Destination Rio de Janeiro, the third travel to the former capital of Brazil.
A night at Sambódromo, witnessing the performances of samba school Mangueira.
Day 3, 6 pm
Jader had an alternative night program for us. That night, we would go to the cultural center and spend the evening there. Jader had something totally different in mind. Something that is part of the Brazilian culture, that is part of the Brazilian carnival. He guided us to the Sambódromo!
When we arrived in the campus, we noticed something weird: a kind of a water ballet! A large garden hose was put on the roof, like an improvised shower. Some students appeared to play under this open shower. But they were covered by foam, foam of soap and shampoo. It turned out that there was a problem with the water supply of the shower containers. Therefore, the garden hose served as a temporary shower. We then joined the lines to the mixed shower, for both boys and girls. Of course we kept on wearing our swimwear. Each of us already applied soap or shampoo before entering the improvised shower, in order to save water and time. Water that came from this hose was not cold at all, but almost lukewarm. For me, it was my first public shower in open air at night, under the stars. A peculiar experience!
We took the bus at six pm; Jader already had asked the bus driver to drop us off in front of the Sambódromo, at about 1500 meters from Lapa, the location of the cultural events. The Sambódromo is part of Rua Marques de Sapucai, perpendicular to Avenida Presidente Vargas, which is named after the controversial president in the first half of the past century. At Rua Marques de Sapucai, which is composed of white concrete, tribunes flank both sides of the road. During the carnival parades, tourists crowd these tribunes, as the ticket fares are much to expensive for most Brazilians.
That night, a rehearsal, which was publicly accessible, was scheduled. We didn’t have to pay any entrance fee. Jader had warned us beforehand to be very careful with our belongings. Because of the massive crowd, pickpockets would be around. Jader didn’t exaggerate, we had to join an enormous queue to enter the tribune. He swiftly guided us from one tribune to another, until he indeed had found some space for all of us. Vendors with large styrofoam boxes with ice-cooled water pushed and stumped relentlessly their way to the tribunes. They regularly were cursing at those who didn’t provide enough space for them. These vendors were in a big hurry, because they had many potential customers. We were lucky, we only had to spend ten minutes to climb the stairs to the tribune. We even had space to sit down.
We didn’t have to wait too long upon the arrival of the samba school. A mega sound truck full of mega sound boxes arrived, driving slowly. The samba sounds made the tribunes vibrate. Many people no long remained seated and danced the samba. The percussion band arrived. Dozens of drummers and players of percussion instruments. They created a sound that contained some magic: it was really hard not to move your body. Everyone was moving, everyone with his own moves. The alas arrived, groups of dancing people that wore colorful carnival costumes. It was a breathtaking show, it was amazing to watch the many beautiful girls, with their lovely and sweaty faces full of fire and emotion. For us, it was a peculiar opportunity to enjoy a night of Brazilian carnival in Brazil’s carnival city number one: Rio de Janeiro. Less than two weeks later, the same drummers and girls would participate in the carnival parade, watched by thousands of (foreign) tourists and millions of TV watchers.
The samba school that was performing the parade, was one of the best known in Rio: Mangueira. The samba school has a few thousand members and has won a respectable amount of prizes. Unfortunately, we were one week too late to watch the winners of the recent editions: Beija-Flor. A few weeks later, it was indeed Beija-Flor that won the 2007 edition. Also Mangueira was one of the best schools of that edition. We all enjoyed very much the thrilling carnival show. We didn’t regret for one second that he had to leave the beach early, we quickly forgot that we had to endure the crowd in order to obtain our seats. It was absolutely worth visiting. More than ninety minutes long, we were enthralled by contagious samba rhythms, by breathtaking choreography, performed by beautiful girls.
We left the tribune at about nine pm. We decided to accept Jader’s suggestion to walk back to Lapa, about 1500 meters further. It was quiet in the streets, there was a relaxed atmosphere. We met many historical buildings on our way, but we didn’t pay much attention to them. It took about half an hour to arrive at Lapa. We joined the big crowd on the big square in front of the arcs of the aqueduct. A large stage was installed there. We stayed a few hours there. We enjoyed performances of Beth Carvalho and a Bloco de Carnaval: Cordão da Bola Preta. We had a night full of culture: samba, carnival, Brazilian popular music. It was about three am, when we took the bus back to the campus.
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom