Date Written: Feb. 13, 2002 (10:15 p.m.)
Current Location: Buzios hostel
Subject: Ipanema and the Sambodromo...Goodbye Johanna:(

Monday, Feb. 11, 2002
The next day I woke up pretty early considering the late night I had. I guess my stomach was ready for more food even though I had that Misto Quente the night before on the way home. Johanna and I went upstairs and grabbed some free breakfast at the hotel. Man, I am starting to become addicted to Papayas and bread/butter/jelly in the morning. I had heard a lot about how good the "suco" (juice) is supposed to be down here but I have to say that I am pretty unimpressed so far. Maybe I’m not drinking it in the right places.
After breakfast, I took a quick little nap...then we showered and it was finally time to hit the beaches in Rio, which was something I was looking forward to quite a bit. I decided to risk it and take the video camera out on the beach with me...the risk versus the reward was certainly worth it.
Since we had only had a little bit to eat for breakfast, we decided to go and grab a quick meal at a place next to our hotel. It was VERY quality. Eating here is so cheap. The meal I had would have easily cost over $15 in the US...here it was about $4. I had a ton of great seafood. Perfect.
Our hotel was only about 3 blocks from the beach in Leblon so that was where we started out. We basically walked along the beach soaking up the sights for about a mile until we were at Ipanema. That’s where we decided to set up camp. Now, I couldn’t do the scene justice in words so I won’t even try. Let me just say that the women of Brazil more than live up to anything you may have heard about how beautiful they are. Seeing Johanna in a bikini wasn’t exactly painful either. There are some decent beach pictures but in order to really appreciate it, you have to see the video.
Now, that being said, I have to say that there was a big aspect of the beach that was very dissappointing. I’m on Ipanema beach in Rio in the middle of Carnival...where the hell is the party??!! That’s what I was talking about before. I mean, it didn’t seem like it was any different than it would have been any other time of the year. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely PACKED out there. But it wasn’t like people were all bombed and it was going nuts out there. It WAS very cool out there, but nothing like I thought it would be.
Tony and I sat and soaked up some rays for awhile with Johanna and then decided to venture off on our own for awhile. We walked along the beach for a really long time. We began to realize that we had gotten to the beach a bit early (I think we got there around 1). By 3:00, the beach was absolutely packed. It still lacked in craziness but it was the most packed I have ever seen ANY beach.
Ahhh, yes. I must pause here to tell about one aspect of the beaches in Brazil that is absolutely perfect. There are tons of people walking around selling beer!! And it’s only about 60 cents a can!! Seriously, beer is so available in this country it blows my mind. Wherever I turn there is some guy there selling beer. Perfect.
So we walked along the beach, drinking a few beers and filming what we could. Finally we heard some party music off in the distance so we decided to head towards it. It turned out to be pretty funny because it was the gay section of the beach!! Not really surprising though...the only people partying out there were the gay guys. What is cool in that situation is that you have an easy in with girls because they crowd to the gay section as a safe zone. We hung out for awhile there and it was actually pretty cool. Some guy tried to sell us weed for the billionth time but the whole exchange was pretty funny. That guy just wouldn’t leave us alone!
At that point, we had left Johanna alone for almost 2 hours so we decided to head back to where she was. We found her and then about a half hour later headed back to the hotel to rest. We hung out there for awhile and it was great down time. It seemed like my first "during the evening" down time of the trip. We decided to go out for a nice dinner that night and then we would head to the Sambodromo.
The Sambodromo is the stadium where all the Samba schools in the city actually do their performances for Carnival. Most of the pictures that people have seen from Carnival where people are dancing in these elaborate outfits with tons of topless chics are pictures from the Sambodromo. It is the essence of Carnival.
Well, when we went out for dinner that night around 11, we went to this cool seafood place that we found near the hotel. While we are sitting there eating dinner, Johanna says that she thinks she sees the girl from the previous night that Tony hooked up with. Well it turned out that it WAS her. Of all the places to eat in Rio!! Well, I just lost it and I could not stop laughing (you have to know the whole story). It was probably the hardest I laughed on the whole trip. Very quality.
From there we caught a cab all the way across town to the Sambodromo. We had heard that people pay upwards of $300 for really good seats so we were a little worried. We heard that if you go late though, you can usually get some cheap tickets. When we got there we discovered what I would call the hugest outdoor party I have ever seen. Across the street from the stadium there is this enormous open area that was packed to the brim with people. There was an enclosed area (that probably held 25000 people) that had bands playing on a stage. Outside of that there was just a HUGE party going on. I could not express to you how it looked to see SO many people out there. It was still a bit early in the night so we decided to check out the party in the streets for awhile before starting the search for tickets to the Samba parade. The whole thing was a bit shadier than I expected but still pretty cool…although once again it was MUCH less crazy than I thought it would be. I really expected more for it being Carnival. We killed about an hour and a half wondering around, eating and drinking and then decided to hit the Sombodromo.
Ticket prices were indeed pretty high and we quickly learned that the good sections in the middle were WAY out of our price range. They were also really tough to come by. Looks like Mr. Walk, my econ prof in highschool really knew what he was talking about when it came to supply and demand. Anyway, after talking to countless people (none of which looked like the most trustworthy folks) we finally managed to get three tickets for 170 reals (about 65 bucks) so that wasn’t bad. Only a bit more than 20 bucks each. Not bad.
So finally we were inside! Carnival at it’s supposed best. We got inside and found some seats. It was pretty nuts in there. Everyone was dancing around. The performances were REALLY good. The floats were so elaborate and the colors were just astounding. I just never saw so many colors at once. They were so brilliant. What was really cool was seeing how something that looks so chaotic up close comes together as an amazing performance when you see the whole thing from a distance. It was great. I don’t think they ever stopped playing the same song though:)
What was also funny was that as the night started to roll on into the wee hours, instead of guys walking the stands selling beers, they began to sell cappuccinos…they had these huge heated tanks strapped on their backs like storm troopers in Star Wars. It was pretty funny. There were people who were sleeping all around us. People would just take naps for awhile and then just get up and start dancing again. It was cool. Brazilian’s know how to keep it going.
We finally left that place around 4:30 or so but getting out of there wasn’t the simplest task. First we started to take this taxi but the guy tried to charge us double what we had paid for the ride there. Of course, we were like "No way!" Well, he had already started driving and was already beyond row of cabs waiting outside the Sombodromo. Now that row of cabs was probably about 30 long and it is a pretty long wait because not a lot of people were leaving. Well, we just got out since he was trying to rip us off so he got what he deserved because he had to go around the block and get BACK in line. Heh heh.
The second cab we got was a fair price and we were back at the hotel in no time to catch some Z’s. I remember that I was really starting to hit the wall at the point. It was so many looooong nights. I really needed rest, but hey, you know my philosophy…I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2002
The next day we were up around 10 and it was time to check out. Sadly, the day had finally arrived that Johanna and I would finally go our separate ways. We were supposed to spend the day together that day at Copacabana but it turned out she didn’t want to go. Tony and I weren’t going to miss out on the opportunity so we were on our way. Johanna went out to Leblon and we decided to meet back at the hotel later in the day before Tony and I were going to take off for Buzios.
When we got over to Copacabana, we decided to get our grub on first. We went to this café but we were immediately annoyed by the number of tourists that were surrounding us. It’s just that when I am in a place like that, the last thing I want to see is a bunch of Americans. I mean, the touristy thing just isn’t for me. I think when you travel you should try to soak up as much as you can about a place or culture…you just aren’t going to get that staying at Americanized hotels and going to Americanized restaurants. It really is on trips like this that I see why nobody can stand us. American tourists are ridiculous.
Anyway, we grabbed a bite just after Tony bought this Brazil soccer jersey from some guy off the street for 40 reals (17 US dollars) and then went to check out Copacabana. I have to say, it was by far the worst of the three main beaches in Rio. First of all, it was slightly seedier. It was also a dirtier and once again it was just packed with tourists. We walked along, took a few pics but didn’t really ever stop moving. We walked all the way to the end where Copacobana meets Ipanema and that was where the day picked up a bit. As we were taking this little road that connects the two beaches, we had to stop and grab a beer since we were both empty. Well, as I previously mentioned, getting beer down here REALLY isn’t a problem. Well, since we had been there for 3 days, we had learned that the going rate for beer on the beach was 1.5 reals (60 cents) since we had bought many times. Well, this freakin’ guy that we bought from was trying to charge us double. Well, of course I argued with him. While I was talking to him, this Brazilian guy comes up to me and he’s like, "Hey, you are really smart. Don’t let these guys rip you off." Well, that led into a conversation with this guy and he turned out to be really cool. He walked with us over to Ipanema and we talked for awhile. It turned out he knew a guy who had a little beer/snack stand there on the beach and he even but us a couple. What was AWESOME though was that he took us over to this big rocks that people jump off of that separate Copacabana and Ipanema. We went diving with that guy for about a half an hour and it was awesome. The view from on top of the rocks was awesome…you could see all of Ipanema, Leblon, and Copacabana. We took a couple pictures from up there. All in all, it was a pretty cool beach trip. It was cool to hang out with that local guy and talk about Brazil and it’s cities. He had visited the US a couple time too so it was cool to talk about that. We were very wary at first at how friendly he was…it was sort of like he was just TOO nice. Afterwards, we realized that in the end, he was just a cool guy who took a genuine interest in a couple of foreigners. Seems like there are plenty of those down here.
So after that it was time to head back to the hotel and meet up with Johanna. We still had to get everything together and drive to Buzios. It was also time to say goodbye to Johanna, which was really sad. We went back to the hotel for awhile and hung out by the pool. After that, we went to the car and got ready to leave. It was really tough leaving Johanna. I didn’t think I would feel so bad about it but it was then that I realized how integral she had been to all the things I had done over the previous 11 days. I mean, she had been there with me through everything (except Iguazu) and it was just hard to accept that she wasn’t gonna be there anymore. I probably wouldn’t even have gone to Punta del Este if it wasn’t for her. I was glad that we got to spend all that time together, even though I had gone through the full range of emotions of how I felt about her. Truth be told, I still think she is the most beautiful girl that I have EVER seen, but I have to admit, I’m glad the way everything turned out. She is moving to Orlando in a few months so I’m sure I will see her sometime soon. Thanks Calena, for being such a special part of this incredible experience. I know that I will never forget you.

AC

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