Taking the corner at what was probably close to 60km/hr, our lunatic bus driver managed to just keep all four wheels on the ground. With windows wide open and winds whipping our hair straight back Kathy and I were in hysterical laughter. And we were the lucky ones – seated. Others, standing, grasped at anything within reach (often each other). The pay-your-money-to-the -woman-in-the-corner had a vice-like grip on her turnstile and anyone preparing to dismount stood wedged in anticipation of coming to a screaming halt. What the..? Where’s Keanu Reeves when you need him?!
For the last 30 minutes our bus had be crawling in terrible traffic and the driver must have spotted a gap. There was no question he wasn’t going to take it. Holy cow – Lonely Planet’s description of Rio’s bus drivers being “raving maniacs” is spot on. Many of them open the doors and continue to drive slowly along the side of the pavement while one is required to simply take a leap of faith. Then, there’s no waiting for formalities, asking directions or closing the purse strings. The bus is off and more often than not folk are hurled through the turnstile and near-trussed up alongside all those others lucky enough to make it on board.
Still giggling, some 15 minutes later, and having spotted the right signs; Kathy and I made the undignified leap off our wild Friday night ride and onto the streets of Lapa. What a fabulous place.
Without a map or any previous knowledge of the area we simply walked. People were out and about in their hundreds and the numbers continued to grow with each passing hour. Pavement bars sprung up, roller doors opened to reveal samba clubs within, Capoeira ensembles appeared under walkways and in amongst market vendors – the place was pulsing. With crowds swelling so to was the number of pick pockets. Kathy was frisked three times but was quick enough to confront the culprit. No loss of belongings.
Sitting in one of the largest outdoor bar crowds I’ve seen in a long time, we sipped Caipirinhas, picked at olives, Brazilian salami, pão (bread) and people watched the hours away. Music pulsed from all surrounding bars, parking lots, street set-ups and windows. What mayhem, but it felt real. Young and old danced singularly as well as together, cachaça (a high-proof sugar cane spirit, pronounced ka-sha-sah) bottles appeared and shots sold for silly money.
Exhausted, Kathy and I decided to make this an explorative night. We’d come back to Lapa and get fully involved. But for now, weaving through throngs of locals and tourists alike, we needed to spot a bus and prepare for the light-speed ride home.