The streets are awash with people, music, dancing, and urine. The air is alive with the twisting spirits of the hot open-sewer/old-garbage smell common to most tropical cities. People are scattered everywhere in various forms of wild abandon, total relaxation, or simple beer driven confusion.
Everything is colour though there’s a lot less dancing than expected. The vast majority of people are simply chilling at various live music events or street parties. Beer in hand they talk drunken nonsense with each other and revel in the fact that, for a few days at least, the streets truly belong to the people.
Infrequently cars and buses try to force their way through the few central streets that aren’t closed, but the crowds care not for their desires and simply move en masse, like a living wind, from one place to another, traffic be damned.
We wander for a while, occassionally buffeted by crowds, mostly buffeted by the stench of piss in the hot sun, checking out the scene as the sun inches toward the horizon. We spot a reasonably attractive woman. I instantly notice how tight “her” skirt is and the very obvious outline of a cock and scrotum projecting from it. It turns out that our local area is quite the transsexual pick up point and this is the first of many we will encounter near our apartment. Very fake and very exposed boobs become par for the course.
One thing strikes us as we explore, there is a bizarrely large contingent of Wonder Women (Wonder Woman’s? What’s the plural on that?). We fail to ever discover why, but fully ten percent of the women and girls at this year’s Carnaval are dressed as Wonder Woman. Truly a mystery for the ages.
Later we discover a man that we decide could be Filip’s boyfriend. He’s a rather striking, young, dark-skinned, Brazilian chap wearing golden knee-high fuck-me boots, an impressively tiny golden skirt, and a long flowing wig of, of course, golden locks. And he’s one hell of a dancer. We ogle him for a time and then decide to go and eat.
After some rapid fire Googling we decide on a local restaurant that is famed for using ingredients from indigenous communities and combining them with more traditional Brazilian and Portuguese fare to create truly interesting food. It’s a walk of a few kilometres but we’re feeling pumped so we decide to go for it.
The road pierces straight through the heart of Lapa and the sun finally disappears. As we stroll through the darkness and the heat we realise we’re getting closer and closer to an impressively steep hill. Something Rio has in abundance. We follow the road up and manage to get lost. We walk back and forth past a large local family that has set up a camp in the middle of the road. Eventually they get tired of seeing us wander back and forth like shooting gallery ducks and point us in the right direction while shouting “Escalada! Escalada!”. I have no idea what they’re saying but I understand pointing and shouting. I give them my best ‘Thanks-but-I-don’t-know-what-you-said’ combination smile/nod/wave and we’re off again.
Escalada means stairs as it turns out. And hot damn, there are a lot of them. They reach up into the sky at about a 45 degree angle and go on for much too far. We collapse mid-climb and look at the view. It’s gorgeous but we’re tired and sticky and beyond caring. We don’t even both to take a photo because we’re out of fucks to give. We debate whether to keep going. The area is poorly lit and it’s only going to get darker. Should we really be doing Rio back streets on the first night? What about all this money and our phones? Are we actually scared or do we just hate stairs?
In the end neither of us wants to be the one that backs down so we continue on. It ends up being less arduous than we expect and we eventually make it to Espírito Santa.