17.10.2005 25 °C
The beginning of our great adventure.
The first part of the trip I won't bore you with (a visit to the Big K - Gazza's newly adopted home - and a lock-in till 3am in the famous Woolly, followed by Surrey to see Alex's new born niece).
So we arrived in our hotel in Rio following a 12 hour flight that two Jersey Beans (Richard Trott and girlfriend) had also sat in - 4 rows in front of us in a jumbo jet - with Alex worried to leave the our room. Thanks to a lot of ignorant people a seed had been sewed into her head that Rio was like Beirut in the midst of civil war. To go to the shop over the road we had to call a taxi. Fortunately this attitude didn't last too long and within a couple nights and a few caiperinha's she was shouting at the local 12 year old street urchins for selling the finest free base in Ipanema before you could say "run". Thanks to that episode the next time we ventured in to the bar next to where they were selling it Alex got Bodie and Doyle to cover her back while she left through the back exit.
To be honest there is a lot of bad stuff thrown about Rio but, although you have to be vigilant (or a vigilante in Alex's case), there isn't much to worry about. Everyoné's really friendly and everyone's cool. I was actually a bit disappointed at first. I've always dreamed of Rio - for the football, the beaches and sunshine, the nightlife, the beautiful women, the guncrime - so you can imagine how I felt when my ball burst, the weather was overcast, the evenings were dead, the women ugly and no shoot outs were witnessed. Thankfully a few days later it began to brighten up. A move to the more affluent Ipanema area of Rio also proved my theory that as a general rule the good looks of females depend upon a good upbringing in life.
Once the weekend arrived we could move away from the comfortable habitat of drinking in the McDonalds of watering holes i.e. Shenanigans, Murphy´s, Peasant Potato Picker etc and indulge in some authentic Brazillian nights. Things didn´t get off to a good start when Alex read that a place I wanted to go to was in a ¨sketchy hood¨. I didn´t even have to tell her about the bloke who witnessed a man being shot 6 times in the back in the same area to ensure a night in (the London Metropolitan Police had stepped up their efforts in search for terrorists apparently - bu-boom, tish!). However the next night we were both samba-ing away in another sketchy hood in what can only be decribed as a community centre, not unlike Ise Lodge, but with a few thousand neon lights and a stage. On the stage a band played music relentlessly dishing out the same song three times at least at a minimum 20 minutes at a time. Then now and again some carnival girls would come out in full regalia (basically a few tassles and a feather) and shake their hypnotic @rses. Meanwhile some of the gringo´s were trying to get it on with local girls whilst under the watchful gaze of the girls mothers.
That was a pretty cool night but I have done nothing as cool as what we did the next night - favella funk party. This was at a warehouse in the middle of a shanty town where the local peasantry got down to the latest Brazillian ragga/hip hop. If you´ve seen City of God it was exactly like the place where Lil´ Ze mate got killed. Beer was at 20p a pop and by the end of the night I was giving it the ol´ ¨yeah safe as¨ routine with all the young hustlers and hoodlums while Alex was grinding it with this big f?ck off black mutha f?cka (who I duly asked outside for some toe-to-toe Marquis of Queensbury style). In between these nights we went to some run down concrete disaster to watch the big Rio derby between Vasco de Gama and Flamengo (2-1). The match wasn´t much cop but the atmosphere was amazing. The noise was so intense and relentless, even more so as we were mixing it with the hardcore (and a yank tourist inspired by Elijah Wood´s recent acting roles). Dancing, singing, jumping around, the samba beat a constant - I don´t think there is another atmosphere like it.
By now it was time to leave Rio as the weather weren´t the best and we got a last minute deal to Buenos Aires. We also done the more mundane touristy things like sugar loaf mountain, Christ the Redeemer and a Maracana stadium tour (where I played keepie-uppies with a local in a manner that Peter Kay would have been proud of - the fact I managed to juggle the ball more than twice brought an honest surprise to the man and calls of ¨very good, very good¨ after I had him I was English). A few other funny moments happened along the way like the rent boy at our rooftop swimming pool being asked to swim a couple of lengths for the pleasure of his client - and me p!ssing myself to leave the client looking embarrassed and the rent boy praying to Christ who was visible on a nearby mountain top.
NEXT: Argy Bargy in the City of Good Sheep