I have wanted to see New Years Eve or ‘Reveillon’ in Copacabana since before my first trip to Brazil in 2005. That first time, I changed my plans at the last minute and missed out on the Carioca revelry that year, so this year nothing was going to stop me… the wait was over.
I had bought a cheap air ticket online, and made my way to the airport in São Paulo. It was an odd setup, as it appeared that everyone had the same gate as me. There werecrowds of people gathered around, all seemingly assigned the same gate. But after the computer, or clerical error was discovered, one helpful guy came down to scream out where flights were leaving from… every few minutes. It seemed like every flight had a gate change, frustrating even the locals, prompting one woman to get up and yell out, “Meu Deus, imagina A Copa” (My God, just imagine the World Cup).
This was the first, but not the last time I heard this current saying around Brazil. Anytime a system was slightly broken anywhere, the humorous Brazilians would just laugh it off and imagine the anticipated chaos of The Cup.
Then it was time for my gate to change, and I was jetting off to Rio. Choosing airports close to the city can be gold for domestic travelers. Congonhas in São Paulo, or Santos Dumont in Rio, can shave your taxi fare or travel time in half, so choose wisely, and don’t. just go with the main international airports you might have heard of. Santos Dumont is an airport pretty bang in the centre of the city, and it’s a beautiful way to get into Rio.
When I lived in Ipanema for a few months in 2005, I fell in love with the place, so there was no question of where I was going to stay this time around. I’m an Ipanema boy through and through…
Both Ipanema and Copacabana are some pretty impressive stretches of beach in Rio de Janeiro. There is always a bit of rivalry between Copacabana and Ipanema as to which beach is better… but for Reveillon, ‘Copa’ wins hands down. I headed down to the beach for the last rays of sun from 2013, before heading across to Copacabana, all within walking distance from Ipanema.
Transport shut down pretty early, so you had to give yourself time to walk to your desired location. Copacabana beach is the place to be and usually the best action happens in front of the Copacabana Palace, in terms of free shows and crowds. Usually they score some pretty big acts, and it’s worth checking who might be performing at one of the three or so stages constructed on the beach.
I like the equality of New Years in Rio. In Sydney, the fireworks are amazing, but everyone seems to be fighting for the best positions to view them. I remember sometimes starting at 10 in the morning to make a day of it in Sydney just to reserve a good spot, and slowly watch it erode throughout the day as the crowd presses closer. In Rio, anyone who makes it to the four kilometre stretch of beach has a commanding view.
I celebrated New Years at a friends place in Copacabana over a sumptuous dinner with amazing Brazilian dishes, (thanks Marcos and Felipe) and with fifteen minutes to go before 2014, we walked the 2 streets down to the beach, and made our way to the shoreline, champagne in hand. (Brazil’s lack of laws regarding alcohol in the street or anywhere are a real boon – and rampant alcoholism doesn’t seem to abound.)
Midnight struck, and the sky grew red with fire as the fireworks got underway. It was 17 minutes of sheer beauty, with a scope of view to rival any IMAX screen or tennis match, but at least the champagne dulled any neck aches.
As with any Brazilian festival there seem to be a few traditions that are worth getting into. For New Years, you wear predominantly white, with splashes of to their colours that signify what you hope for in the year ahead. Red for love. Yellow for money. Blue for peace. Green for hope. Just to name a few… And then there is the presenting of offerings to Iemanjá, an Orixa from the Candomble religion, and the goddess of the sea.
After midnight, scores of people head to the sea to offer their gifts of flowers or other presents for Iemanjá into the sea. I’ve heard that it’s good if your offerings are taken out into the sea, as if they return back to shore it’s not a great omen for the year ahead.
Then you just have to jump seven waves in a row, and your luck is all sorted for the year ahead. No one seems to know exactly where this tradition came from, but it likely relates to Iemanjá, who is the mother of all the other orixas, a spirit of water – her favourite number is seven after all.
So regardless of whether you put your luck in destiny, or your destiny with the gods, add New Years at Copa to your bucket list… it will be a worthy addition.
And so, after a mad rush to finish the year, I was setting off again for another trip to Brazil, eventually – I changed the ticket about 5 times and wasn’t sure it was ever going to happen. It was an intense 2013, and I was really beginning to feel it towards the end – with back pain problems throughout the first half and the ensuing surgery, then a new opportunity to work in Indonesia with my company in February 2014 meant lots of changes were happening in my life. (It was just like puberty all over again… everything changes). There was a job to finish up, a house to move, and meanwhile, bags to pack for Brazil.
People often ask me why I keep going back… and there’s no one answer to give them. It’s a little bit of everything all bound together. It’s all about the food, the music, the people, the vibe and the awesome places to visit in such a diverse, friendly country.
Over the next few weeks I hope to share a little of each aspect with you, and maybe one day you might head over to Brazil too. It can be difficult to get around at times, and sometimes you just feel like banging your head against a wall when it comes to processes here, but for those that push through, the rewards are most definitely worth it.
If you get frustrated by slow walkers, or find yourself wanting to slap the back of the head of that person in the line at the store who can’t make up their mind, or generally get frumpy if you have to wait more than two minutes… then you’re going to probably have a love-hate relationship with Brazil.
Everything has a ‘fila’ or a line… and why have one line, when you can have three, one after the other… you just need to have a game plan for your down time. Socialising, flirting or public displays of affection while waiting in line are completely expected and acceptable. I remember reading once that a great way for two people to meet in Rio, was to crash their cars together, and get a number… There is always a way, or ‘jeito’.
I’ll elaborate a little on the lines in a bit, but for now… it’s just good to know that I’m back in Brazil again – I really do miss this place.
Somewhere between Sydney and São Paulo, my bags got left behind, which was a first for me. There was a connecting flight in Santiago, and with a few delays early on we had 30 minutes to get off the plane and on to the next. If you have connecting flights and if traveling with your bags the whole way is important to you, allow enough time at each stopover so they can connect the dots, and perhaps budget a bit of time for delays. Otherwise you might find yourself down at the shopping mall picking up some new undies, socks and anything else that comes in your size… Or perhaps pack at least one change of clothes in your hand luggage, I know I will from now on. #traveltipsFTW
I’m such a tourist…
Have you ever walked around Sydney and seen the multicultural mix from everywhere? I’ve always loved the differences and unique perspective that each culture brings. But it also goes without saying that tourists always look like, well, tourists. With their daggy clothes or the Australiana paraphernalia draping from their necks down to the camera bag bulging with maps and local tourist guides. You know what I’m talking about, I’m sure…
Well now I am the one that is wearing the daggy clothes, draping Brazilian paraphernalia wherever I can and ordering food in a weird accent with little success in making yourself understood and ending up eating whatever they happen to bring. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who has just learnt a little English? Think of your reaction, the different things you said and did, and now put those characteristics into someone else who is trying to talk with you. It’s pretty weird being on the other side of it!
Some people say I have been brave to come here on my own. I don’t think so. Brave is the Brazilian girl who I met last year in Sydney. Renata spoke no English before she came, was traveling alone and was in Australia for around six months. She overheard me talking with my tutor Rafael at Sydney Tower. When we all went to eat something afterwards, she didn’t accept my offer to translate when ordering, she just jumped in line and used symbols and what little English she had learned to order her meal.
Most travelers will travel in groups or as families and have some connections at their destination, such as work organized contacts or relatives. But to travel alone is to rely on yourself completely. If you feel tired during transit there is no nap for you while someone watches your things for you. There’s you and no one else.
When you arrive at an airport, there’s no one to pick you up, to meet you or to help you get to your hotel. Actually, that’s not entirely true, there’s plenty of people willing to help you get to your hotel for four times the price!
From the two airports I have now arrived at, I realize that I shouldn’t grab the first option that comes my way. It’s usually quite heavily priced, and through my lack of understanding of the new exchange rate, I’m probably being ripped off completely.
In Santiago, the first price was 10,000 pesos for my taxi. I later learnt there is either a bus or an airport shuttle that I can order for around 2,500 pesos.
In Rio, the guy wanted me to pay 160 Reais, I knew the price was nowhere near that much for a taxi to my hostel and so talked him down to 50 Reais (which was still above the normal 40 Reais price)
Solo travel has its rewards at the same time… It keeps you focused and challenges your personal limits. You know that you and you alone can walk into a new situation and walk out the other side of it without too many worries.
You are changed as a person because your experiences only make you stronger if you don’t let them beat you, and also you have a better understanding about the different types of people that exist in this planet of ours.