Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro

Rio is in party mode. If you ever want to take part in one of the world´s biggest parties, you must go to Rio for Carnaval !! We arrived in Rio the same day the the party officially started, with the mayor of the city handing over keys to the newly crowned King Momo - the King of Carnaval.

Everyone gets in on the action. People wandering the streets in our neighbourhood, Copacabana, are wearing masks, lays, antlers, and funny hats. Many streets are shut down to cars and it is busy everywhere.

Our first full day in Rio we decided to join in one of the most popular and fun ways to help celebrate carnaval - referred to as a banda, or street party. We left our neighbourhood and walked over to Ipanema to join in one of the oldest and most popular bandas in Rio. Before we knew it, we were in the middle of a busy street, jammed with people, marching down the street in a parade. Everywhere around us there were sweaty, happy, drunk, cross-dressing, masked, flamboyant people singing and dancing to the live music leading the parade. Wow. Chris adourned a sparkling purple wig of Rebeccas choosing, while Rebecca wore a beautiful mask complete with sparkles and peacock feathers. Pictures are not available at this time, as we opted for a disposable camera and haven´t finished the roll yet.

What we do have pictures of, is the next night, when we got tickets and went to the official Samba Parade at the Sambodromo. This is the parade that most people associate with Carnaval in Rio...you have probably seen pictures in the paper or news of this. The Sambadromo consists of a 1 1/2 kilometre long stage. It takes each Samba school approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes to make there way down the stage in front of everyone. The pictures do not do justice to the music, dancing, costumes, floats, and atmosphere in the Sambadromo.
It was truly a memomorable experience.

Our favourite school had an ´under the sea´theme. Each float was proceeded with the best dancers in the school who really knew how to get the crowd involved.

One of the funniest things about going to the Sambodromo, was actually just making our way there and back. We took the public subway, along with many of the dancers. The subway was filled with costumed and boistrous dancers who were warming up for their night ahead.

After recovering from the Sambodromo and Banda de Ipanema, we decided to take in some of the other popular sights that Rio has to offer. If you ever visit Rio, one of the popular and must-do things is to take the cable car to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain (Pao de Acucar), which has an amazing view over Rio and the surrounding landscape. We decide to kill time at the bottom of the mountain so that we could time our visit to the top with sunset. We went for a walk on a trail that many people use to access rock climbing routes in the area. It was along this trail, that we finally spotted our first monkeys. They were small little creatures, about the size of a cat.
At various points along the trail, locals (Cariocas) were also fishing. The fishing poles they were using were approximately 12 feet long. They didn´t seem to be catching much but, much like our experience back home, we suspected that catching fish wasn´t the only reason to go fishing.
The cable-car ride to the top of sugar-loaf mountain takes part in two stages. First, you must take a cable-car to the top of Urca mountain. You get off on the top of Urca mountain, and board another cable-car which takes you even higher to the summit of Sugarloaf. The following photo was taken from the top of Urca, looking at Sugarloaf.

The view from the top of Sugarloaf mountain is spectacular. You have a 360 degree view of all of Rio and the surrounding landscape including the city, beaches, statue of the Christ Redeemer (statue of Christ located on a nearby mountain), and the ocean. Unfortunately, when we got to the top, Chris began to suffer from his first bout of food poisoning, and instead of enjoying the sunset with Rebecca, spent most of his time at the top in the Sanitario. Yuck ! Luckily, it was only one of those 24 hr things. It did make for an exciting two-stage cable-car ride back down to the bottom though.
We took our last day in Rio pretty easy. We decided to board a bus which would take us further east along the coast in seach of a small town to recover in.

Brazil Fun Fact #1
Brazilians love their pizza and many would argue that their pizza rivals that of Italy or anywhere else for that matter.

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