The Hobo Guide to Rio Carnaval
After just two days in Copacabana, I had already eaten enough acai, drunk enough cachaca, rubbed shoulders with enough Euros in dick togs, suffered enough sunburn and seen enough Latino butt cheeks to last a life time. The hostel prices were equivalent to that of staying with The Queen Herself, I may or may not have contracted bed bugs and the image of ladyboys in nothing but glitter and beads is still burned into my retinas, but despite this (or maybe because of it), I would do Carnaval in Rio De Janeiro again in a heartbeat.
Each day, more than two million people descend on the streets of Rio in almost every suburb to get their taste of the blocos (street parties), and rain, hail or shine, the party will always continue on into the night. I lasted four of the five nights of the “official” celebration time, and although I’m almost disappointed in my lack of backing up the whole way through, here are a few of the things I learned…
Get a hostel with a free breakfast and find the one that will serve it until the latest time (often this will only be until 11am). Every day, I had to set an alarm to make sure I got my sorry, hungover arse out of bed and into the kitchen for my free toast and cake before I crawled back into the dungeon that was my dorm room. It was worth every crumb.
Expect to find accommodation last minute. I watched a few people come in and try and score themselves a bunk and every time, without fail, they were rejected. Locals, nationals and internationals plan their whole year around the event, and I thought poor Giovanni at the front desk was going to have a meltdown every time someone expected to just waltz on in the morning the whole shebang was supposed to start.
Make friends with someone who has a little more money than you, and who gives away free shit when they are really drunk. He may have just broken up with his Brazilian girlfriend and is drinking away his sorrows, but us hobos know that food, booze and drugs are always better when they are free. Plus, he was an Australian miner – it was hard to feel bad.
Let said rich guy down half a carton of beer, take a bump of cocaine off the toilet’s cistern and then smoke a joint on the subway. When he starts wigging and gets paranoid that everyone (close to 800 000 people) is looking at him, it will be way too much effort to calm him down, especially when you’re not in the best mindset yourself.
Expect to go home with less people than you went out with. One morning at 6am, I finally realised I was completely out of money and had been drinking for 20 hours straight. I decided it was my time to bail and told my friend, who instead of coming with me gave me two reals and left me at a bus stop. Luckily, I am really smart, and trusted a local guy who was kind enough to buy the international blonde girl a burger, two bottles of water AND a metro ticket home. Not only did he walk me through the darkest alleyways and deserted metro stations, but he escorted me the entire way to the front door of my hostel. It worked for me, and somehow I got home safe, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for everyone else…
Tell people you are going to have a quiet night in. People think that this is code for “give me free beer and shout in my face until I cave in”. If you have a cracking headache and are still trying to keep down the cake from breakfast, your best bet is to stealth away into bed without anyone seeing and when someone comes in to the room, never respond.
Dress up. One twat I met said that she refused to don a costume because she had never been a fancy dress type. This was as she looked me up and down in my Brazilian soccer jersey, glitter and feathers. Sorry girlfriend, but who looked like the fool when in the street there were sailors, bumble bees, fairy princesses and betty boop dancing around (all male)?!
Although the steep prices and typical American tourists were not exactly a drawcard, the street parties, epic people I met and the nights slept on the beach more than made up for it. Hobos, seriously consider hitting up Carnaval just once in your life: you won’t regret it.