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Published: February 18th 2012
Rio de Janeiro
Copacabana at Sunset
Day 126 Tuesday 14th
Happy Valentine’s Day – Up at 6.00am we have decided to get the Metro to the bus station, so got ready and paid our bill. With our backpacks on we walked uphill to the metro station a bit tough in the morning with no breakfast, but made it and jumped on the train to Praiso where we had to change. Here we went up to the escalators to the other platform and just missed a train not to worry they run about every 5 minutes. The next train was packed and we could not get on then it was delayed and did not leave the platform for about 10 minutes, a bit of a worry but we had plenty of time. The next one was even more crowded and two carriages were empty because the doors would not open, the following train was even worse, now we had to decide whether to persist or get a taxi. We opted to try one more time and were positioned at the front of the line to get on, we said to each other just push on no matter what and that is what we
Rio de Janeiro
Shelley at Copacabana Beach
did. It was a bit squashy but not as bad as the previous trains, and after two stops it began to clear out. We arrived at the bus station in plenty of time and had a quick rest and a bite to eat before hopping on the bus.
On our bus were two hippy dippies, the guy decided to play (well make a screeching sound) oh no please not the whole journey thankfully they fell asleep. The journey was good and the bus had a stop for half an hour for food etc in another huge restaurant. As we reached the outskirts of Rio the hippies woke up and he pulled out a ukulele and started playing and singing all off key, all I could think of was Sue from Nine Design saying “Stop that warbling” when someone started singing. Family and friends really should tell loved ones if they can’t sing, I overheard him say he was going to busk for money I think he is going to starve. We saw the statue of the Cristo Redentor and we knew we were in Rio – WOW, when we arrived at the bus station we arranged a taxi from
one of the booths it is a set price which is good.
The hotel is at Copacabana Beach and it has cost us a bomb, but lucky we arranged this one and paid for it before leaving Australia. As we were checking in there were three couples all from the same group complaining about their rooms and demanding to be upgraded, the staff explained the hotel was full and they just keep whinging. We started to get concerned that our room was going to be a dive, the staff were friendly and got us checked in and we were shown to our room. No problem it is very nice and has a balcony overlooking the beach, so we are finally here in Rio and settled. We jumped in the shower and got ready for a night on the town, the first bar we passed on due to loudmouth English football types and chose the next one. I had a Caipirinha which is a Brazilian drink made with a high-proof sugarcane alcohol, crushed lime, sugar and ice it is very nice but need to be careful not to have too many. The bar served food so we ordered dinner and
Rio de Janeiro
enjoyed sitting looking at the beach as the sunset, these bars look nice but are the haunt of older men and working girls. By the end of the night there were about 30 girls working in our bar/restaurant alone meaning they out-numbered the diners. We walked back to our hotel stopping at a supermarket to pick up water and supplies.
Day 127 Wednesday 15th
Been travelling for 127 days now and we have finally ended up in Carnival city, which was always a large priority of the trip. With our very expensive accommodation locked in and with tickets booked for the carnival on Sunday we had to make it here on a set date and by some miracle we have. In theory we should have jumped out of bed at the crack of dawn pumped and excited at being here but we probably had one too many last night in celebration of being here and of course Valentine’s day and so we didn’t stumble out of bed till nearly 9. The breakfast spread at the Acapulco Copacabana Hotel was pretty good and finally Shelley could get an ordinary black tea.
Rio de Janeiro
Igreja Sao Francisco Da Penitencia
per our usual routine, the first day in town is always spent just doing a walk around getting the lay of the land. We just walked down the back streets of Copacabana till Shelley spotted a beautician and on a complete whim decided that today was going to be the day she would get her eyebrows done. They couldn’t fit her in for another 40 minutes and so we trotted back to the hotel where I picked up one of our many books before returning to the beauticians. I sat in a nearby café having a beer (or two) reading while Shelley had her treatment. On her return (looking radiant of course) we sat for another beer before returning to our room.
We have 11 days in this town and from Friday the whole place apparently becomes party central and so we spent the afternoon trying desperately surfing the net trying to get details. Got a few snippets but it seemed like the whole thing is a bit of a local secret.
Late in the afternoon we headed out once more for a walk around and ended up having dinner at the café we were at earlier. The
Rio de Janeiro
feed was fairly ordinary so we vowed to find better tomorrow. When we returned home we gave a call home to our folks, which is always great to speak to them on skype and makes us realise how much smaller the world has become with the internet.
Day 128 Thursday 16th
We were up earlier today feeling refreshed and ready to take on Rio. Today we had to go into town to pick up our tickets for the Carnival parade at the Sambadrome on Sunday. The issuing of tickets for the Sambadrome is heavily regulated in an attempt to stop scalpers, and the tickets are not available till a few days before hand and this year it was actually yesterday. There is a main Government body/company that organises the Carnival and issues tickets but you cannot book tickets from them over the net unless you are a local. The job of farming out tickets to overseas Gringos is farmed out to several other agencies one of which is Rio Carnival Services, which is the one we chose. The company came highly recommended in the Lonely Planet along with numerous other internet forums.
Rio de Janeiro
Catedral Metropolitana stained glass window
We were very nervous about buying tickets for the carnival over the net and so we spent an endless amount of time on the net researching our options and this company kept coming up number one and seemed actually to be the only real choice. When we had booked the tickets we could have had them delivered to our Hotel all pick them up ourselves and being the control freaks we are we chose to pick them up. The pickup point was in the centre of town and we figured this would give us the chance to look over town once we had the tickets in hand.
After breakfast we headed out the door and walked the 7 blocks down to the local Metro Station. As per the metros in other towns, we only had to pay a flat rate that enabled us to travel to any station in town. The train was seriously crowded but it was bearable and we were soon at our destination of Cinelandia in the centre of Rio de Janeiro. When arranging our pickup we had to actually slot in a time (We chose midday) and we ended up getting there an hour early
Rio de Janeiro
Streets of Rio
so after first checking out where we had to go we had a walk around town, before returning at 11.45.
As stated before Rio Carnival Services is not only the most recommended distributor of tickets for the carnival but it is also the biggest and I think one of the longest running companies that do it. We had this mental image of the pickup point being this large building (or even marquee) with orderly queues od done in the most professional of setups…….wrong. What we got was an old building that was no bigger than a narrow Surry Hills terrace, and we were pointed up to the third floor where we were given a number and pushed into a small very, very crowded room full of dozens of other bewildered tourists. The girl who gave us our number was “happy do wacky” and was trying to make us feel as if waiting for hours in a hot crowded room was going to be an experience of a lifetime. We just knew that we were in trouble when shortly after getting in the room they started calling for number 72 and we were number 102. Luckily we found ourselves next
Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa with the people starting to arrive for the street party
to the only window in the room as the place didn’t have any air conditioning so at least we got a bit of a breeze. There was only a handful of chairs so just about everyone had to stand and all the time more and more people came in. There were about a dozen staff running around in circles coming and going most with pointless clip boards and occasionally they would call out numbers and the lucky recipients would be escorted out of the room down a corridor. We stood in this god awful hot room for an hour and a half before we finally got our number called and it was “happy do Whacky” girl who gave us the good news, but by this time her over the top bubbly personality was like finger nails down a chalk board to me. Now when we had booked these tickets and the pickup we were told how we had to have on us proof of purchase and lots of ID before we would get the tickets. In the end all I had to show them was a print out of the confirmation email and we had the tickets in our hand,
Rio de Janeiro
The crowd building at Santa Teresa
and this took all of 30 seconds. Soon discovered that we didn’t have our arranged transfer tickets and we were then directed down the corridor to another room so we could get them. The new room was Chaos central, half filled with chairs and the rest with boxes filled with ticket envelopes and a dozen staff rummaging through them looking for names. After a short stuff around we were given our tickets and then had a further wait after being told that we had to confirm something with another woman who was busy with another customer. Finally after 2 hours we were out of there with everything we needed and with a little less sanity. I don’t think I have ever seen anything run as badly as this, and I am sure the evacuation of the Costa Concordia was done with more precision. The tickets were all in an envelope with a barcode and a person name on the front, you would think that all you needed to do was show ID (which they never asked me for) and they would drag it out and hand it over. There were about twenty people running this operation and it still took
Rio de Janeiro
Shelley in the crowd at Santa Teresa
2 hours to process 30 people….couldn’t run a duck farm.
Got out of there at my wits end and against all good reason decided that we would push onto a walk around town. Did I tell you that it was stinking hot, well it was, probably about 36 degrees with no breeze and I probably wasn’t in the right frame of mind for a look and a shop but it was a great eye opener to the heart of Rio. The town centre is like any large city with ugly high risers interspersed with grand aging buildings. Compared to other large cities we have been to, such as Buenos Aires, Santiago, Montevideo and even Sao Paulo, Rio does seem a lot more un kept, untidy and in serious need of some refurb work. Sao Paulo is bigger but Rio feels and seems more crowded and a lot more unruly and you definitely needed to be more alert and on your toes. There were numerous large groups of homeless people around town and they seemed more prevalent around churches, none gave us any hint of trouble or hassle and were more a reminder of the dire social problems the world’s
Rio de Janeiro
People in costume at Santa Teresa
fifth largest economy has.
We wandered around till we found ourselves in the town’s market area that stretched over several streets and was filled with hundreds of stores selling costumes and paraphernalia associated with the carnival. Most of the stuff on offer you would get for free in a Freddo Frog showbag at the Easter Show, like big plastic glasses, coloured wigs, plastic hat; you know that sort of crap. Shelley picked up several pieces for a costume for Sunday night but I have resolved to go dressed as a grumpy old backpacker, something that will require very little effort on my behalf. The crush of people through this market area was mammoth and it was with a great deal of relief that we finally extracted ourselves. We wandered down a street with a smattering of antique stores before we came across the town’s modern cathedral. The Cathedral was built in the 1970’s and is one huge concrete cone, and it is an amazing piece of concrete work but unsure if it is beautiful or even awe inspiring. Once you get inside you realise that rather than being completely made of concrete, there are four floor to ceiling stained
Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa and the start of the crush
glass panels that are really amazing although we were unsure of what they actually depicted. The stained glass windows do soften the concrete slightly but I just couldn’t stop feeling that we were sitting in the Death Star.
We headed back to where we started passing lots of homeless people and a bunch of kids, one of which had an unsuccessful grab for my watch. To conclude the day we found a bar in the centre of town and had a beer before heading back on the Metro. The town centre was nothing like we had expected and to me it came as a bit of a shock at how rundown it all was.
Day 129 Friday 17th
Some days just do not turn out as planned we need a laundry and decided to drop off the dirty clothes on the way to the Ipanema Beach. We passed one that had reasonable prices so I took it in and the lady sort of ignored me then grabbed the bag and threw the contents into a washing machine and started it. The problem is she gave us no docket, so
Rio de Janeiro
Santa Teresa in the crush
I went to ask her and she pointed to the timer which said 30 minutes, oh no it is a do it yourself laundry so we are stuck here for over an hour by the time till it is finished. We went for a walk and looked for a bank then headed back after 25 minutes not finding a bank, and waited for the wash to finish so it could go in the dryer. Scott decided to head out again as he remembered where he saw a bank and I sat looking at our clothes tumble around. Once the clothes were finished we dropped off the clothes and as we were walking to the station we passed a Riotour office which is supposed to have all the carnival details. We went in and asked for a carnival guide which they passed over Scott then asked for a map ok we got that too, we walked out and returned hoping maybe they may have the schedule of the street parties and yes we got that too. We are finding it is like pulling teeth with the people from Rio there is no help or advice only what you ask for specifically,
Rio de Janeiro
The parade passing by at Santa Teresa
instead of having a tourist bag put together with everything in it. As we walked to the station reading all the info we discovered that there was a street party in Santa Teresa called the Carmelitas starting at 3.00pm so we changed our plans and headed in that direction.
Got off the train at a station called Gloria and started walking and walking up hill till we hit the right area. The crowd had gone to a lot of effect with their costumes and there were vendors set up all along the street selling drinks which were mainly alcoholic and very little food not a good mix. Added to this were countless motorcycle taxis roaring at full speed through the crowds, carrying people and supplies (ie beer and ice). With all the tram lines up and down the roads I wouldn’t be even riding a bike up and down at the speed they were doing, but amongst a drunken crowd was almost suicidal. Providence must have been shining on them today because fortunately we didn’t see a single accident. People just seemed to be walking backwards and forwards and we were not sure if this was all that happened as there was no music. We walked around and discovered around the bend the crowd was so packed that you could not move so we went back to our original position and continued to watch the crowds go past getting more and more drunk. About two hours later we heard some music and it was too late we were trapped by a tidal wave of people pushing and shoving along the street in front of a couple of bus with bands on top and people playing things similar to lager phones in between. We were absolutely crushed for about an hour before it all passed and we could get to the other side of the street and make our way out and back down the street. Santa Teresa looking very interesting and normally there is an old tram that goes through the area, but today is not the day to look around. There seemed to be large crowds starting to follow us down the hill, and had us wondering if “was that it?” We had expected there to be music everywhere and dancing but it was only the buses that generated the party and if you did not want to follow the crush it passed you by. It kind of reminded us of maybe “The Hill” at the SCG in the 1970’s and 80’s when people could carry all the booze they wanted to onto the hill and then get smashed in the full sun, and act like yobs. I have never seen so much beer being sold in all my life and it was more like a full kilometre of beer vendors. Amongst the crowds were large groups of young men who would break out in chanting from time to time, which again reminded me of Australian yobs singing “Khe San” at the back of pub at the end of a night. We were unsure if “the party” would continue into the night, but was glad to get out when we did because we were sure it would only get messier as the night went on. And because there was no music (of any description) there really wasn’t any point in just standing around getting drunk with an unruly crowd. On the walk to the station there were a lot of very messy people and lots of empty vodka bottles, lucky we got a train quickly and were back in Copacabana by 8.00pm. We dropped back at the hotel quickly before going out to dinner as we walked around we passed another street party that was similar with one bus with a band and this time a singer going down the street with crowds following, but at least here on the beach front the roads and footpaths are very wide so the crush was confided to the people following the music.
We had dinner and walked home and retreated from the crowds if not the noise for the night.
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