Our first few days in Rio de Janeiro …
…. were tough!
The long haul flight kicked us in the bum, and although we have traveled lots together the past few years, our last 10 hour+ flight was London to Auckland over three years ago. We left Bangkok at 2am on a 6 hour Emirates flight, grabbed three hours sleep so that was a success, and with a 50 minute stopover in Dubai we were away shortly after on a 14 hour flight to Rio. We both hardly slept on the 2nd flight, but the whole experience was bearable which I was surprised about as previously I have hated flying long haul with a strong passion.
My uncle and his family live in Rio so we were really lucky to have a friendly face to pick us up at the other end, even more luckier when we realized our three bags had not made it to Rio and were still waiting in Dubai. Although Emirates baggage services were really helpful and were waiting for us with forms to sign to get it all sorted, there was a bit of a language barrier so it was great to let my uncle do the talking (in Portuguese) to make sure the bags would get to us on the same flight arriving a day later.
We went back to my uncles place and made it to 8pm until we had some cereal and fruit for dinner and hit the hay for a 14 hour sleep. Our first full day in Rio ended up with lots of walking around like a zombie, we took a drive to check out some of the nearby beaches and visited a small bloco, since it is Carnival season. We didn’t intend on arriving in time for the festivities and it was actually quite lucky we didn’t end up buying tickets for the parade as it only starts at 9pm and goes to 7am the following day, we would have barely made the first float in this state.
How the parade works is samba schools compete each year and are given 80 minutes to show off their dancing, singing and sometimes even aerial acrobatic skills. The 14 A grade entries are spread across two nights with the winner being judged by the 40 judges across 10 categories and announced the following day. Blocos ring out throughout the city with the lead up, during and post parade, which if you have been to Notting Hill Carnival is very similar but less clothes and if you haven’t been to Notting Hill Carnival it’s a crazy street party with lots of beer, music and singing, dancing revelers. We stood and watched for about half an hour before heading back home again.
This time five hours sleep under my belt (I even caught the end of the parade on TV I was up so early) Rob and I hit the gym here at my uncles apartment, which is small but jam packed with equipment and machines – there is even a range of weight vests! We later headed into Copacabana and were actually a little surprised as we were of course expecting a beach, but after being in South East Asia where anywhere remotely touristy is packed with a multitude of eatery’s, places to drink, street food, travel agents, backpackers, whilst at Copacabana the beach truly was the focal point here. There isn’t any real reason to visit the area if you don’t intend on doing like the locals do and grabbing a piece of sand to sun yourself for the day. Mind you it was a public holiday so things may have been quieter than usual perhaps.
Nine hours sleep this time, we headed out to a spot on Barra beach with my Auntie and Uncle. It is such a different vibe being on the beach here in Rio, people are so casual about it – most don’t even have a towel with them (my uncle later told me that Brazilian people tend to shy away from actually getting into the water). When us Aussie/Kiwi’s head to the beach we pack a whole beach bag, book, hat, water, camera etc. however the Brazilian people are so laid back about the outing it almost seems as if they are sitting in their very own backyard as apposed to a public beach.
My uncle ordered us a whole fried fish that came along with a huge portion of sides – once again lucky we were with locals as he only ordered the one fish and included sides and look how much food we ended up with, I would hate to think how much more food Rob and I would have ended up with if we had done the ordering. Although being a fried fish the batter was much lighter than your usual “fish and chip” style batter and the fish was really meaty.
The short time we have been here we have been finding not knowing the local language has been harder than other cities we have traveled to. You really do need some sort of translator (we have since downloaded a couple to our phones World Lens and Languages) or need to brush up on your basic Portuguese which we will endeavor to do.