Rolling into the third day proper of what will forever be known to me as ‘The Rio Sessions’ it was a subdued start after hauling myself out of bed to ensure I didn’t miss breakfast. After much grogginess and hanging out strumming guitar, stroking a local cat that liked to frequent the hostel for attention and drinking lots of water the majority of the group decided to head out for lunch – Jens and Tom took some ever-valuable me time to continue their recovery while Eduardo had work to do on sorting his visa for his imminent move to Glasgow for study. We set out suitably sluggish into Lapa in search of food all keen to repeat the style of yesterday’s lunch but at a different place. After some strong negotiations by our ever-ready leader Raquel we hit Tribunal Sucos Restaurante, not entirely sure why it was more than double the rate we’d paid the day before. When we sat down to consume our frankly phenomenal fillet steaks and variety of other wonderful fresh foods we knew why.
It was sadly Dan and Ray’s last day before an early morning flight to Iguazu so they had a hit list of things to see before leaving. The first of these was the Escaderia Selaron, a long street of intricately tiled steps by artist Chilean Selaron whose mosaic has been evolving since the early nineties. Apparently if you send him a tile he’ll chip out and replace an old one which he’ll return to you. It was an impressive sight despite the grey sky. There was a lot going on including the filming of a music video involving a troop of shirtless One Direction clones pushing camp to new heights while miming to “Call Me Maybe” and a host of exceptionally scantily clad ladies shooting photos with all manner of professional equipment around – Flo even managed to get a snap with a couple of the models that will doubtless find its way onto Facebook eventually. Ray & Dan hot-footed it over to Christ the Redeemer next while the rest of us set off back to the hostel. Flo and Raquel were hatching secret plans for Vanessa’s birthday involving a jaunt across town to Confetaria Colombo for a full cake so while the rest of the group dispersed I joined Flo for the secret mission. We had a great walk across town despite our mutual exhaustion – he’s a stand-out guy with a brilliant flair for languages and good nature and sense of humour. We achieved our mission and even managed to pick up a card and candles thanks to Flo’s rapidly improving Portuguese – I was just along as extra muscle, which if you see the size of championship Judo athlete Flo you’d fall in a fit of laughter. We even managed to grab a few cold Brahmas to get back on it when we’d made the ever-exhausting climb back up to the hostel.
Raquel and Vanessa had moved across town to Copacabana and decided to start Vanessa’s birthday celebrations a night early so Ray & Dan could be a part. Truly no rest for the wicked. In the downtime before our planned rendezvous on the other side of town Ray & Dan returned, unsuccessful in their visit to big J.C. after it had closed due to the weather. We cleaned up and sorted ourselves and Eduardo & Tom rejoined us while Jens declined as he had a trip to Ilha Grande lined up for the next day. We got taxies and before long found Raquel and Vanessa’s new place. We decided the best way to celebrate Vanessa’s birthday was all-you-can-eat pizza and so found the place after a bit of walking and settled in, all the while Flo sneaking the cake along behind us. The pizza was great with a whole host of varieties all on super-thin bases and served by a multitude of waiters bringing each pizza to the table and borderline begging you to take a piece. We sat with Tom and talked non-stop about his magnificent adventure putting ours to shame – what is it with inspirational Tom’s on this trip?!?
After a breakdown in German – Portuguese behind-Vanessa’s-back sign language the cake appeared at 11pm thus signalling the start of Vanessa’s birthday an hour early. We each squeezed in a piece and then it was time for dancing – or at least it would have been if Copacabana had any nightlife of note on a Tuesday evening. A lot of unsuccessful wandering eventually led us to an Irish bar with a spectacular selection of expensive ales so Tom & I set about Old Speckled Hen and Guinness – both on draught. Dan commenced a protracted strip-tease at the behest of Vanessa and we all chatted for a good few pints. By this time most of us were flagging so we left and said our sad goodbyes to the incredible Dan & Ray who were determined to party until their morning flight and take Vanessa & Raquel dancing. The rest of us retired to the hostel for a night cap then bed.