Being part of the worlds biggest party

Taking part in Rio de Janeiro Carnival Brazil

Have you ever experienced something so different to anything else you’ve ever seen or done before, that five years on you’re still unable to believe you were there?

That amazing ‘something’ was Rio Carnival for Eliza Anderson during her visit to Brazil

“It was a sight so out of this world that I’m still getting flashes of the colour and vibrancy of the most amazing four hours of my life. Flashbacks of the fireworks exploding from the back of our float and wow, I’d almost forgotten about the transvestite ballerinas!

For anyone who travels to Rio during Carnival I can promise you that the experience will be unforgettable. But my experience was somewhat unique, in that I really shook my tail feather, literally, on a float!

The actual parade during Rio Carnival is a competition between different samba schools. Many of the samba schools struggle to fund their entry in the event, so they allow foreigners to be a part of their team by auditioning and then paying for the costume to help cover the team’s expenses.

After ‘auditioning’ (taking a photo of myself in a bikini – dear lord please never let those images make it online – this threat is the only thing standing between me and a career in Hollywood) I found myself in Rio accepting a delivery of sequins, feathers and fishnets.

On the day of the parade I was sadly sans a Copacabana tan (thanks to my Irish heritage!) but it didn’t matter. Before the parade, all floats are lined up in the Avenue of Champions, waiting to enter the famous Sambadrome. From here you can hear the roar of the crowds and the vibrancy of the parade pulsating from the purpose-built venue, but you can’t see the action. We waited for two hours, practising our team song (in Portuguese!) and getting some last minute samba tips from our fellow teammates.

Floats in the parade can be anywhere between two and three storey high and each team has about three floats. In addition, they have hundreds of team members on the ground, walking between their floats. The scale and colour is beyond anything you can imagine.

I will never forget the moment we turned into the Sambadrome from the Avenue of Champions. The Sambadrome is about 1km long with bleachers that seat 70,000 screaming spectators on either side. The sound and energy hits you like a bolt of lightning that courses through your body. I didn’t sing our team song so much as scream it. It took us an hour to make our way through the Sambadrome. Everyone is on their feet, blowing you kisses, singing along with you. At the end, young girls rush up to you and hug you. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like a star.

If you can get to Rio for Carnival (or Carnaval in Portuguese) – do it, you will remember it forever!

If you get the opportunity to be a part of a float, you’ll be infected with the samba beat. On those days when you’re slogging away at your desk, trying to remember why it is you work so hard, you’ll stop, close your eyes and remember that moment of completely losing your inhibitions. How free and alive you felt and it will make the slog worth it!”

Photo: Eliza in Rio!

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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