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Technobloco, Carnaval, Rio, Friends and Freedom

Ambushing the Sambódromo with hundreds of other Brazilian Carnaval party animals was one of the best moments of my life. The epicentre of Brazil’s biggest celebration just days earlier now lay empty of the floats, colours, beats and beauties which had danced through it before thousands of the happiest people in the world. At Technobloco it was our turn to take it over and Rio’s streets to have so much life-affirming fun in a way I can’t imagine you can find in too many other places in the world besides here.

The brass and percussion band played electronic music classics instead of samba songs, and this odd coupling ended up mixing so sweetly that it was even better than having a DJ pumping out the tunes. The beats, rhythms and melodies were all on point. It all came right at the end on the last night of 'post-Carnaval', the Sunday of the weekend after the 5 days of Carnaval officially ended, which followed the two months of 'pre-Carnaval' before. Crazy, right?

In the Uber there with my Aussie and English mates the driver asked us in Portuguese just what we were doing at 9pm going to to Praça Onze in Rio’s Centro, an area not normally for gringos after dark. It was a bloco I told him and he nodded. Going through some dingy looking streets he said when we arrived, “be careful, there are favelas around here and it’s dangerous”.

He wasn’t wrong, but we were delivered straight to the metro station where hundreds of other young Brazilians were gathered outside for one last chance to soak up just a little bit more Carnaval. It’d be another year until it all started again, and that’s a long time to wait for something which gets so deeply stuck in your soul that to be without feels like a genuine withdrawal.

But Technobloco was the perfect closer, I'd only found out about it from a friend's text 3 hours earlier. There was no Facebook event, it was about as underground as they get. After I missed one during Carnaval there were whispers going around about a repeat all weekend but with no luck, as I was resigning myself for a night in front of the tv I finally got the news I'd been hoping for. Technobloco was back.

I was a little tired by this time, just a little, after the previous week and a half but there was no way I was going to miss this. Waiting, beers in hand, the band came together and the first notes of instantly recognisable dance songs were blown as they led the crowd onto the streets. The energy went from 0 to 100 in seconds.

In a couple of turns we arrived at a very open Sambódromo, everyone clicking ‘holy shit is the band really leading us there, yes they are!’ We all dance-walked our way down down the huge concourse before the band stopped us all in our tracks and lowered themselves and all of us crouching to the ground. The song’s build up was played and like an explosion at the drop we all jumped to our feet and ran.

People couldn’t believe what was happening, the surroundings, the band sprinting and somehow still playing the music and running with hundreds of strangers as it all enveloped you. The smiles were written large across everyone’s faces, no one quite knew what was going on except that it was incredible and it felt like it was just the beginning of something truly special.

And it was. The security guards and the few workers still around just smiled and took photos, they could see how ridiculous this was, and 15 minutes later after going down to the end and back our invasion was over and we were back on the streets. As videos were posted to Instagram and Snapchat people bundled themselves desperately out of taxis and Ubers and joined the party procession.

As we advanced towards the main part of the city Technobloco was growing by the minute magnetising everyone around it. The difference from Carnaval time on this quiet, warm Sunday night was that the visitors and the crowds across the city had gone and the streets and the bloco were all for us, the people who found out about it or were lucky enough to come across it.

If our collective minds already hadn’t been blown enough they were again when the band led us into Rio’s brand spanking new traffic tunnel, ready and primed for use but just not conveniently open to cars yet. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s likely the Sambódromo won’t be able to be caught off guard with its gates open again next year, but this will never be able to be repeated once there are cars speeding through it.

The energy crescendoed and the sound amplified as we descended down the roadway and filled the cavernous tunnel with unfiltered, immeasurable noise and happiness. The Technobloco MO continued as the band broke out into a run and the crowd followed them back out to the streets. These stops and bursts of energy would happen again and again all through the night.

I remember one shirtless gay guy in hot pants prancing down the street with no worries free as a bird, the night truly was freedom. As I said in my last post before it had even begun, Carnaval really is the best party in the world. This was without doubt after its five days rolled by so fast that it felt like the rocket ship had barely gotten into orbit before it was all over and we were all left suspended in space, just a blur of the here, there, everywhere, everyone and everything seared into our memories.

In case you haven’t read my last piece and are wondering what the hell a bloco is, it’s just simply the best form of partying known to humanity created by Brazilians for Carnaval. They're at their best in Rio which has over 400 of them. A band walks or sometimes goes on the back of a bus through the streets as hundreds/thousands/tens of thousands of people in costumes dance around them. It’s such a simple concept but only Brazil can seem to pull it off with such magic.

From how happy everyone is, the elaborate costumes, glitter, sparkle, colour and individual imagination on show everyday, the lack of drunkenness but availability of alcohol everywhere, and of course how good looking Brazilians are, everyone with an ounce of fun in their body should experience it once in their lifetime. And it’s all free.

Thanks to my Brazilian housemate, his brother and all their friends who took me to the coolest parties everyday, I ended up experiencing Carnaval like a pro. “You won Carnaval” a friend of mine here in Rio said to me after she watched my Insta stories. It was all thanks to these guys who took me away from the beachside blocos of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, the biggest but in many cases the worst blocos of the lot because of the kids and douchebags they attract.

The people in the know who care a little more about the music go to the blocos between Botafogo and Centro. Getting on the metro to go there everyday and leaving the zoo of Ipanema, my own normally placid suburb, was so satisfying. It’s the only time in the year the rough streets of Centro are a better place to be than Zona Sul, the south zone.

In all of Carnaval I didn’t have a single bad experience, it was 100% good vibes. Despite the city’s reputation for crime, it seems to be overwhelmed by positivity wherever Carnaval touches. Some thieving and bad things undoubtedly occurred but I never saw a fight or any aggression, just smiles for miles and tonnes of humanity loving life. I can’t wait to do it all again, a lifelong love affair has well and truly begun.

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