Carnaval in Rio and off to Germany

February, 2005


February 6th

The SambaDrome is a concrete football stadium a half-mile long. We thought we would be truly clever and purchase little lawn chairs with short legs to rest our weary bones during the 9:00 PM to 7:30 AM parade. Disappointed that none were available, we settled for foam pads to sit on, like the ones we used in Bogota at the bull-fight.

One hundred-thousand Brasilians cram themselves in, not to sit on the hard concrete benches and watch the parade, but to stand in front of you, dance, sing, wave their hands, wave their flags and wave their song books. When they all stand for the parade, you must stand, too, or you will be unable to see the dancers and floats below. Pads brought to sit on were useless.

The first samba school came down the chute at 9:15 PM, after a warm-up show of singing and fireworks that actually started before the appointed hour. Each school, with 3000 to 4500 students, gets an hour and a half to demonstrate style and enthusiasm. With seven schools scheduled to dance the night away, it makes sense to deduct points for running over the allotted time or the show would easily run past the 7:30 AM finish.

Costumes are limited only by what the mind can devise and what the body can carry, although the dancer dressed only in green paint and glitter attracted a lot of attention from the photographers moving among the performers.

We lasted through only four schools, leaving the SambaDrome at 3:00 AM.

February 7th

Packing and saying good-bye to all our Brasilian friends...
There are no pictures of the Carnaval we waited so long to see.
It started after dark and lasted long after we gave up at 3:00 in the morning

February 8th

Lufthansa's agent in Rio, who told us we had a direct flight to Frankfurt, was off by one stop in San Paulo, Brasil. That aside, the flight was uneventful, the best kind.

The Party is over. We're heading for Germany

Scenic view of Rio as we depart for San Paulo.

Our home on Copacabana Beach

The housing density in San Paulo, Brasil, is hard to document

Getting ready to leave San Paulo

Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean

February 9th

Arriving in Frankfurt at 5:30AM, we sweated bullets in the Immigration line, then ran like there was no tomorrow to the far side of the airport to catch the 6:45 AM flight to Hamburg. Since we didn't sleep a wink all night on the plane, there was only one reasonable thing to do... check into a hotel, drop our baggage, and head to the port to rescue our Jeep, which had arrived 3 weeks earlier.

A phone call to the storage yard indicated all the papers were ready; all we had to do was show up with proof of auto insurance in hand and we would be on our way. Ah, the joys of civilization, where people could be counted on to do what they said they would, were back again. Our joy lasted long enough to get to the port, where the kid in charge indicated that he needed one more e-mail from the shipping company before he could hand us the keys. After an hour of waiting for the computer to cough up the message, another phone call revealed that the shipping company wasn't about to send a release until they were paid. One step forward had netted us two steps back. Working back up the food chain, we found that the shipping company hadn't been paid because the funds we wire-transferred to the shipping agent a week before hadn't been located. The only good news was that the car had actually made it intact; I could see it from the office window.

Fortunately, the person we had been dealing with regularly at the shipping company was at lunch when we called. Someone more capable found the money, informed the shipping company, sent the required e-mail, and got us going in minutes.

Naturally, the car battery was totally dead, but a near-by battery cart solved that problem. They gave us a gallon of gas, since the tank was required to be almost empty for shipping, but nobody offered to replace the two fine bottles of wine from Mendoza, Argentina, which had been stolen from their hidden location behind the spare tire.

We picked up our shipped luggage at an office nearby, cleared customs and headed for a gas station. Filling the tank (80 liters) set me back US114.00! The dead-battery hadn't gotten enough charge during the hour of running to re-start the car, so we asked for a boost from another person in the station. A crowd gathered as one attempt after another failed to get enough juice into the battery to start the engine. In desperation, we bought another new battery to replace the one we had purchased in Buenos Aires, only weeks before.

After 24 hours without sleep, we headed for the hotel and a nap

We cleared German Immigration at 5:30 AM in Frankfurt and took a short flight to Hamburg.

Our faithful Jeep sat shivering in the snow while we partied on the beach in Rio.
The soon-to-be-needed battery cart waits patiently.

February 10th

Did a final city tour on a double-decker bus, seeing the highlights of Hamburg in a light drizzle.

It's early February in Hamburg, Germany. What did you expect?

The Jeep has a new battery and we're ready to head south.

February 11th

Got up at dawn to beat the traffic out of Hamburg, making the 650 km run to Bietigheim in 7 hours. Elsa knocked on the door and her Mom answered, but she didn't recognize her daughter without a helpful hint like, "Hi, Mom".

Seven hours later, at home in the driveway, Bietigheim, Germany.