Rocking in Rio!

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October 9th 2019
Published: January 5th 2020
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After a long day of travel from Foz De Iguazu, I had finally reached the city of Rio De Janeiro. I had started my trip in Peru, all the way on the Pacific side of the continent, and several weeks and thousands of kilometers later I was now on the Atlantic. The sun had dipped and I ordered an Uber to take me into town. Shawn had already arrived several hours earlier, and had rented us an Air BnB condo for the next few days in the fancy district of Ipanema; known for its shops, cafes, and beach. I had heard loads of things about Rio, but having enough travel experience I've learned to come to my own realizations. Still, like many other cities, it's important to keep your head up and eyes open. Also probably a bad idea to wander into a random favela. I arrived at a nice looking building about 25 minutes later and went up to the second floor. There I met up with my brother, as well as Lening! Shawn and Lening had been drinking for a few hours. I joined the party and had some pasta my brother made. We all caught up for the rest of the evening.

I guess I should summarize; Lening was my psychology teacher a few years ago, back when I was in nursing school. Amazingly he realized a little about me when I walked into class wearing an Iron Maiden shirt. So for most of that semester we talked about all sorts of metal and rock music. I would even go to a few shows in town with him or see him there. Funny to think how a phD professor originally from Puerto Rico, who was only a few years older than me, was a massive Maiden fan who followed them on tour for countless concerts. He eventually moved back to the USA, more specifically to New England, then Washington D.C., then across the country to LA. Randomly Shawn and I went to an Iron Maiden show, back in August in our hometown of Montreal, when he recognized me at the end of the show. He was following the band across the continent and had been to about 20 or more shows so far. Maiden's Legacy of the Beast tour had begun back in 2018 and is still ongoing at this time. I've seen Maiden about ten times, and had seen them twice previously on this tour already. That would soon turn into a third time! The main reason to travel to Rio was that Maiden would be headlining one of the days at the world famous music festival Rock in Rio! This would be a throwback to 1985, when Rock in Rio made its inaugural debut with heavyweights like Queen, James Taylor, ACDC, Rod Stewart, and many others headlining the festival. Iron Maiden performed there as well so this was a throwback.

The day had finally come; it was October 4th and that meant the heavy metal/hard rock day at Rock in Rio. We had tickets to this event since last November so this was a long time coming. The first half of the day we spent just going around the local area around our AirBnB and getting some supplies. We had lunch at Bob's, a Brazilian fast food burger joint. Lening's fluent Spanish came in quite handy because, although the language in Brazil is Portuguese, there are many parallels between these two languages and he was able to communicate with the locals. By early afternoon we decided it was time to get to the festival, so we hired an Uber, which took us outside the main city to the festival venue, known as the City of Rock. At this point none of us had seen much of Rio yet, so we got to have a little sightseeing on the way there. The driver dropped us off at the entrance, and we had a twenty minute walk to the gate. Part of the festival was sponsored by Uber, so they had a special drop-off area. Uber is HUGE in Rio and is also dirt cheap compared to North American standards. The excitement was electric and loads of people were walking alongside us, wearing all sorts of band shirts. The three of us had each a different Iron Maiden shirt. After getting our festival bracelets, we proceeded inside. Lening was adamant on getting tons of photos with both his cellphone and small camera...mostly of himself in the shots! We approached the main stage where Brazilian band Sepultura were performing. Then we muscled our way through the crowd to get in as close as possible. Usually at festivals I'll be walking around to different stages and checking out all sorts of bands. I quickly realized this might not be possible here. There were slated to be about a hundred thousand people, so getting a good spot in front of a stage was going to be a better strategy. The next band was Helloween, a German power metal band, which I'm not very familiar with but they performed amazingly. Meanwhile other stages were having concurrent performances. Luckily when there were no performances at the main stage, the screens would broadcast other stages so we got to see most of the Anthrax and Slayer sets. Finally Iron Maiden performed for a solid two hours to screaming fans. Their set-list remained the same as with the other shows on their tour, but it was still pretty awesome. We managed to get to within a few rows of the barrier, and Lening actually made it all the way up front somehow. Probably all of his live show experience! Although Maiden was the headliner for this day, there was a special guest band that would be playing after them. By midnight The Scorpions took to the stage, and put on a great performance. They were also one of the original bands to play back in 1985 here in Rio so this was very fitting. After they finished their set, the crowd began to disperse away from the stage. We were all physically exhausted by this point, having spent the last seven hours standing, shouting and battling the crowd. We sat on some grass in front of a few concession stands to rest a bit. Then we got some food from Bob's Burgers again. This one had a festival flavour to it, but I was so hungry that I didn't care. We checked out some merch stands after that and it wasn't until about four that morning that we boarded an Uber to head back home. We all passed out during the ride and then got back at around five or so.

There was no doubt that we would end up sleeping in until about noon. Then we got up and went to a burrito joint for lunch. We then grabbed an Uber to check out some of Rio, and figured we'd start with the most famous monument in the city and possibly in the world; Christ The Redeemer. Located on Corcovado mountain, this 30 meter high statue overlooks the city. We got transport to the top and then had to wait a bit until we were able to make our way up to the platform housing the statue. When we did walk up, the sun was already beginning to set, casting some interesting light onto the monument. The statue certainly was impressive, and so was the surrounding views of the city. After the sun had fully set, the statue was lit up with spotlights. We spent about an hour here and then headed back down. Then we grabbed another Uber to the Copacabana district so we could meet some friends of Lening. We arrived at a restaurant called Beef Bar, and at that point the place was packed so Shawn and I originally sat alone until more space opened up to join the others. We met Adam, Raul, and Ricardo who were all Americans. Then German and his girlfriend from Columbia joined us. Lening knew all these guys through meetups at Maiden shows as well as the Iron Maiden fan club. More than ever I began to realize how much of a community this was. After dinner we all walked along the beach and then stopped at an outdoor beach bar to have some caipirinhas.

The next morning I got up a little earlier than the others and walked along Ipanema Beach. Then we all lazily began to pack up our things because it was time to check out by noon. Lening had to make his way back home this day, but found out that his flight would be delayed until possibly the next morning. This would give him a little more time to see more sites with us. We took an Uber (yes this is our preferred form of transport here in Rio) to Copacabana and Shawn and I checked into a dorm room at Cabana Copa Hostel. A girl from Scotland was also checking in, and after talking to her for a bit, we all decided we'd go to check out the 396m high Sugarloaf mountain. We grabbed some lunch at a cheap sandwich place and then headed over. We took a large gondola up to the first peak, which had awesome views. Very quickly the clouds began to move in. By the time we reached the higher peak, we were socked in. Nonetheless it was cool to just hang out there. Lening wanted lots pictures of him with everything. As dusk began to approach we descended back down and made our way to the hostel. From there Lening departed from our company, as he was going to be staying in a hotel provided by his airline near the airport. Shawn and I went out later on and just walked around until we found a street side restaurant and ordered a bunch of beer with our food, enjoying the sites and sounds of the street. We continued drinking for a bit when we got back to the hostel, hanging out with some other travelers, many of whom had attended some Rock in Rio days.

The next day we went back to that sandwich shop and then walked along Copacabana Beach for most of the afternoon. It's true what they say about Brazilians in thongs. It was a warm day with a mix of sun and cloud. We walked quite a bit before heading back to the hostel. There we met up with more travelers and sat around drinking with them for the evening. Rain began to fall late in the evening and we walked to a nearby Bob's for a late snack.

The next morning we got up early and checked out of the hostel with all our gear. We Ubered down to the central bus station and had breakfast at a shop while we waited for our bus. We were heading to Sao Paulo, approximately six hours southwest of here. Had Shawn been able to get me a Z fare to go along with him we probably would have flown, but this was by far the cheaper option. I gazed out from my window seat at the Brazilian countryside scenery. We reached Sao Paulo central station and again took an Uber to the airport. Air Canada had a flight that evening to get to Toronto. The passenger loads looked pretty good for getting on, which is why we ended up leaving a day earlier. The best part...we managed to snag some first class seats! This is only the second time I would be experiencing the luxurious first class pods and fine dining, thanks to Shawn! Obviously this was something I could never experience out of my own pocket. But having a ten hour flight ahead of us, this would be a great way to cap off yet another awesome adventure! Until next time....

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