I am in Rio and I love this place more than I can express although my liver maybe feeling slightly differently about the experience! I arrived in Rio on Friday afternoon and managed to catch a local bus to my hostel in Ipanema which is lovely. It´s kind of the smart beach area, nicer than Copacobana, with cafes and amazing juice shops on all the corners. I nearly didn´t find the hostel as the entire ground floor is a rather funky little bar. I befriended a Columbian girl, Ivonne from my room, and we sat drinking caiparinhas with a friend of hers in the bar. Just to explain the caiparinhas they serve at home are pale in comparison to the Brazilian ones, these are made with cachaca, a rather strong and extremely tasty sugar liquor drink mixed with ice and lemon and pretty much bugger all else. It´s refreshing, pretty cheap and extremely potent. So after sipping my way through about four of these I realised I was surprisingly drunk! So it didn´t take much persuasion for me to go out at 1am to Lapa until the wee hours in the morning. Lapa is a really old part of Rio with gorgeous delapidated buildings and a huge two tier viaduct. On Friday and Saturday nights the streets turn into one huge party with guys selling beers and cachaca on the streets and loads of samba clubs and bars. Really good fun.
On Saturday afternoon I went to the football and my god, you have never experienced passion for the sport until you go to a match in Brazil. They´ve just built a huge, beautifully sleek new white stadium in Rio and the match was the first game to be played there, Fluminese vs Botafogo. The noise was just immense and everyone was jumping around, singing, starting mexican waves, flashing green flares and it´s so infectious. My the time the match finished and our team Botafogo had won 2-1 we were singing and jumping around along with everyone else.
We got back in time for a fiesta in the ar which for some reason involved us all dressing up like farmers and wearing straw hats and pigtails…we went back to Lapa and after a few hours drinking in the streets and getting chatted up by various amusing groups of Brazilian guys we ended up in a random hiphop club (mainly because it was the cheapest to get into). I have never laughed so hard and so much as I did in that club. On the dancefoor everyone would gather round in a circle and then guys would go into the middle and do this amazing break dancing, head spins, back flips you name it. Well we´d come in with a group of Irish guys we found in the street who decided after an hour that they could give all the Brazilian gangstas a run for their money and were then doing bizarre Irish jigs all over the club. So we witnessed several dance offs between the locals and the Irish and it was the most bizarre and amusing thing I think I´ve ever seen! Later we ended up in another samba club and at 7.30am six of us were sitting on Ipanema beach, before going to bed, watching the morning joggers go past!
Rio is a beautiful city and there are such contrasts between huge skyscrapers, smart hotels in Ipanema, the old historic buildings of Lapa and the many, many favelas sprawling up and down the hills in between the barrios. They also have the most amazing and creative graffiti all over the place. Apparently the most frequent ways for young guys to get out of life in the favelas is either through football or through becoming a popular graffiti artist. Today we went to a artist market in the tiny cobbled streets of Santa Teresea near the Centre. A friend of Ivonne´s from Sao Paulo was in town so he drove us around and four of us went around the markets, had a long late lunch in a great restaurant with pineapple and mint fruit juices…it´s really felt like a weekend, except of course, I don´t have to go to work tomorrow! In fact tonight I am doing a very touristy, fairly foolish thing (considering how little sleep I´ve had this weekend and the balance of cachaca over blood in my veins), I´m going to a party in a favela. It´s all about the favela chic and besides, when else will I ever get to party in a place run by drug lords where they don´t even let the police into the neighbourhood?