Saturday, May 03, 2008

Samba on

Reception agreed that I had come very close to death.

Following an exciting night dancing the samba with Greg Raymer, I came back to my room to find it infested with a swarm of dengue fever-ridden mosquitoes.

Dengue fever is a serious worry here at LAPT Rio. None of us really knows what it is but, much like the impetigo we narrowly avoided catching in Venice, it sounds revolting and we don’t want it. Statistics vary but the one I tend to roll out is that in Rio alone more than 50,000 people have died of dengue fever since lunchtime. Apparently there is a Second Chance aspect to dengue fever – you’re allowed to catch it once, but the second instalment is fatal. Sarne has already had dengue fever so his presence here is an act of fearless dedication to his new role as Latin America marketing manager. Also, Tori has a bruise on her leg which we think might be dengue fever but we’ve decided to see what happens over the next few days.

As it has rained non-stop since we got here, our tales of “outside the hotel” are a little on the paltry side. Also we have had to WORK which certainly took Tori and I by surprise. However, on Thursday we did venture out in a local taxi. I’m now totally fluent in Portuguese but our taxi driver had a very strong accent which meant we understood absolutely nothing he was saying and vica versa. Our request to visit the “historic centre” – picture No. 2 on Howard’s one-page guide to Rio – meant a visit to Rio’s business district. Monolithic, grubby high rises. Not a bar in sight. None of us wanted to get out so we put in a request for Copacabana beach.

With Tori working through her Barry Manilow repertoire, we pulled ourselves out of the taxi leaving Howard to negotiate the $300 fare. Copacabana is – in a word – horrible. Apartment blocks line the boulevard and reminded me of the Communist-era housing estates I saw in Moscow. I don’t know which bit of Rio they modelled Vegas’ Rio on, but it certainly wasn’t Copacabana. As Thursday was a national holiday, the beach was full of Brazilians trying to have fun but it was pouring with rain and no one was pulling this off with any real conviction. After pretending to have fun ourselves, we eventually gave up and headed for a bar. Howard, Tori and I ordered caiparinhas and Carles – still in shock after getting totally hammered on one sip the night before – had a beer. We rejected the “chef’s suggestion” for the “plato do dia” – bull testicles.

Back at the Intercontinental, we bumped into Siktilt. They were heading off to a samba bar in a bullet-proof, armoured tank. Our Brazilian blogger Maria suggested we go too, and ordered a second tank to get us there. Sadly it never turned up – a real shame as Hass and Rury said the samba bar was the best place they’d ever been in their lives apart from Dortmund.

The next day we had to do some MORE work. Tori and I are in slight shock about this but spent an amusing day walky-talkying each other on the radios and writing superfluous press releases.

EPT Welcome Parties are great. We get magic tricks, hoola hoop girls and even semi-naked trapeze artists. But nothing prepared us for the LAPT Rio Welcome Party. The missing ingredient is, of course, Brazilians. My god, they know how to party. By the end of the capoeira show, they were in a dancing frenzy. A samba band had turned up dressed like exotic natives from Star Trek and by the time I came back from the bar, the entire room was bumping and grinding. Tori swept past me in a conga; Mick from Galway was up on stage. Everyone had gone mad. It was awesome.

I woke up today (great news; obviously death isn’t instant with dengue fever) to find the sun shining. Staggering view. There’s nothing at the Vegas Rio that’s anything like this. I don’t think there is anywhere in the world that’s like this. Rio is amazing.