This is part two of my three-part blog on my trip to South America. Check out part one here.
ON TO CARNIVAL
I went on this trip alone, but when I got to Brazil and went to Salvador and Rio, my good friend and former teammate Chris Ogbonnaya, who now plays for the Cleveland Browns, joined me for the experience of Carnival.
Since it was the impetus for my trip, Carnival was the part of I was most looking forward to and it definitely did not disappoint.
It was just one big party. The closest thing I could even compare it to that I’ve experienced is New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas. But this was for seven days straight. It was just unbelievable. From sun up to sun down isn’t an exaggeration. People started partying from 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning and it didn’t stop until sunrise the next day.
It truly exceeded my expectations. You know, you hear about these big parties but you don’t really know until you experience it. Being from Las Vegas, maybe I underestimated it because I thought I had seen it all and done it all. But once you get there and realize the culture and what they do with this holiday, for seven days. It’s just incredible.
I was in Salvador for three days and Rio for five. Salvador’s celebration had more of a local feel. The cameras and the huge production that you see on television, that’s in Rio. A good comparison would be, the feel in Salvador was like Bourbon Street or somewhere in the French Quarter in New Orleans, whereas Rio was like New York during a huge parade or celebration there. The party goes on in both places, but there’s more money and production to the celebration in Rio.
I was fortunate enough to actually be a part of the parade while I was down there. I suited up for the Samba Schools competition and was out there drumming to the beat. The drums and the music are so loud that your heart kind of goes to the same beat.
This also happens to be the funniest part of the trip because, while Chris and I were in the Samba parade, we’re going down the street and we noticed Reggie Bush in the crowd watching. When Reggie saw me, he gave me this look like “What are you doing?” It was a strange coincidence that we would even see each other, no less me be in the parade. I was in the moment in the culture and he was just looking at me. It was a great laugh for all of us.
WATERFALLS AND GLACIERS
The next stop on my trip was Argentina, which featured some of the most diverse locales that I hit on the entire trip.
We started at Iguassu Falls, which is right on the northernmost border between Brazil and Argentina.
Iguassu is just a beautiful waterfall. It’s unbelievable to see nature possess such power. The day that I spent there, the waterfall was passing 1.5 million gallons per second. I did a walking tour and a boat tour. On the boat tour, we actually went underneath the waterfall and when the water hits you, not only do you become 100 percent wet instantly, but you can also feel the power of it as it immerses you. It was quite amazing to feel it take hold.
From there we headed down to Buenos Aires and I visited La Boca, “the neighborhood” which my video gamers know is featured in the game FIFA Street 2. That neighborhood is famous for it’s soccer players. I also got to visit the stadium in Buenos Aires where the juniors play. You know, in South America and pretty much all over the world, soccer is king. It was funny because when people down there found out that I was a football player, the argument always was that it shouldn’t be called football.
The thing that stood out to me about La Boca, and most of Argentina, was the different influences you can see in the culture. It has a lot of French influence as well as other European and American influences. From block to block you could see how the city tried to replicate the things that they saw from people passing through and how they left an impression on the neighborhood.
The last destination in Argentina was El Calafate where I did a glacier walk. Most people don’t know where that is, but it’s in the Patagonia Province, almost as south as you can get in the continent of South America. It was pretty cold, that was why I had to pack warm and cold clothes. The climate change had me worried about possibly getting sick, but fortunately I didn’t have any issues. I think I packed well and prepared myself, and luckily when I was doing the glacier walk it wasn’t that cold. We got lucky and had some really sunny days.
Since I was already in Argentina, I thought a glacier walk would be another neat thing to do, something again, that not many people have done before. To see ice at such heights, like skyscraper size, was amazing. They were saying that some of the glaciers there were 15-20 meters tall.
The whole experience was amazing. You could hear the ice cracking, see pieces fall off into the water and they even gave us a chance to drink from the water, which is so pure. It’s one of the more impressive things I’ve been able to take in, in all of the places I’ve travelled.