceful, very solid, very free, they say it's the purest form of flight. We had a chance to learn about and use the controls then had a running landing on the beach. While viewing our video and great photos, we shared some Acai berry sorbet.
Now it was time to chill out for the afternoon, so we headed to famous Ipanema beach. It was crazy town, there was no space between the sun brollies. This is about 4km of beach and there was absolutely zero space. I'm not just saying that in an English 'I require at least 8ft of clear sand between me and the next person' way, there was zero space, the beach was rammed. There must have been half a million people on the beach. I once got an email claiming to be a picture of a busy Chinese beach, this looked the same. It certainly wasn't for relaxing, instead we strolled along the prom and took in the sights. By 4pm, the party had started again. We met our ship mates again and set in for a big night. At around 10pm we ambled down to the beach, rented deckchairs and sat beside a party area. A lad came along selling beers and patterned wrist bands; he said he was from Buenos Aires and was paying for his travelling by selling these along his way. It was going to take him a long time, but we admired his industry and bought 4 beers. After a tube ride into Central we ended up in Lapa for more crazy partying, passed under the Arches and sat for a drink on the mosaic steps of Santa Teresa.
Sunday hurt, but we manged to meet up with our scuba friends for afternoon tea, before the party started again. The coach to the Sambadrome got lost on its way and a 45min journey took twice as long, which meant we were the last people in our section and there weren't any seats left. But we stood up the back and despite the language barrier, got to know a local family to samba with through the night. The floats and schools were stunning, absolutely incredible to watch. But after standing for 5hrs and with the prospect of an hours ride to our Pousada, we left half way through at 03:30am. After a while it's hard to remember all the different costumes and themes, but the event as a whole was incredible to experience.
After a lie in the following day, we walked along the prom at Copacabana beach and then met up with another ship mate for dinner and a singalong at an Irish bar. Rio had flipped our days, our 'events' now took place at night, rather than day. Our final night in Rio was spent having a lovely dinner with our ship mates, hope to catch them again in South America somewhere...dinner was a buffet, paid for by weight.
Rio is no doubt a stunning location. Even the townships look pretty at night when their lights illuminate the hillsides. But in my mind it has fallen short of expectations as one of the greatest cities in the world. I guess it should compare to Sydney for harbour setting and beach lifestyle, but comparing within South America, Buenos Aires seemed far more liveable. You just can't get past the crime issue and the insecurity was similar to living in South Africa. It reminds us how fortunate we are to live in such a secure place as Honkersland.
The chap doing our morning transfer to the airport had been sleeping in his car outside our Pousada, grabbing a couple of hours kip between jobs. He was very nice, telling us how he used to work in Southampton. He promised us that the driver had fallen asleep as we passed a recent car crash where a bloke was sat with a bleeding head.