Published: January 11th 2010
January 11th 2010
New Years and Carnival in Rio make it possibly the busiest bustling city in South America twice a year and beds are few and far between. We only managed to find a 20 bed dorm room available in Lapa, an area our guide book didn't really discuss in too much detail. With our hopes set on a New Years Eve on the beach, we closed our eyes and booked. We then found out through a Brazilian friend that Lapa was a terribly rough neighbourhood and to be very careful, don't even wear a watch on the street she warned. A little foreboding.
However, Joe and I seem to have run into luck a few times on this trip and it happened again. The people who owned the hostel emailed us, they had overbooked beds and would we like to come and stay in their Copacabana apartment which was 2 blocks from the beach?
So we were sharing with the hostel owners and their 10 month old baby, two dogs and a couple of other travellers, it was an interesting mix. We had our own room which was quite far removed from the 20 bed dorm we had originally booked. We missed out on some of the hostel trappings such as a bar or groups of other travellers... but who needs those when you have a doorman!?
Unfortunately we did have rain in Rio. A lot of rain! Instead of roads we had rivers and it wasn't quite the beach weather we had hoped for. We tried to explore anyway but it turns out rain is Rio's downfall. Going up the famous Sugar Loaf mountain and only seeing cloud was slightly disappointing. On the news we saw the terrible weather has caused numerous landslides and problems all over the coast of Rio and had even made the news in London with talk of searching for bodies which no doubt put Joe's mum on high alert. We decided to call off our trip out to the beautiful Ilha Grande as that had been the worst hit, something to save for next time I suppose.
To escape the rain I dragged Joe into a shopping mall and I knew where I was headed... the magical world of the Havaianas store. Joe didn't seem to understand how a brand of jandal (J: flip-flop) was as much the religion of Brazil as Roman Catholicism.
Rio's nightlife, like the shopping mall, also survived the torrential rain and we found a very eccentric club called Rio Scenarium to taste some of the local culture in. A live band and three floors of antiques and mismatched furniture, it reminded us of an oversized Shoreditch venue and we cut up the dance floor in traditional hedgehog fashion. All in preparation for the next night, New Year's Eve!
For good luck in the New Year Joe and I put on a lot of white and did the two minute walk to Copacabana beach with the other travelling couple. The beach was heaving with people and had a real festival atmosphere. Small marquees, bonfires, picnic blankets, stacks of speakers and small parties scattered all over the sand and a main stage in the distance. As the ten second count to midnight began, all of the disparate groups ceased their private conversations and joined in together to toast the last of the year. An amazing show of fireworks lit up the Atlantic and everyone cheered and kissed and popped champagne. We ran into a group of local Brazilians singing Feliz Nuevo Ano, they seemed a lot of fun. They asked Joe who his favourite Brazilian football club was and as if on cue, all ten or so of our new acquaintances turned to him in expectant silence. We got the distinct impression that the nature of our friendship was riding on Joe's answer... Joe piped up with Flamengo which to be honest really doesn't mean anything to me but I could get into a lot of trouble for admitting this in Brazil. Oh but it did mean something to the Brazilian group who were jumping and cheering and giving high fives. From out of nowhere they produced a Flamengo football shirt and got us to pose for photographs with them and the shirt. I guess Joe gave the right answer. We celebrated by dancing Samba in small circles of spectators, Joe whispering to me that Samba was really just a new technique of kicking a lot of sand in the air. Lots of merriment and sandy memories make up the rest of the night, was a big and exciting New Year's Eve we won't forget in a hurry (J: although by the next day I had already forgotten large parts of it).
Later on the first day of the nuevo ano, when we had washed some of the sand away, we visited the Jesus - Cristo Redentor. For the first time in Rio the sun decided to smile a little bit so at least our four hour wait in line to catch the cable car up the mountain wasn't wet. I think a lot of people had the same idea as us that day.
Rio was brilliant apart from the grey but when we heard that the rain hadn't reached Paraty, a coastal town with pretty beaches and only four hours away, we packed up and were on way.