Rio Carnival at Sambadrome

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February 21st 2012
Published: February 21st 2012
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Beautiful carnival costumes
Day 130 Saturday 18th February

Today we are going to Ipanema Beach to check out all the beautiful people and the better shopping area. Once again we took the Metro but this time we headed south to what is the end of the line for the metro in Rio. People everywhere have feathers and masks and beer and all seem to be heading to the beach, so we joined them, (less the beer…surprisingly). We looked around the shops first and although there were some nice ones it did not look that exciting, so we went down to the beach. The landscape around the beach is beautiful, but as for the beach it is hard to tell because it is so crowded with beach umbrellas and people. Before coming here I was very intimidated by what I had read about the beautiful Brazilian people, and don’t get me wrong there are some very attractive women, but most are average just like anywhere in the world, but perhaps not in the number I expected. So I may put my bikini on and hit the beach for a swim later on. We watched for a while and walked back to
Renascer SchoolRenascer SchoolRenascer School

One of the first floats
the train and back to the hotel.

In the arvo we wandered down to the beach and had a few Caprihinas at one of the beach shacks watching the sunset and the hot air balloon taking people up a short distance and down on guide lines.

Day 131 Sunday 19th February and Day 132 Monday 20th February

Today is the day we are going to the Carnival and I am nervous and excited. We have been looking on the internet trying to work out what we are allowed to bring and the information is conflicting so we are very confused. It seems we are only allowed to bring in small bottles of water and we are not sure about the video camera. We also are concerned about the transfers we have arranged to take us and bring us back from the Sambadrome as it is with the same company we got the tickets through and picking them up was chaotic. We went for a walk around the beach and shops at Copacabana and the markets and passed the Riotour office and dropped in to get info which helped.

In general we took
Renascer SchoolRenascer SchoolRenascer School

Medusa in picture frame
it pretty easy as we have a big night ahead and even tried to have an afternoon nap but could not fall asleep. At 5.00pm we headed out to find an early dinner with not too much luck eventually settled on a hamburger which was quick and easy. Got ready me with fairy wings and mask and walked down to the pickup point at the Copacabana Palace Hotel which is a beautiful old hotel which holds a famous Carnival Ball. The hotel is huge and it was extremely crowded around the area so I was starting to get worried that we would not find our group, Scott checked the name of the group and just as he was saying their name I looked up and saw a man walking passed holding a flag with the name – no problem. The bus left about 8.30pm and crawled down the road through all the chaos of Rio’s traffic, as we entered the parking area of the Sambadrome the fireworks started. We were meant to meet another guide inside from the same company to guide us to our section and seat but we just made our own way in as we did not
Renascer SchoolRenascer SchoolRenascer School

Float with trampolines
want to miss anything.

The Rio Carnival parades started back in the 1930’s but it wasn’t till 1984 that they built the huge concrete Sambadrome. At the time it was built a large brewery was alongside the site, which refused to budge so the Sambadrome only ever had grandstands down one side whilst the brewery side had high slender viewing boxes. Last year however the city managed to buy the brewery site, tore it down and in a matter of 6 months duplicate the grandstands down the brewery side. So what we were experiencing was the brand new Sambadrome with new lighting, new sound system and is now over 700 metres long and holds nearly 80,000 people.

We made it to our seats and were settled as the first of the parade appeared and the night began. It is the most amazing spectacle which at times overloads your senses with the colour and detail of the floats. The first school was Renascer this is their first year in the special group (the main event) and their floats had people on trampolines and a large medusa head in a frame plus much more. Initially we thought the schools were running into each other because there were so many floats and dancers it took about 1 hour 15 minutes for the first group go through and then there was a break before the next one started.

The schedule was already out by the time the second school Portela, this group was champions seven times in a row in the 1940’s but recently has not been so lucky. They started over half an hour late, but it did not matter we lost all sense of time completely getting caught up in the night. One of their floats had a huge gold eagle that squawked and another had fountains of water.

The third school was Imperatriz which was one of the stars of the once called “Sambadrome era”. It contained a merry-go-round with people swinging around and an enormous silver crown and a float with a theme of a threesome and debauchery.

The fourth school was Mocidade represents the West Zone Rio dwellers and its full drumming tradition. One of its beautiful floats was of silver trumpets and dancers which appeared to have an Aztec look.

The fifth school was Porto da Pedra who theme for the night
Portela SchoolPortela SchoolPortela School

Giant Eagle
was the story of milk especially yoghurt due to their sponsorship. This did create some unusual floats like the large naked gold lady, but thankfully also great ones like the tiger with cubs, and the tigers head and tail moved around and its nose even twitched, while the cub’s heads bobbed up and down.

The sixth school Beija-Flor who won last year and seemed to have the support of most of the crowd. This group consisted of an incredible float of a slavery ship it had probably the most dancers in between the floats. The crowd all were dancing and singing along just as this group started girls were running through the crowd giving out flags with the Beija-Flor logo and geeing everyone up.

The seventh and last but not least school was Vila Isabel who specialise in history and the struggle of the black race and their theme was Angola. The floats were of African animals with zebra and cheetahs statues and people in animal costumes.

Each school that went through was in almost identical in structure. They always started with a great elaborate set of dancers with great choreography. The dance routine would often take
Portela SchoolPortela SchoolPortela School

Float with beautiful dancers
several minutes and would always park in front of the judges stands (there were at least three along the route) and do their routine. You could always tell when the first float had left the Sambadrome as things then moved quicker. Each school had about 8 to 10 floats and between each float would be several groups of costumed dancers but most were just strutting along. Each group would consist of a minimum of 80 to 100 people, and there would be about 6 to 8 groups between each float. We are unsure of the exact number of participants in each school but at a rough guess it would seem to be close to 8,000 people. In the middle of each school were the drummers, which again would number in the hundreds. They were followed close behind by the singers and other musicians. Each school had a samba carnival song, which is performed live continuously over and over again for duration of their parade. Their performance was as remarkable as the floats and costumes. As you can imagine after hearing a song for an hour and a half you actually got to like it…..but didn’t have a clue what they
Portela SchoolPortela SchoolPortela School

Shelley with the parade passing by
were singing about. Interspersed amongst the floats and costumed groups were the spangled divas, with feathered wings and/or head pieces. They danced and pouted all the way up the sambadrome in there high heels and diamond encrusted underwear, and seemed to always get the biggest cheers from the guys. Not everything went perfectly to plan as a few of the floats had bits and pieces missing, and one got jammed for a minute or two. We saw one guy who had to leave the field and have his heavy costume removed and was taken away by medics, but in general it flowed like clockwork. Each school would be followed by a platoon of guys on brooms cleaning the way for the next school and to ensure the whole sambadrome was spotless for them. A great moment in the night was when one of the cleaners dropped his broom and did a great dance routine and the whole stadium erupted in applause.

It was now daylight and the last float passed us at 6.55am and we could have stayed for more, but it was all over and the crowd had thinned out over the night. We were told that people

African themed float
on average only stay to see about three schools and this appears to be the case as people were coming and going all night. We felt sorry for the older people in the audience as our section was a grandstand and it was very steep to walk up to your seats (which was just the concrete step, but they gave everyone a thin plastic cushion) and the night was quite warm, some of the older people only stayed for about one or two schools.

Each school’s performance was brilliant and I do not know how the judges can choose the overall winner from the 2 nights.

We walked outside and found our guide and were lead to a bus which was nearly full and ready to leave perfect timing. We were dropped off at the Copacabana Palace Hotel and walked along the road near the beach to our hotel and since it was breakfast time we joined the other Carnival goers for food and to slowly wind down. We went to our room and got ready for bed and went to sleep at 9 in the morning. We managed to drag ourselves back out of bed around 4

Water fountains
and at about 5.00pm we headed back out again to the beach to start partying again and seeing another banda street party.

Shelley took over 300 photos on the night and we have manged to cull it down to the small number here, please scroll down to see some more.

Additional photos below
Photos: 40, Displayed: 29



People swinging on merry-go-round
Imperatriz Imperatriz

Silver crown

Vulture Float

Trumpet float

Shelley at the Carnival

Dancer on high platform

Bird costumes

One of the spangled girls

Beautiful dancers
Porto da PedraPorto da Pedra
Porto da Pedra

Tiger float

22nd February 2012

"WOW" how bloody wonderful is that, glad to see you got into the spirit Shelly, so jealous, glad for you both luv me xx
23rd February 2012

Any room in your luggage? The Inner West does not compare! I've resolved to switch from reading the newspapers on the weekends to your blog, I canna keep up and confess to skipping ahead as I marvel over your photos. Ahh...
27th February 2012

Unbelievable!!!! Just amazingly fantastical. Great photo's Shelly. I just cant get over the work that goes into it all, its hard to imagine let alone create. God I so want to see it now. what a great pozie you had and you both have this glowing look about you at 6.45am. Nice mask Scotty, umm hmmmm, not such a boring fart afterall. Oh, thankyou so much for going to Sth America, dealing with all its ups and downs and delivering us with such amazing blogs and photo's, need I say more. Enjoy!!!! xxx

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