16.02.2012 - 21.02.2012 35 °C
18th February 2012
Picture the scene: you've got a beer in hand, you've been out for several hours and you're dancing like you've never danced before. There's the deep sound of African drums all around you and everyone's singing the same song. Behind you is an immense float kitted out with eighteen massive speakers. On top of it are four singers, singing their heart outs.
You look up and around to take in the scene: as far as you can see there are people everywhere. You stop for a second and take off your mask. The guy dressed as a woman in front of you continues to samba away with his partner. The girls dressed in matching alice in wonderland outfits, behind you, continue to dance, and the guy next to you dressed as an Indian, continues to shake his feathers. The beach is to your left, but you can not see the sand for the sea of umbrellas that line it. At the end of it, a dramatic mountain rises from the sea. Behind you an enormous rock separates two of the worlds most famous beaches: Copacabana and Ipanema. You look at the time and realise it's five in the afternoon. You're at a block party, and you realise that you've just sambaed the length of Ipanema beach. The party doesn't look as though it's dying down anytime soon. You try to take it all in as the sun bears down on you. You can feel the energy. You can not help but move your feet to the sound of drums and take in the intoxicating happiness of everyone around. This is Rio at it's finest.
You put your mask back on and keep going. A couple of hours longer and you'll be going home to get ready for the night.
10pm comes. You've showered, changed, eaten a little and had a little rest. You leave your hostel and head to a different part of town. You get there and head to one of the hundred fruit cocktail stalls that line the street and every corner. Caipirinhas all round. The fresh lime, three table spoons of sugar and almost half a bottle of cachaca that make up your drink, provide the perfect anecdote for the scene. Everyone is drinking them.
You and your friends start to walk around. Before long you've bumped into someone you've met before travelling: remarkable given the size of the crowds. You head to the stage to listen to the music where everyone's dancing. You stay a while.
Later you're stood underneath the infamous Lapa arches chatting to friends. The boys in your group suddenly report that they have had their wallets and phones stollen. Someone snatches at one of the girls necklaces and grazes her collarbone. Someone forcefully grabs your purse out of your hand, but drops it when they realise it only contains coins and lip gloss. All your paper notes are tucked safely in the side of your bra. You get your purse back.
You decide to move on somewhere else. You make your way through the crowded streets past all the samba bars to the bottom of Lapa steps: immortalised by Snoop Dog in his video. Groups of musicians entertain people and samba music spills out from the bars as you pass. You arrive at the bottom of the steps and buy another drink from one of the stalls there. You look up. People are sat everywhere. It's a cool scene, but it has an edge. Child drug dealers sit on the side, watched over by eager barons. They're addicted to whatever it is they're selling- you can see it in their eyes. It's sad, but this is Rio's uglier side. You move well away from them and linger for a while taking in the scene.
Eventually you move on somewhere else. You begin to feel tired. You look at your watch it's four am. You convince yourself, you can keep going. You find some more music and stay out for another hour. By then everyone's ready to go home. You walk back in a big group and climb into bed as it's getting light. In a few hours, you will be up and starting it all over again. Only tomorrow night you will head to the sambadrome to watch seven of the best samba schools in the world, give their everything for a chance to be crowned the 2012 champion.