Rio was fab. When I moved out to Buenos Aires, I had not been expecting a week’s holiday in Brazil. However, after umming and ahhing for a few weeks, we decided that we’d be stupid to turn down the opportunity to spend 5 days in Rio over Carnaval, especially as we were already going to Iguaçu…
We arrived on the Wednesday morning, after our very early flight from Puerto Iguassu.
Our hostel, El Misti Rooms, was 5 blocks from Copacabana beach, so we spent the first day sleeping in the sun and sipping coconuts on the scalding sand.
Carnaval officially started on the Friday, so we had a couple of days to fit in some touristy activities before the city filled up.
On Friday morning, we took 4 buses to the top of the Corcovado mountain to see Cristo Redentor. This is a ‘must-do’, and you do get some fantastic views of the city, but it was jam-packed with tourists and very sweaty. On our way back down, we were told that it was the hottest summer since 1888 (49 degrees on that particular day), so you can imagine how sticky the buses were!
On Saturday morning, we ticked a massive dream off our bucket lists and went hang-gliding. I am determined to do a sky dive whilst in South America and thought that Rio might have been the perfect place, but it turns out that hang gliding is much more popular there. It was really easy to organise through our hostel, and not that expensive considering how incredible it was.
I was not at all nervous – I was actually desperate for it to be my turn -, but waiting for 2 hours at the top of the mountain and watching other people pacing around in circles and biting their fingernails was a tiny bit disconcerting after a while…
Eventually, it was Asha’s turn to propel herself off the platform.
There she is!
Finally, my instructor came back up the mountain and it was my turn to strap up. In broken English, my instructor taught me how to set off (“run, run, run, jump!”), where to position myself during flight, and how to land on the beach.
I just cannot describe what an incredible experience it was. You are literally flying; you feel like a bird! You fly reasonably slowly, and are therefore able to soak up the view and enjoy the flight. I actually think this might be better than skydiving, but I’ll be able to compare the two experiences after I finally do my skydive!
At one point, my instructor allowed me to take control of the glide and fly us over the beach. He even pretended to fall asleep, putting his life in my hands! This was slightly unsettling but an incredible experience – I don’t think many hanggliders get to do this!
This was an incredible experience, and I would love to do it again somewhere else!
The following day, we decided to cycle around the Lagoa Rodrigo de Frietas, but renting a bicycle without a passport proved difficult for some reason, so we opted for the touristy golf buggy instead. So much cooler!
That was about the extent of our touristic time in Rio.
As I mentioned earlier, I had not been expecting to go to Rio at all when I came out to South America, let alone attend Carnaval. This meant that I had no real expectations of what this world-famous street party would be like; everything was just an added bonus to my trip!
The main event of Carnaval is the Sambodromo, the samba parade, which takes place on the Sunday and Monday of the festival. We bought tickets for this, but the rainstorms and traffic dramas got in the way and we unfortunately didn’t make it there in the end. However, this certainly did not ruin our Carnival experience.
We attended various ‘blocos’, street parties which go on constantly throughout the city over the weekend. Live music plays, people walk through the crowds selling dirt-cheap caipirinhas and streetfood, and everyone just lets their hair down and has a good time. It’s fun.
The general atmosphere is so great. Everyone is up for a good time; our hostel was full of fun-loving travellers, and the streets were filled with jolly locals.
You absolutely have to dress up, whether that means flower garlands or men dressing up as women… I personally went for the glittery option, but many fellow carnival-goers had donned bunny ears or tacky Halloween costumes. Literally, anything goes!
I had an absolutely fantastic time in Rio, but gosh it was exhausting. I arrived back in Buenos Aires on the Monday afternoon and practically crawled into bed for the next two days. It took me the best part of the next week to recover!
However, that’s not to say that it wasn’t worth it.
I wrote an article about my carnival experience for The Bubble, but it was so much more fun than I make it sound!
I know how lucky I am to be able to randomly take a week off work to go travelling (athough the fact that I wrote an article about my trip kind of allows me to call it ‘work’…),and I was thrilled by my experience of Brazil.
It just made me love BA even more!