Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Day 3 - Shopping, walking and Samba in Rio

It was never going to reach the heights of the day before (I'm still aching all over even now) so I lowered my sights yesterday and tried to get a few bits and bobs done before meeting up with Simon for a night of samba music.

The breakfast was again maravilhoso with pineapple juice with mint this time. I set off with confidence now and caught the same bus down to sea level I did yesterday. This time I set off on foot to look for the coast. I walked through a busy market place packed with tropical fruit and other goodies and walked along the sea front road to Praia de Botofogo and then back in land, where I tried to find the place I'd stayed last time, but to no avail. Never mind. I found a Claro store and managed to get a new SIM for my mobile (which is +21 994 608 394 if anyone wants to call me) and I tested it by calling Simon. Unfortunately I seem to have buggered something up because although it works with phone messages, I still can't get any data or internet access.

Largo do Machado

Praia de Botofogo

Corcovado from sea level

Sugar Loaf (I won't try to say it in Portuguese!) - Next time...

Another Rio Panorama

Anyway, Simon recommended I went to a famous huge Rio market place near Urugaiana, so I did. Simon says, I do. It was bloody huge and packed with a million Cariocas looking for bargains. Me too. I bought a small pair of binoculars for my Amazon trip for $R30. They seem ok. I also wanted to buy a Botofogo shirt (Simon recommended this would provide me with a good 'camouflage') and I'm always on the look out for a cool football shirt to wear. They always used to play in black & white stripes so I set my heart on one of those but now they've changed to plain black or plain white (horrible) so I didn't bother.

I at Uruguaiana

Packed Streets

Custom shirt badges being stitched, 4 at a time

After that I had a couple of fruit juices (Maracuja - the one I couldn't remember from yesterday - my new favourite fruit) and a basic toasted ham and cheese sandwich thingy to recuperate and headed back up the hill.

Typical Brazilian Fruit Juice Bar

After a short rest, I set out for mini adventure No 2 which was a walk into Santa Teresa along the No 6 & 7 bus route. There were spectacular views on the way and the walk was pleasant enough (although I have blisters now) but, to be honest, it was a bit of an anti climax finally getting there. I was expecting cutesie-wootsie Bohemian and I just got typical Rio shopping street. Nothing special really, but I'm sure Ididn't go to the best bits. Whilst there I noticed every café, bar etc had Brazil v Panama on (a pre World Cup friendly) - I don't think I'm going to have any problems finding somewhere to watch every game!

Down there, somewhere, is the Maracana

These trams used to run up and down the hill in Santa Teresa. Sadly, no longer.

Russian Orthodox Church in Santa Teresa

Since 1966 - 44 years of 'hurt'

Waiters paying attention to the important things in life

The mignon was great but look at that salad!

I noticed a place with a sign that (I think) meant "Since 1966". I'm a sucker for any-possible-twisted-ironic-angle-on-anything like that so I sat down to watch the match and ordered a nice beer and a Mignon steak with salad. The steak was fantástico but the salad was just weird - a massive pie of stuff with a thick mayonais sauce, lots of odd veggies and ham and cheese. I ate some and left as Brazil cruised to a 4-0 win.

"Facil por Brasil"

I said, trying to impress the waiter. He wasn't, and smugly replied...

"Brasil, campeões!"

I know they're good and you can't blame the fans for being confident, but as a Brit abroad, I am starting to find this arrogance quite irritating. I'm not quite in the "I hope they get beat to teach 'em a lesson" camp, but my maverick instinct to pit myself against the common view is starting to twitch.

Anyway, as I'd walked down hill most of the bus route, it was comforting to know I just had to jump on a packed bus of shoppers going back. (Incidentally, a little incident there is worthy of comment. Some old people had been stood waiting at the front of the queue when the bus arrived. A guy and - I presume his son - arrived, and despite the older guy tapping the younger one on the shoulder, obviously to point out that others had been waiting longer, he pushed to the front and got on first.)

I must admit, by now I was knackered and wasn't really looking forward to a night on the town with Simon. The little negative man urging me inside (Sensible Victor) was telling me to not bother and get some sleep. But the positive sense (Gringo Dick 'Ed) overcame this and after a bit of a rest I set off on the same bus but stayed on until Arcos dos Lapos.

When I arrived, I called Simon and he told me he was running late (Bloody Brazilians!) So I did a bit of a pub crawl before he arrived (You have to turn negatives into positives!)

Simon took us through another "they think it's dodgy, but it isn't if you know what you're doing" area where the Chilean artist, Jorge Seleron had created his famous tiled steps exhibit before killing himself. And then, on, round the corner to Beco do rato – “Sewer Rat”, a famous samba club that Simon used to play in regularly for years. I did a bit of research about the club, and sure enough, if you look though the archive images of samba bands that have played there, some of them include this pasty-looking gringo from Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Notts. To say he looks out of place is an understatement but as soon as he starts talking and interacting with the locals, he’s as Brazilian as they come – at least to my eyes. The coloured drummer said, at the end (I think) "He's a real Brazilian".

Anyway, when we arrived, he was greeted like some long lost friend and we were allowed in free. We sat down and started drinking beer at about 8:30 and it went on for at least four hours. Simon had brought along his own samba instrument which, judging by the shape of the bag, looked like a drum. In fact even when he took it out, I still thought it was a drum, but no. Not even a percussion instrument, a “rubbing” one, more like a violin. It's called a Cuíca (friction drum). Bizarrely, there’s a prong stuck to the drum skin on the inside and rather than tapping the skin on the outside, you rub some abrasive material up and down the prong with varying frequencies and intensities. (I imagine to play it must be a bit like masturbating but maybe that’s just my sick mind.)

He couldn’t leave it alone for long and soon joined the group sat around the tables with a large outer circle of people standing around them, singing and clapping and smiling and joking and dancing to the samba beat. It’s a happy thing.

The thought did cross my mind – for about a second – that Simon might be being a bit selfish leaving me and his girl friend to go off and have fun, but that disappeared when I started to take in the vibe (man). After my pathetic attempt to "chat" in Portuguese to his friend had come to nought and she'd gone off to join Simon and the group (in disgust, no doubt) and then after my usual “I’m an awkward git who doesn’t do namby pamby music stuff” wore off, I got up and joined the throng myself. Of course I didn’t understand a single word, let alone know how to sing any of the songs, but you can still enjoy the music and musicians enjoying themselves close at hand and all the interactions. You can even sway a little to the music and tap your feet. Does that qualify as doing the Samba? 

Most of the songs have versus that require audience participation. Well the audience is the performance, I suppose. It’s kind of like a communal joke, or a game, that’s set to lovely music with a beat. One of the songs, apparently, (Simon says, and in Simon, I trust), was about someone worrying about what would happen when he died. Each verse was sung by an individual in an ad hoc way, but obviously on well rehearsed themes like “I bet no-one will come to my funeral” or “I bet Luis will shag my wife” etc.

As the beers went down, the mood and the ambience rose. It was muito maravilhoso, a privilege and an absolute pleasure to be there in the atmospheric settings of a fine, traditional Rio samba club. The guys who performed, apparently, do this every Tuesday, just for fun, to help the club make some money and to promote the samba tradition.

The final song included a live fade out the like of which I have never seen. After which, the “we’re going in ten minutes” – in true Brazilian style – turned into an hour as Simon’s girlfriend got increasingly frustrated as she had work the next day.

I too was beginning to start to wonder when and how I was going to get back to my room. Much of the fear I’d built up over months of thinking about Brazil and hearing all the bad news stories had made me determined to be as sensible and boring as possible. I wasn’t going to go out drinking on my own, not without an easy way back to the hotel/place to stay, and a good safe taxi option lined up. Now, after only two days in Brazil, with Simon’s and Ana’s reassurances, as well as my own experience of feeling almost no threatening situations, this kind of strategy was starting to seem a bit O. T. T. Coupled with the fact that as about 2.5 litres of beer had been consumed, it had practically obliterated my “danger radar”. However, I did have the wherewithal to step back and tell Simon that although I felt confident enough to walk to the bus stop and catch the No 6/7 back – literally to the door of my place, maybe that taxi that had just pulled up outside the place might be a more sensible option. Surprisingly, he agreed, so I got in and got driven safely back to Ana’s – R$17. Bargain.

I set my alarm to 7:30 am – just six hours away by then – and crashed into a really good sleep until I woke up at 6 ish.
So, although day 3 started rather mundane, it ended on another high.

Arcos da Lapa

In a bar having a local maltweiz beer

Is it a drum, No. It's a "whooper" thing (Cuíca), samba style

Beco do rato scene

Video clips...

Last morning in Santa Teresa.

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