Rio de Janeiro, January 10-12, 2013

We sailed into Guanabara Bay before dawn when Sugarloaf Mountain was barely visible and the statue of Christ the Redeemer was merely a light shining in the mist. Sunday was the first of the three official days of Carnival in Rio and most things are closed for the entire holiday.  Millions had been out partying in the streets the day and night before and the clean-up crews were hard at work sweeping up the mountains of garbage.  By noon, the revellers were back in the streets for block parties which would continue through the night.  I have been to Rio before so I chose not to brave the crowds and lines at the main sightseeing locations.  The cruise terminal is in the area known as Centro which has many historical buildings.   I took a walk hoping to be able to visit the Modern Arts Museum but it and all the historical buildings had steel barricades around them to prevent damage.  The smell from the garbage permeated my clothes and I had to change and shower on returning to the ship.    Yesterday evening, I went to the Samba parade at the Sambodrome.   I was amazed at the spectacle.  Carnival was started by the Portuguese as a rite of spring imported from Europe.  People would dance and sing in the streets.  In Brazil, it evolved as it acquired elements from African and Amerindian cultures and today the people from the favelas, or slums are those most involved. The Sambodrome is 700 metres long with concrete stands on both sides.  We were in a section across from the judges and had a good view as the parade would stop there for a few moments for each set of performers to impress the judges.  Each night a certain number of Samba schools, many of which as I said, are from the favelas, parade.  Last night six were on the program.  Each has 82 minutes to pass along the length of the Sambodrome.  By 1:00 am when I left, three had completed their programs.  The remainder would have been finished by breakfast time.  Each school designs a parade made up of floats, a band and singers and dancers dressed in spectacular costumes. They have a theme and theme song for their parade which is often political.  The ones we saw all had about seven or eight floats and thousands of performers performing in groups of hundreds before each float. There were some individual dancers and some couples featured in each parade.  I estimated that each parade was about one kilometre long because the first people had left the Sambodrome before the last of the parade entered.  They all misjudged the time a bit and were rushing to get out of the area before their 82 minutes were up. However, they still halted each section to perform for the judges.  The spectators dress up and sing and dance along with the parade.  You just enjoy the atmosphere and experience.  I have tried to include pictures below  of people and floats from the parades to give you an idea of what is involved.  I did not always have a clear view but I hope you enjoy them.  At the end of Carnival, the judges will pick the best school and will drop the worst one from next years parade. There are websites which do an excellent job of describing Carnival and the parades.



Monday after a later breakfast, I went over to Ipanema. En route I did see the statue of Christ the Redeemer and the staging area for the floats for the Samba parade that night.  There was not much open but I did take a look at the beach. I have a photo of a group playing beach volleyball, and another of a forest of umbrellas.


Today, I took a privately organized tour to the favelas or slums.  We visited two, Rocinha and Canoas.  My overall impression is that the conditions are about the same as you would find in poorer neighbourhoods anywhere in the world.  The main problem in the favelas in is that few people are able to own the land on which their homes are built and hence do not invest in improving them.  Our first stop in Rocinha was to a handicraft market where we were able to buy local crafts.  At that stop we had a good view of Christ the Redeemer Statue (photo). The second photo is a view of the entire favela. You can see that there are very few roads in it and virtually none up to the top.  You will see a lot of water tanks and satellite dishes on the rooftops. The third is part of the favela in danger of being destroyed by mudslides. The house from which we viewed this is on privately owned land and was in excellent condition. The government has supplied clean drinking water to the homes in the favelas.  There was at least one large school but we did not visit it, and a large community sports complex.  It was an example of what the community has been able to do for itself. We walked through some of the lower streets to see the shops and you will note the jumbles of electricity wires above the sidewalks.  Much of the electricity is stolen though we saw many meters outside homes and business.  Rocinha has a Samba school (photo) and participates in the Samba parade.  In Canoas we walked through very narrow streets (photo) and went to a local school which was closed for the holiday. The school was a community project and had a small computer classroom (photo) but overall it was a very poor facility. One new building in the area which was built by the government before an election was supposed to house a medical clinic but is still empty three years later (photo).  There are few churches, though we found one Catholic church ( photo) and our guide told us that there were quite a few evangelical churches housed in ordinary buildings.  From my perspective, major investments are needed in education and social services to improve the life of children like those in the last photo.


We sail from Rio tonight and head for Armacao dos Buzios which is very near by.

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