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Sunday 21st February 2010

Brazil = Carnival!

Another overnight bus and a short ferry ride and we found ourselves on Illa do Mel, an island off the East coast of Brazil. The island is car free and is fairly basic and has a few surf beaches but unfortunately there wasn't a wave in sight. There wasn't much to do which suited us as sleep wasn't something that had dominated our trip so far. We spent the days exploring the island and swimming and the nights just chilling. Two nights on the island was all our tight itinerary allowed and before we knew it, it was time to move on.

Another overnight bus to Rio de Janerio was on the cards and upon boarding the bus there was a certain electricity and excitement in the air ... Carnival was going to be epic!

We arrived in Rio in the morning and made our way to the hostel which we payed a ridiculous amount of money to sleep in a triple bunk bed in a crowded dorm. All prices are inflated by a factor of 5 during Carnival but it had to be done!

Our time in Rio sure was an awesome and action packed 7 days. The hostel was in a secure lane with numerous other hostels and was located only a few blocks from Ipanema beach. We were right amongst the action. An old Aussie mate, Mick and his wife Kelly (who is from Brazil) lived around the corner from the hostel and Dane and Claudia were over from London so we had a good group to hang out with. Our days were spent chilling on the beach and exploring the numerous sights Rio has to offer. The afternoons and nights were spent dancing and drinking beers on the street at the numerous "Blockos" (a blocko is an organised street party with music, a couple of floats, thousands of people and blokes selling dirt cheap beers from large eskys). You can either follow the float throughout the streets or just go to the finishing point and wait for the party to come to you.

The weather was absolutely stunning and the temperature hit high 30s most days. One afternoon we caught the cable car to the top of Mount Sugar Loaf and watched the sun set over the city. It was just amazing. Rio truly is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to.

One of the highlights was going hang gliding over the city. Running down the ramp and launching off the edge of the cliff was extremely exhilarating and the first few seconds were quite terrifying. Once I got settled in I was able to relax and enjoy the phenomenal view!

We bought some tickets to the Samba Parade at the Sambrodromo (the big competition samba parade). It was totally crazy. The complexity of the floats and the costumes just blows your mind. Mick, Kelly, Dane and Claudia were actually part of the parade so we got to see them in action.

A Futbal (soccer) game was also on our to do list and we scored some tickets through the hostel to a semi final between two Rio teams, Flamengo VS Botafago. It was a local derby and the atmosphere didn't disappoint and came complete with flares, singing etc. Botafago ended up winning 2-1.

We did a tour of Rocina, the largest Favela (about 200,000 people live there) in South America. A Favela is a type of shanty town or urbanised slum that is controlled by the drug lords and consists of poor living conditions, limited access to services, potential involvement in the crossfire of drug related gang wars and high density illegally built adhoc housing. A bus dropped us at the base of the Favela and then we each hopped on the back of a motorcycle taxi which took us to the top. The group of us then walked through the streets back down to the bottom. It was quite an eye opening experience. Although there was quite an overwhelming smell of sewerage and plenty of rotting garbage in the streets, the people still managed to smile and make us feel welcome. Only about 10% of the people in the favelas are involved in the drug trade so most people work normal jobs but just can't afford to break away from the cycle of poverty.

We also checked out Copacabana beach, ate at a delicious pay by weight restaurant (twice) and went to Corcovada (the famous statue of Christ that overlooks the city).

All in all Rio was incredibly safe and we had such a cracker of a time. The best thing about Carnival is that you get out of it what you want to ie. if you want to party 24/7 you can but you don't have to to have an awesome time!

A funny story from Rio ... I was walking through a park when a bloke came up to me and said that I had dog crap on my thong. I looked down and sure enough there was a nasty looking substance on the toe strap. He had obviously placed it there while I was distracted and coincidentally had a cloth and some cleaning gear and proceeded to remove my thong and clean it. He wouldn't give back my thong until I had payed him about $10AUS ... gold!

Next stop Colombia!

Brazil photos here:

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