Carnaval and Pneumonia don´t mix
Trip Start Feb 07, 2006
38Trip End Aug 07, 2006
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Make sure to check out Andrea's Travel Blog for more stories and photos of our trip!
10 hours in the Sao Paulo airport was way too much for anyone. After several delays were added to our already long stop over, our flight finally arrived and we were off to Rio to party it up a little.
A plan we´d later find out wouldn´t play out exactly that way.
Out of our element
... maybe it was the loud music in the Hostel when we arrived,
... maybe it was the young backpacker with hot red hair and blonde and black stripped eye brows
... maybe it was the calls from other backpackers to get hammered, something we hadn´t heard yet on this trip.
What ever it was, we felt like aliens in this weird place, the youth hostel. Had it been that long since we´d been in the ¨scene¨? Were we getting too old for this?
Nahhh... but it would take a while to transition into traveler mode yet again.
We arrived and unpacked. We´d made reservations at the hostel 6 months before and had high expectations of this place, Mellow Yellow, located a stone´s throw away from Copacabanna beach.
Our room was hardly what we´d expected.
When we opened the door, a small, hot and sticky, windowless concrete box with a small TV and a fan revealed itself.
Hardly like our fancy digs in Ascuncion.
¨Oh my god!¨ cried Andrea on her return from the communal washroom.
¨Have you seen the washroom?¨ she shrieked
I went for a look
The paint was crumbling, it didn´t have any hot water, the floor was dirty floor would make you want to wash your feet again after just having taken a shower and stepping out.
We´d have to get use to this if we were going to survive 5 more months.
Back on the scene.
On the first day, we went on a boat cruise organized by the hostel in a remote bay around Rio. Loud music and drunken backpackers all around diving off of the roof of the boat was a tad different from our recent volunteering experience in Paraguay.
My throat was soar from a slight cold and I was feeling dodgy so I sipped a few drinks and sat around chatting with others, slowly getting used to the scene, until the sun set over the hills.
Having met several other backpackers, many our age, we began to get a little more comfortable with our new accommodations.
Only a few days later were we right back into things.
When I awoke the next morning, after a horrible night of coughing and sniffling, I knew something wasn´t quite right
Not only was I coughing all night but my chest had been killing me for days. The coughing just made it worse. With each cough, my chest would clench in pain.
¨Let´s try the hospital¨ we cautioned as we changed our plans for the day.
The hospital was clean and well air conditioned. I filled in a few documents, saw a few doctors and finally was diagnosed with a cold and an inflammation in my ribs. It turned out that my day pack was a little too heavy and poorly made which caused my ribs to pull in just the wrong way.
¨Just in case, we´ll do some xrays¨ the doctor advised
A long, long wait later a different doctor emerged and reported the results back to us in broken English.
She explained that the xrays had revealed that I had pneumonia!
That certainly explained why I was feeling freezing cold although Andrea told me that my face was boiling hot and Rio was as hot and humid as it got.
When we returned to our double room which had been on loan until it´s new tenants arrived we sat wondering if our luck would ever turn around.
It was bloody Carnaval! In Rio! and I had to sleep tons and stay away from drinks. The doctor also advised that I should stay out of the sun!
Not to mention that my iPod had been stolen and my laptop had been destroyed in Paraguay.
Could it get any worse? After 9 years of relatively safe, uneventful travel, maybe my luck had run out.
Andrea was on a downer, and so was I, ¨Let´s just leave Rio¨ Andrea thought out loud.
¨It´ll be better tomorrow¨ I consoled trying to believe it myself
To top it off, the tenants for our double room arrived and despite Andrea´s pleading with them, they just wouldn´t let us keep the room for a few nights while I recovered while they slept in the 4 person dorm we´d originally booked.
¨Nonono! We´re not giving up our room!¨ the nasty woman snapped with a thick accent avoiding eye contact at Andrea´s gentle plea.
Andrea shuffled back to the room and was in complete shock and dismay sitting on the bed, in disbelief that others could be so inconsiderate.
Unfortunately, we´d have to stay in a tiny, hot, sticky, concrete 4 person room without windows and hope that my contagious state wouldn´t infect the others.
I hauled my fluid filled lungs over next door and crawled into my bunk-bed dripping with sweat.
This would be a long few days.
That first night, I barely slept as I battled a fever. Andrea went out to check out the local scene for a few hours but came back early in the morning to make sure I was ok.
Thankfully I had Dr
It could only get better from here, right?
When I awoke I still felt like my lungs where filled with cement but I was determined to do something with our day. Being only 2 blocks from the infamous Coppacabana beach, we grabbed our beach gear and headed for the waves.
We spent 2 hours wading in the massive waves which crashed into shore. Unfortunately, the surf was very dirty and as we floated over waves, piles of unidentifiable nasty looking trash floated by. Copa was very polluted. The rolling stones concert, only one week before, probably didn´t help either.
Two hours of fun-in-the-sun later, we headed back to the hostel.
¨Am I red?¨ I asked Andrea as she scanned my shoulders carefully.
Somehow we had foolishly thought that only a few hours in the sun would not require any sun block and we both were sun burnt and as the minutes ticked by, our skin began to glow a deep red.
Unfortunately, my body didn´t react very well to the sun burn and my fever started up again!
So, there I was, freezing cold from the fever and sun burned with pneumonia! Argggg!!!!!
The words of the doctor in Rio warning us not to go in the sun echoed in my head as we canceled any other plans for the day and I went to bed to nurse my fever.
The next day we headed Ipanema beach where their bloco was in full swing. I wasn´t quite better yet but was determined to get out our of that bedroom. Each block in Rio has a street party during Carnaval and the Ipanema one was meant to be the best. If I could get myself there, I could at least like I had taken part a little in Carnaval!
We headed over, and took a nice walk down the beach as the sun set over the hills behind Rio.
We tried to join in for the street party and followed along with the crowds of slowly moving locals and tourists who were all jammed in behind a big truck which blared music as all took small steps forward.
A few hours of strolling around amongst the crowd later, I was too beat to enjoy myself and we stumbled home as sober as could be.
Get me outta this place
The next morning I´d had it. It was clear that I was not going to get any better in this hostel and needed a good night of sleep in AC to recover. Being Carnaval, the options where slim for accommodations but it had to be done. We walked across the street, handed over 170$ for one night of AC bliss.
That evening we went up to watch the sun set from the top of a massive hill which overlooked Rio where a statue of Jesus with arms spread out was perched.
It was yet another early night for us, but at least we managed to sleep! What a relief.
The next morning I was feeling much better and decided to extend our stay in the posh hotel for another night hoping that our insurance would pay some of the hotel expenses.
After all we were paying for both our hostel AND our hotel rooms for each night. Ouch!
Rio is notorious for it´s slums. The slums seem to be built in the nicest areas of Rio. This was because poor locals would squat on public land as their home, and in Rio, the public land was on the hill sides.
All of these squatters eventually made up the large slums called the favellas.
As it turned out, the slums had some of the most scenic views in Rio!
To get a full appreciation for the slums, we took a tour of one. A guide and a handful of other tourists jumped into a minibus and we headed for the slums.
The guide explained that the favellas were run by drug lords and in certain parts, we were advised to not take photos as ¨look-outs¨ ( young boys watching for the police ) kept watch. True or not, we kept our cameras low in those parts.
After wandering through the alleys which burrowed deep into the favellas, sometimes so deep that sunlight wasn´t visible feeling almost like walking underground.
When the day ended, we headed home to rest up for the Sambadrome
Sambadrome - the end
In many ways, I´d wanted to stick around in Rio and not bail out early so that we could see the massive parades at the Sambadrome. On the last days of Carnaval, thousands of floats and dancers parade down the Sambadrome where on-lookers gawk at the extravagance.
Unfortunately, our cheap tickets which we´d purchased through the hostel had us sitting WAY back at the end of the parade. By the time the parades reached us, they´d mostly stopped dancing and walked off of the main drag, energy spent.
It was a huge disappointment and I think we would have enjoyed it more watching it on TV!
And with that, we left early, packed up and got ready to head to Floripa, a small beach island in southern Brazil for a little beach relaxation.
Andrea finished off her Rio experience with a last minute hang-gliding and we boarded a long 16 hour overnight bus to southern Brazil.