Before I begin, I must let you know that I was in Rio De Janeiro during Carnaval. Essentially, I was partying for 5 solid days and nights. As such, a few memories from Rio are somewhat blurred! Therefore, this post at times will take a slightly alternative format in order to portray my incredible time there as best I can remember it.
- Paraty – Rio de Janeiro
- Rio Carnaval
- Sambadrome parade
Sleeping through an entire 6 hour bus journey sure does help to make you feel better. Thankfully I arrived in Rio in much better spirits than I had left Paraty in. I shared a taxi to my hostel, Lapa Astral, with some of the Paraty group also staying in the middle of Lapa. It was Day 1 of Carnaval and there were blocos (i.e. street parties) going on already underneath Lapa Arches and in Santa Theresa, just a 5 minute walk from my hostel.
I checked in, showered and bumped in to Curtis and Tomas in the lobby. They told me about what they’d experienced so far of Carnaval which got me excited for the night ahead. After some dinner, I begun what was to be a 96-hour drinking session!
The first night Naomi and her friend Grace came to join me in Lapa Astral to pre-drink. Here we met the loveliest group of Aussie guys – Will, Nick, Ryley, Ryan and Larson – who were to become our Carnaval companions! The group chose to stay in Lapa for Day 1 because it’s known to be the heart of Rio’s nightlife, but also had the most blocos during Carnaval.
- Drink beer.
- Dance to Samba music.
- Twerk with gay men.
- Drink beer.
- Dance to Samba remixes of English music.
- Get lipstick put on by a drag.
- Dance to some kind of music.
- Head in to Leme with the guys
- Get home at 1pm the next day
Okay, so I’d say successful Carnaval Day 1.
Day 2 went something like this:
- Head to North Lapa for a day bloco.
- Metro to Copacabana for the end of another day bloco.
- Collect Sambadrome tickets.
- Uber home.
- Begin drinking.
- Eat at the Japanese/Wagamumma style noodle van that was to become every night’s dinner.
- Continue drinking with people in the hostel
Before my night out really began, I head out in search of a bloco with Jakob, his girlfriend Naomi (a different one) and her friend Anneka, and Tomas. We walked towards the metro but unexpectedly stumbled across a smaller parade occurring in Carioca and chose to watch this instead. It was unlikely to be on the same scale as the sambadrome parades where Naomi and Grace had gone that night but it was still incredible to experience as my first taste of Carni parades.
- Keep drinking
- Drink with Gina and Emily in the hostel, and their friends who were all ex-Bristol students
- Wait for Diego and Guy to finish work to take us to a real local-style bloco
- Dance all night to a samba/house mix style of music
- Get home at 6am
This night was a hell of a lot of fun. What was just absolute hell though was the unbearable hangover which ensued the next day. Naomi and Grace found me in a very sorry state, struggling to walk, gagging at the smell of food and generally not loving life! As such, I spent my afternoon sleeping in an attempt to somewhat recover before my night at the sambadrome. Considering they had reported back that it was the best night of their lives, it was something I really wanted to make the most of, and it didn’t finish till 6am, so I needed the stamina!
Caitlyn got in to Rio Day 3 of Carnaval too so she came to my hostel with the girls to start drinking in the evening. Naomi and Grace peaked very early, resulting in them both napping on my hostel sofa. The rest of us – Will, Ryley, Caitlyn, Diego and I – made fun Carni costumes and laughed more than we should have at inhaling helium. We continued our alcohol consumption until 9pm when I left for the Sambadrome with Jakob, Naomi and Anneka for my great night ahead!
I was in Sector 12 whilst the others were in 5. Sector 12 is the last one of the mile-long stretch that the parade follows. It is also the cheapest and therefore where all the locals go. I was alone so had to make some local friends and ended up next to a guy named Roni. He was Brazilian and spoke no English, a little Spanish and a lot of Portuguese. The problem was that this contrasts my no Portuguese, little Spanish and a lot of English. We struggled through some basic Spanish but eventually resulted to conversations via Google Translate.
Still, Roni turned out to be a life saver as he’d come prepared unlike me. Not only did the weather take a wet turn and he provided me with a poncho, but I also underestimated how long the parades would take and how busy it would get. This meant it was a right faff to go to the toilet and get food or drink but Roni had both water, sandwiches and tissues that he was willing to share with me.
When the parades themselves began, just W-O-W. The colours are like nothing you have ever seen before, the music is so fun and lively and being surrounded by Brazilians, they all knew the words and were up dancing and signing along. The samba dances themselves are incredible and have so much energy even right at the end where I was sat. Each float was extraordinary, thoroughly exceeding any expectation I had of these vehicles. As I said, I was just in awe of the entire experience from start to finish (and by finish, I mean 4am because I couldn’t hack it until 6am so left after 4 of the samba schools had finished their parades).
Day 4 of Carnaval and I was not hungover because I’d actually had a lot of water the night before. The same could not be said for Grace, Naomi and the boys who’d been out until sunrise though. We head towards Copacabana for the afternoon to recover, sleep, eat some grilled haloumi etc. I also wanted to start seeing some touristy sights of Rio so left the girls sleeping whilst I got a transfer from Copacabana up to Christ the Redeemer and the jungle/park surrounding ol’ JC.
The drivers really do speed around those roads! But I did make it up there in one piece and climbed the steps up to Christ himself. He was smaller than I had expected but still breathtaking, and the 360 view of Rio below was equally as stunning. It’s also very entertaining watching people take photos with Jesus because you have to lie on the floor to get him all in. They’re geared up for this and have yoga mats lying all over the place for people to lie on, but still a good giggle.
I met two lovely Kiwi guys up top and had a little reminisce about my time in New Zealand whilst overlooking beautiful Rio for half an hour. I then met two lovely American guys coming back down who gave me some good travel tips for other parts of S.America. All in all, a really good afternoon and I was happy to finally be seeing the sights of Rio. It had meant that I’d missed the Seargant Peppers bloco, i.e. Beatles music played in a Samba style, but I felt that I’d not missed out and would have done by being only a Carni-goer and not also a tourist in Rio.
Back on it for Night 4 of Carnaval, the girls came back to drink with myself and the boys at the hostel. The boys went off to meet some of their other Aussie friends and we went to Books Hostel to see some of our group from Flori and have a little party there for a bit. The night continues:
- Drink at Books
- Return to Lapa
- Party outside the hostel
- Drink inside the hostel
- Harry comes to join us in Lapa
- Drink and have some great and hilarious chats in the hostel
The girls left a little earlier that night just as Nick returned home in a bleary way. Nick and I then head out to get some food (Japanese, of course) and had a good old DMC before Caitlyn popped her head back in. I was impressed how much more drunk she’d managed to get in the last few hours but she is and always will be a party machine, even at 29! I was in bed my 4.30am and considered it an early night.
Day 5 of Carnaval was a sober one. I was a truly broken women, full of cold, exhausted and struggling to muster the energy to continue partying. Curtis and I had promised each other that no matter what, we would hike the Two Brothers trail and mountain for my last day in Rio and that day was sadly upon us. Grace and Naomi chose to also come along. The 4 of us first fueled up on a buffet full of vegetables, meats and salad to begin regaining our health!
For the Two Brothers, you get dropped at the start of Rio’s largest favela, Vidigal, and must work through it to the start of the trail. Whilst it sounds dangerous, men from the favela run a moto-taxi service for $5 real in which you get given a helmet, hop of the back of their moped, and literally zoom through the tiny winding roads of the favela. An incredible way to see the favela that you would otherwise only visit on a somewhat immoral (in my opinion) tour, and helping out the locals.
The trail was known to be tough but it was at least mostly in shade and mostly solid ground below foot. The ascent was pretty steep, lasting for just over an hour and extracting every last drop of sweat from your body! Those on the descent offered encouraging words to people heading up, knowing how hard it was. By the top, we were just in our bikinis with soaking wet hair, but engulfed by the beauty of what we were looking at.
On one side of the view is Vidigal and some lesser known beaches of Rio, on the other is the Atlantic Ocean, Copacabana and Ipanmea beaches and the well-known city sights below. Beyond all this is Christ the Redeemer, Sugar Loaf and the hundreds of mountains that make up Rio de Janeiro and its surroundings. At the top of Two Brothers is easily the best view of Rio and undoubtedly worth the uphill struggle to reach it.
We stayed up there a good hour or so to take it all in and mentally prepared for heading back down. Reaching the bottom of Vidigal on the back of a moped was a lot less scary too and we then felt we deserved a dip in the ocean and lie down at the beach (and we did). There was a local’s beach just below Vidigal so we went down there to join them and play in the waves, which crash on the beach similar to Coogee where I’d chipped my tooth on Christmas Day.
From here, we walked around the corner and the coast line of Leblon beach before Curtis suggested staying at Ipanema to watch the sunset over Two Brothers and the beach itself. To get the best view we needed to reach the headland between Ipanema and Copacabana and therefore began our walk along the length of Ipanema too before settling down just before 6pm.
KMs walked: 16.9
Steps taken: 27,890
Calories burnt: 2,934
Floors climbed: 127
We’d earned some treats! Although we treated ourselves with corn on the cob and a sunset, so still pretty healthy. But we did plan to have pancakes that night since it was Shrove Tuesday and I felt that we thoroughly deserved them after our day.
The sunset was well worth the walk. Setting just behind the Two Brothers with a view of the favela on the hill and Ipanema Beach in front and then casting orange and pink hues right across the sky, along Copacabana and beyond Sugar Loaf. There were also a few low-lying clouds so that it looked like Jesus was rising from the cloud tops to add to the spectacle of the entire thing. Rio sunsets are another new big love in my life, along with Rio views and Rio parties.
My vegetable dinner (because they were needed so much) was followed by pancake making with the girls. None of the 3 of us wanted to go party and the boys had had the same idea which made for a nice chilled and sociable evening, observing the bloco outside from the balcony of my hostel room. I had to say a very sad goodbye to the girls having spent such an incredible Carnaval with them and also Flori with Naomi.
I checked out the following morning at the same time as Nick and Will. Considering our hostel was a mere 100m from the Eacadaria Selaron in Rio (those colourful steps), and they were packed full at any other time of day, the 3 of us went to get some pics before the masses of people arrived at any time after 9am. It turned out to be a good idea and the boys recreated the Snoop Dog and Pharrel album cover there too. It really was a lovely end to the most amazing Carnaval and my most favourite country ever visited!
So, 124 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and I am a somewhat broken women who has literally had the time of her life in Rio and Carnaval. Brazil has completely stolen my heart, from its stunning coastline, gorgeous cities, vibrant colours, love of partying and wonderfully friendly natives. What a country and what a time I had there. Obrigada, Brazil and to all those I met there that made my time so amazing.