It’s always good to look back at pictures, dredging up memories of days gone by. But every now and then, you do something that you’re going to remember for the rest of your life, even without ANY pictures. For me, it was dancing, yes dancing in Rio De Janeiro during Carnival! As one of the biggest holidays in the world, Carnival in Rio is world renown for its festivities, costuming and all-around craziness. I had a group of friends that were all pretty familiar with Brasil and I had always wanted to visit so yeah, let’s book that trip! Little did I know but the group had bigger plans. We’re going to dance in the Sambadrome, is that ok with you Ron? Well what am I going to say? I’m heading down with five women, who am I to say no? And yeah, what goes on in Rio, stays in Rio. I hope…
We spent the first part of our vacation doing the usual tourist stuff: Sugarloaf, Christ the Redeemer and of course the beach. About three days in we start the preparation. One of our friends picks up the costumes and we meet up at her apartment. There are trash bags for each of us and as we pull the pieces of the costume out of our bag, we’re all cracking up. If you crossed a peacock with a Roman gladiator, well that would describe what we were going to wear! For the men, there was a large chest-plate, wrist guards, a rainbow smurf hat and then a array of spined, glitter sticks popping out of the back of the whole get-up. And oh yeah, underneath it all a skimpy pair of blue shorts and white short socks, OMG. And I’m not saying the girls’ costume looked any better but they sure as hell seemed more comfortable with it.
Along with the costume we were given a lyric sheet and recording of a song that would be used for our gringo Samba troupe. Each troupe/neighborhood has a special song as tribute for Carnaval that had historical meaning for the community. And yeah, it was going to be a bit hard given I don’t speak Portuguese but what the hell, I was pretty much winging the entire vacation!
The next night we’re back at the apartment and prepping for the parade! We’re in our short little shorts, glitter is being sprayed everywhere and we’re just cracking up at each other. Beer is being passed passed around to calm our nerves because none of us know what to expect. Thank god I’ve been working out so I look ok in my little shorts! We pile into a couple of cabs and head on over to the Sambadrome, trash bags in hand. When we reach the queueing and preparation area, things are pretty much in chaos which is not unusual for Rio. We do some investigation and yes, of course we’re in the wrong spot and running out of time. We all grab our bags and start racing through the streets of Rio. We pass one old Brasilian fellow, he looks at me and my Filipino female friends and exclaims, “Ahh, Chinese samba troupe…” Which is close enough, I’m pretty sure this guy has pretty much seen EVERY-thing over the years.
When we finally reach the prep area of our school, I finally start putting on my gear and it’s a spectacle. I’m laughing my ass off at the other guy in the group, Dave who’s a pretty tough looking dude, but looks absolutely silly in his costume. Eventually we start moving into the Sambadrome and it’s pretty much a blur for me from there. Music is blaring, the bleachers are filled with throngs of cheering Brasilians at 2am and we move forward as a uncoordinated unit. The gringos don’t know what the hell we’re doing but it’s our fees that pay off the rest of the troupe costumes!
While part of me is a bit embarrassed, you’re one of 500 gladiator-peacocks so who cares, lets have some fun! The dude next to me is totally getting into and thrashing about acting as if people can actually see him individually. And the jack-ass is moving about so much, he nearly pokes me in the face with his sharp peacock feathers. I start to give the Dancing Queen some space just for pure safety. The Sambadrome is 700 meters long which is a LONG way at this pace. It takes us a nearly an hour plus to get through but the noise and adrenaline from the crowd keeps us going. Eventually we get to the other end where a lot of people are grouped up, find my friends and we’re off into the stands to watch.
It’s 4am and the crowds are still pumped and it’s amazing to see the samba troupes parade through. Even more amazing for us to think that we were down there just an hour ago. We get some drinks and beers to celebrate and then it’s back to the hotel for a 6am bed time. I’m pretty sure I’m not EVER going to do this again so scratch one more item off my Bucket List! Rock on Rio and may the dancing never stop…