Rio gets a hell of a lot easier if you accept the obvious socioeconomic gaps, if you realize you can’t magically fix the issue, if you understand the Carioca beach culture and if you’re prepared for the only form of anarchy you’ll probably be lucky to experience—Carnival.
On day 2 of Carnival, there were no less than 75 blocos scheduled all over the city. And these gatherings draw a crowd, from a few thousands to several hundreds of thousands. The point of all that? Dressing up, drinking, taking over the city.
We didn’t get much sleep after the night at the Sambódromo and Saturday started with a chore—we had to change hotel. Ours was booked, so by chance we found another place for the weekend. It’s overpriced because Carnival and it looks like a jail but hey, we have a place to stay. Sleeping in the street wasn’t a tempting option.
The new hotel is two streets down the first hotel in Catete but by the time we arrived, we were already dripping in sweat. One of the hot days in Rio, 35ºC, feels like 42ºC.
We dropped off the bags and headed to Centro, where the giant Cordão da Bola Preta had been partying since 8 a.m. Downtown Rio, one million people were hanging out, dressed in cavemen, minions, unicorns, police officers or Super Mario.
From Centro, I walked to Botafogo while the guys took the subway. We met at the mall—an easy bathroom stop—and checked out the Bloco do Barbas.
“I think I know why they’re called blocos,” I joked. “They just block an entire neighbourhood!”
We got out of there and jump in a bus to Ipanema, where the famous Banda de Ipanema bloco was going on. The bus wasn’t moving—see joke above—and passengers started singing and banging on the roof and doors, improvising a bus bloco.
“Carnaval,” Mark shrugged.
He says it in perfect Portuguese because he heard it so many times—everything weird is “e Carnaval, ta!”
By the time we got off and walked to the epicentre of the giant Ipanema bloco, I was dead. It was close to 6 p.m. and we had covered four or five neighbourhoods and walked our way through millions of people.
It took me two hours to go back to Catete. The guys weren’t much faster, the subway was apparently stuck for twenty minutes at each station.
I feel like I’ve been stuck in the tumbler of a washing machine. I’m sweaty, I have glitter all over and I’m exhausted.
And tomorrow? We expect pretty much the same.