Sleepless in the Sambadromo
My Airbnb host, Marelo had secured two tickets to that thing you love. The tickets did not become diamonds; but they did gain us entry into one of the greatest spectacles I’ve ever seen through my new Nikon lens.
The Brazilians call it the Sambodromo, with the emphasis on the “bo”, pronounced like the French word – and my friend’s son’s name – Beau; but if you want an English website with more information you will want to googley “sambadrome”, “carnival” or the “biggest party on earth”.
The Sambodromo is a stadium with tiered seating that sores into the dripping hot skies of Rio. It’s like no venue you’ve ever seen before. It’s 700 m long and in the shape of a road. A straight road. When it’s not being used for the yearly 5 day festivities of Carnaval, it hosts some of the biggest music names in music. The Rolling Stones and Coldplay have performed here amongst others.
Marcelo is a very relaxed guy. Perhaps too relaxed. I’d read that you should arrive early to secure good seats, and the show started at 9pm. We had not even left the apartment by then! I was frantic in my outwardly calm way. Finally, after the 3rd shake of Marcelos day, we were ready to leave. I salvaged some time by tying my shoelaces in the 53 second elevator ride from his 9th floor apartment. This elevator is also quite likely, the hottest place in Rio!
Partiuuu – it’s Brazilian slang for vamos. Do I have to translate vamos? Espero que no!
We joined the heaving masses of bewildered tourists and costumed locals on the the marginally efficient metro and made our way to Praça Onze, the closest station. I was rather disappointed that I had retired my Fembot outfit.
I was beginning to see a pattern emerging with the Brazilians. They are tardy; extremely tardy. They also like to stay up all night, which probably contributes to the tardiness in the first place! It’s a vicious cycle.
We arrived at 9:30pm and still waited for over an hour for the first Samba school to literally strut their stuff.
There are 6 schools per evening that compete, so 24 schools over the 4 days; the 5th day being the victory lap. The schools are huge, and must have over a thousand members – I’m guessing.
They have an hour from their first member, too their last, to cross the starting line of the 700m Sambodromo.
This translates into more than an hour and a half of the same song and dance being performed without stopping! It’s so visually jaw dropping, that I didn’t notice that it was the same song, and also, the fact that the parade was so long, means we only got to see the action of each act as it passed our section (#6). Times this by six and add some time for the street sweepers between each school, and you have a samba marathon that lasts until the morning!
This makes the Brazilians very happy and the tourists very tired.
It truly is an amazing spectacle and there seems to be no expense spared. The costumes and floats are incredibly opulent, and the variety and athleticism – especially from the Paraplegics – is amazing!
After four schools and well into the early hours, I was more than ready to go home, and for once, my Brazilian host was ready to do the same.