On July 11th, I took a 5am flight from Fortaleza to the heart, soul, and dancefloor of Brazil: Rio de Janeiro. I checked into my dumpy little hostel just a couple blocks away from Copacabana Beach (I really can’t complain about the accommodations: I only decided a week prior that I was coming to Rio, and my pal John kindly booked me into his hostel–I was very lucky to get a dorm bed so late in the game. Plus, at $25 a night, it was only a quarter of what other other hostels were charging!). Once I checked in and connected with John (Remember him? My pasty English friend from the Amazon football/party boat and Manaus [I miss Manaus] who is secretly in love with me?), we met up with a couple of other Brits from the boat (James and Alex) for lunch and to hang out on the famous stretch of beach.
[One stereotype about Rio that I can now negate is that the beach is swarming with hot chicks with tight tushes prancing around in g-strings. Okay, there is lots and lots of thong-wearing in Brazil. Butt cheeks galore. But people of all shapes, sizes, pimples, and dimples are wearing them. I’ve seen a few that could easily moonlight as a hammock. So if you think that you will get an eyeful of pert derrières a la Gisele Bundchen in Rio, think again.]
That evening, there was a jolly reunion in an Irish pub in Ipanema of at least ten alumni from the Amazon boat; right after the England-Italy match in Manaus, everyone had gone his or her separate ways back to their home countries or to travel around Brazil, sightseeing or following their respective teams. But as luck would have it, there was still a handful of us left, and we were rendezvousing in Rio for the final. It was a wild and crazy night that involved an accidentally on purpose but really on accident unpaid bill, the Lapa Arches, Caipirinhas, medical excuses, an almost fight, and strip searches. What happens in Rio stays in Rio.
The next day was spent relaxing and preparing for the following day’s big event: The World Cup Final! On the morning of July 13th, a small little semi-international group of us (the three Brits, four Australians, and three Americans) parked ourselves in a small patch of sand on Copacabana beach, right outside the walls of the Fifa Fan Fest and within eyeshot of the big screen. Soon, we were joined by thousands upon thousands of fellow fans, mostly blue and white clad Argentines, eagerly awaiting the 4:00pm kick off between Argentina and Germany.
By the time the match started, I was hot, my shoes were soaking and filled with wet sand from the incoming tide (I don’t do barefoot), and I was drunk. And I had broken the seal on a packed beach with no public restrooms for miles (Thanks John for letting me use your sarong for a curtain. Sorry I peed on it.). Plus, being smashed between a trillion sweaty people who were all taller than me meant that I couldn’t even see the screen. Rumor has it Germany beat Argentina, 1-0. Way to go Germany–you deserved it.
Celebrations ensued with our sticky, salty, sandy little group first back at the Australian apartment and then out and about in the streets of Rio later. It’s safe to say that I definitely had no business being out in public at that point, and I should have gone directly back to my hostel after the match ended. But it’s Rio. And I was in the last chapter of my trip. I chose to go hard instead of go home. I regretted that choice the next day.
The following day, feeling like death and all things dying and suffering from The Fear, I changed hostels to a cuter, quirkier, quieter part of town: Santa Teresa. I spent the day in pain and feeling sorry for myself for losing my bag and camera the night before; fortunately, I found out that evening that I had simply left it in the Aussie Apartment. Fool. I’m never drinking again.
The next few days I finally took some time to properly be a tourist again, taking a cable car up to Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) for amazing views over the picturesque city, wandering around colorful Santa Teresa and Lapa, enjoying sunset on Ipanema Beach, trying unsuccessfully to get into Maracana Stadium, and, of course, saying hello to Jesus, Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). I also moved out of my hostel after three days and relocated into a spare room at my friend’s apartment in Ipanema (Scott–the big American guy I met the week before in Jericoacoara).
Finally, after a hectic, expensive, abusive, fun, and tiring nine days in Rio, it was with relief that I hopped on a bus on July 20th that would take me out of the city and to a beach. I was not really very impressed with Rio, but I was also there during one of the busiest, craziest, wildest, most expensive weeks it has probably ever experienced. I know that I will definitely have to go back at a quieter time (NOT during Carnival). I was also secretly glad that the World Cup was over. It had been an insanely amazing experience that I will never forget, but I had definitely had my fill of football, chanting, and Brahma beer. Good news is that I have four years to prepare myself for football, chanting, and Vodka in Russia 2018.
Next Stop: Ihla Grande & Paraty.