I woke up at 6am and said goodbye to Lorena. Her uncle had to drive into Sao Paulo for work so he offered to drop me off at the airport. At the airport, they changed the gate on me at the last minute so I was a little concerned I might miss my flight but I got there in time. First solo travel challenge in South America complete! It is a little difficult figuring things out here because a lot of people don’t speak English at all, but everyone always tries to be as helpful as they can be.
Got to Rio (SDU airport) and opted for a taxi (75BRL) instead of the bus or a prepaid taxi. Got to our apartment in Leblon [CASA ORELLAS] and was greeted by Gloria, who rents out the apartment. The room wasn’t ready when I arrived, so I left my things there and went for a run down the beach (through Leblon and Ipanema). Everything felt very safe, I even brought my iPhone out with me so I could listen to music and never felt like it was a problem to have it out.
I went to the supermarket to pick up fruit for breakfast for a few days and headed to bed early at the apartment.
In the morning I took an Uber to the Botanical Garden (9BRL) and walked around there for a few hours, really beautiful. My first solo activity and I actually felt really content being alone. After that, I walked to Parque Lage, where there’s a beautiful building with a mountain backdrop. I took a taxi back to the apartment in the afternoon.
Lorena had bought tickets for us to go to Sugarloaf but I didn’t realize they were only valid for one day so I had to buy a new ticket (75BRL). The trip was a little nerve racking – you take two gondolas up very high, but it was very safe and had awesome views from the top. Definitely worth it to go but not as amazing as I had anticipated. Left right before sunset to avoid the crowds.
Took a taxi back to the apartment and wanted for Thaiza (Lorena’s friend) to arrive. We had only met twice in Santos and hadn’t really spoke, so I was a little unsure how well we’d get along of if we’d be able to communicate fluently. She seems like she has a lot of connections in Brazil, so we ended up standing in line (for TWO HOURS) for passes to a party that night. I was a happy participant but no party is worth that much time waiting in line for me.
After we got the tickets, we met two of Thaiza’s friends at Demonte bar for drinks. In Brazil is it customary to buy a large beer and bring cups for the whole group – I really love this about Brazilian culture, very fun and engaging. After a drink or two there, Thaiza and I left to get ready for the party. We left our apartment at 1am and could not find the party on the first trip. We drove around for an hour and had to come back to the apartment to get Thaiza’s phone. After another very long taxi ride we finally got to the Circus party at 4am and stayed for an hour and a half. It was okay – not worth the struggle it was to get the tickets and to get to the party.
In the morning we went to a hotel to pick up Carnaval tickets for later that day. We went up to the hotel’s rooftop pool where I met a group of guys from New Jersey. After almost two weeks of being surrounded by Portuguese speakers it was a welcome break to speak English without any translation problems. We all went to Leblon beach together and drank a lot of caipirinhas.
That night we got ready at the apartment and went to the Parade of Champions. Thaiza works for a mayor and he got her some VIP tickets so that whole experience was pretty surreal. Open bar, free food everywhere, they even served breakfast at 6am when the festival was over.
Thaiza and I woke up around noon and went to the beach with her two other girlfriends. After a few hours there, I decided to walk down to Ipanema to go to a craft fair (bought three earrings, a ring and necklace, plus a painting of favelas).
Went to drinks again with the girls that night but I was pretty tired so went home early to pack. The Leblon area of Rio is very hip and very safe, I felt extremely comfortable walking around town on my own even at night.