The only way to even begin to describe Carnaval in Rio is pure madness! Thousands of people from Brazil and far flung corners of the world descend upon Rio for one huge never ending street party.
Blocos take place in different districts of the city from seven in the morning until late into the night…in fact whatever time of day it is you will find a party. The effort with party goers costumes is phenomenal and there is everything from men in drag, to the mario brothers, Angels to safari animals. In hindsight I should have thought about bringing costumes, but with precious space in my backpack I’m not sure I would have had room anyway. The blocos start in a dedicated location and follow a van through the streets that blares out samba music and often a live band follows. Out of no where, tens of drinks sellers appear offering cervosas, water and cola. Even from a distance you can hear the hum of an approaching bloco and the heaving crowd, so close together, moves as one giant mass.
Unfortunately, as with any huge event pick pocketing is rife, with gringos obviously the main target for smartphone thefts and petty cash. I came away from Rio with everything I went there with (not for long however!), however sadly some of my fellow travellers weren’t so lucky. Rio is an amazing city, but during my stay I did have a constant state of unease about the safety of my belongings and it is definitely a city to keep your wits about you.
For me, the climax of carnaval was Monday night when we had bought tickets for the sambadrome. Having been to the practice evening I had some idea of the atmosphere of the event, but actually being there was something else! Smartphone photos do not truly depict the colours of the parades but hopefully they can show a little bit of the craziness that the samba schools displayed! The evening started at nine in the evening and six samba schools took it in turn to perform for just over an hour and then there was an hours break for snacks, chats and toilet breaks bore the next school began. Each school had a different song which was repeated over and over for the full hour of their show! Fortunately the words were written down so we could attempt to join in with the choruses along with all our fellow spectators! Each samba school consisted of literally tens of thousands of people, parading, drumming, and dancing to impress the judges and win the title of samba school 2015. Each samba school split itself into different sections with elaborate costumes ranging from animals, dancing mirrors, lipsticks, frankensteins and many more! It was possibly the most bizarre and colourful night of my life! There were even sky divers with fireworks, landing in the sambadrome to mark the start of one of the schools! Finishing at six am…we made our way back to our hostel….a bloco had just begun a few streets from our hostel…too tired to continue the party we went to bed, covered in glitter and with samba beats ringing in our ears!