The night was short and we started Carnival Saturday with a chore—moving to another hotel. We were going through an accelerated gentrification process because of the event. Our first hotel was in Copacabana, then when prices rose, we moved to Botafogo. For this final night in Rio de Janeiro, we ended up at Cinelândia, in Centro. We didn’t care much about the hotel, we wouldn’t spend much time in the room.
We checked in, dropped off the bags and headed outside.
“Holy shit…” I muttered.
Carnival and the crowd of revellers had taken over the city centre—or rather, the city centre had been handed over to the people, taken over by craziness of the event. It was like “purge day” without the murders. Imagine: every single business was closed, and by “closed” I mean that windows and doors were boarded up like before a hurricane. There was almost zero police presence but hundreds of thousands of people wandering in the street, drinking, dancing, partying. Booze was sold from street vendors or just BYO, who cares, it’s Carnival!
We joined the Cordão da Bola Preta to party and once again, hundreds of thousands of people marched in the street. It was loud and insane. I loved the costumes, loved the fact that big black dudes can totally dress as princesses and absolutely no one will make fun of them, that tiny old women can be Batman for a day, that everyone is playing nice, all things considered.
I never thought I would ever type these words but the police were pretty amazing as well. Very chilled, helping out when needed. At one point, I saw a big guy approaching an officer from behind. To get his attention, he placed a hand on his shoulder. The officer turned around and presumably answered a question, then they both moved on. Just imagine for a minute the reaction of a police officer in Europe or in the USA when approached from behind and touched by a black guy with a fake pink gun… yeah, Brazilian police is chilled despite the tough job they do.
After partying in Centro, we took the subway to Copacabana where multiple blocos were taking places. While some businesses were open and windows weren’t boarded up, it was the same festive chaos—revellers in costume everywhere, drunk crowd, loud music, partying spilling out on roads and on the beach.
After a few hours, I tried to walk back to Centro while the guys opted for the subway. Bad idea—I was completely stuck in Botafogo where a giant bloco had taken over the neighbourhood. I made it to the hotel by nighttime, changed, put glitters on and we headed back to Ipanema to party with the famous Banda da Ipanema, one of the oldest and most famous blocos.
It was… I’m not going to write “chaotic” again, but just imagine for a minute thousands and thousands of people packed in the small streets of Ipanema, marching, following a small band. For the first time, I got scared. We saw guns, we saw ambulances trying to get through. Crowds can be scary.
Yet, we stood there and we made it. Brazilians are actually very well-behaved drunks. I saw one incident, where a drunk guy tried to start a fight with the banda. Bouncers pushed him back nicely. He tried again, was pushed back and the fight broke out but he was tackled to the ground in a matter of seconds—although it probably wasn’t a pleasant experience for him, there was no violence.
We ended up partying on Ipanema Beach in our swimsuits.
Back to Centro, the party was still going, same craziness, dirtier streets.
We were exhausted by then. Mark had been following (and walking) with us, we ate little, sleep even less and the crowd and the noise were just too much.
We needed to sleep a few hours before the flight.
Last two days of travelling before flying back to Canada will be spent in São Paulo.