South America begins....
Trip Start Sep 16, 2002
19Trip End May 31, 2004
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The interesting point about Rio De Janeiro (translates to River January) is there is no river. The Portuguese discoverer on arrival saw the Guanabara bay area and thought it was a river estuary and named it accordingly. The setting for this city is pretty spectacular. With its huge bays and hilly terrain it immediately makes a strong visual impression. And to have a statue of Christ overlooking your city is like saying "This is no ordinary city". The bus drivers drive so fast they are probably on commision. The beaches (Copacabana and Ipanema esp.) are used like football training schools and are always teeming with activity
After arriving in Rio i checked into what would turn out to be my favourite hostel so far (and most disorganised) run by some friendly Argentinians.
It was the kind of place where it was common to find two people booked to a bed!
So to kick off Rio i headed down to the famous Copacabana beach and happened to stumble into the World Beach Soccer tournament. Brazil were playing Portugal and the game was looking pretty even. The score was 0-0 and when both teams had great chances to score, they both squandered them. I actually thought Portugal might cause an upset as they looked dangerous, but this is Brazil. And they seem to have this belief that when they play there is only one result. And so they won 7-2. Not surprisingly they went on to win the tournament.
Ipanema beach is cleaner than Copacabana and also where the rich folk can be found. Both these beaches are the heart and soul of Rio. This is where you will find all the different Cariocas (Rio inhabitants)rich and poor alike bronzing themselves, bodysurfing, playing football, jogging, cycling and generally wiling away the hours from dusk til dawn
Carnaval is the mad celebration before lent. The idea being you overindulge yourself in all the things you are about to give up before you abstain. The name Carnaval actually means Goodbye Meat - Carne Val. During the week before Carnaval a lot of bandas (bands) will practice in the streets bringing traffic to a standstill. The bands are normally led by the people dancing up front with the drummers and singers driving them forward from the back. And when the drums start, you are no longer in control of your legs. Your eyes roll back, and the samba trance begins. The tribal sounds seem to awaken this primal dancer inside that you didnīt know existed
Just before Carnaval started I also went to the famous Maracana stadium and watched Fluminese beat Botafogo 5-1 in a football match. For those avid football followers, Romario scored a hatrick. I watched the sunset over Rio from the top of Sugar Loaf Hill. And went to the famous Scala nightclub to experience the nightlife of Rio.
Carnaval itself was a mixed affair. Having chosen our outfits, Luke and myself were ready to let our last strands of hair down. However upon arriving at the Sambodromo where the main procession takes place we found we were in the minority. Most people were dressed to unimpress. Normal casual clothes. And as more and more people arrived into our sector, the more territorial people became. But the show itself was exceptional. The costumes and the floats brought new meaning to the word flamboyant. It was all or nothing. However when you are stuck in a stand for 7 hours you tend to get a little tired and the procession starts to loose its novelty. Plus the people down in the procession look like they are having more fun than you. The procession started at 8pm and ended the following morning at 6am. We only managed until 3:30am.
Finally after 2 weeks I left Luke in Rio and headed into western Brazil to the Pantanal. During the wet season (February - April) the Pantanal is flooded by constant rain and the whole area becomes a huge wetland. They say if you want to see wildlife (anacondas, jacara, capybaras) this is the place to come
Iguazu was the end of Brazil and the beginning of Argentina. Time to head deeper into the land of Che Gueverra, Evita and Maradona....and Gervasio (happiness is a warm gun).