Connection Rio was one of the biggest highlights of my entire backpacking trip in 2011. I wrote up a review for the BJJ hostel shortly after my stay. I've decided to stick with the article as opposed to writing a new one because it is the closest thing I have to sharing a real first hand experience. I don't feel I could retell to the same degree looking back. A lot has changed in 4 years but the little group we had staying at the house for a couple weeks was just incredible. I still keep in touch with a few of them to this day and would love to plan a reunion soon!
This is the day we climbed Pedra de Gavea. Sadly I did not make it to the top! I had a bad freak out while having to do a bit of bouldering which was unfamiliar to me at the time. James was right by my side trying to calm me down. It's pretty hilarious to think back on how frozen I was. I gave it a fair shot and still managed to have my breath taken away by the gorgeous view and the intense work out. Hard to keep up with these guys, especially in the heat! Thanks to Stuart Cooper for the amazing video he put together so at least I can pretend I was up there with them. Also a pretty funny fact, I have made sandwiches for everyone that morning so we could enjoy them at the top. THE GUYS LEFT ME NOTHING as I waited patiently at the bottom of the gorilla faced peak. Exhausted, fearful AND hungry, good times I tell ya! haha
Another day trip a few of us decided to visit Cristo Redentor otherwise known as Christ the Redeemer. Amazing day trip!
Another film was put together about two incredible BJJ practitioners and MMA fighters, Marcin Held and Maciej Polok, who are extremely popular in their home country, Poland. Beautifully put together Hywell Teague! There's some shots from a trip Connection Rio made down to BTT where I got to meet Rousimar Palhares, that was a pretty cool experience.
I said my farewells to a few friends in Floripanopolis and got ready to board my plane. Off to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!
Of course I was madly ripped off by the taxi service leaving the airport. There are better ways to go about getting to Connection Rio. Dennis Asche can set up a ride where you'll pay nearly half the "gringo rate" IF you have a pretty straight forward itinerary with your dates and times on hand to share with him so it can be arranged.
I was all over the place and running a few weeks behind the time I had said I'd be there so I missed out on this opportunity. My mentality was, I'll just get there when I get there, and I'll find a way to the hostel from the airport on my own like I always do. My advice if you're traveling alone would be to try and arrange these things before-hand to save you some cash. Traveling in a group is a little different of course as you can split the cost. I guess not to mention the safety factor, I arrived I think at 2 am in Rio and hopped in the car without question.
I was welcomed by a few of the guys staying at the house who were still awake and they showed me to my room. The night is still somewhat of a blur but I passed out nicely on my top bunk.
In the morning I woke up, showered, got myself somewhat put together and some of the guys invited me to come along and watch a BJJ competition. The day couldn't have been any better. I show up in Rio de Janeiro and on my first day I not only get to watch the Brazilians go at it, but also got to enjoy watching some of the guys from Connection Rio compete. It was a dream that finally came true.
At one point Nye Oakly (one of the guys who invited me along) came back to the tournament entrance where I ran into him again. As we were talking, I remember looking at his lips and thinking, "wow he's got really purple lips!" About a second after he'd finished his sentence I blurted out "were you just eating açaí?" Of course he was haha! He pointed me in the direction where I could find some and I headed straight there.
There I was, off to get some Acai when I met Stuart Cooper, the slowest eater of life. I was curiously watching him eat his meal. He honestly took about 40 minutes just to finish a simple dish. He'd obviously had a lot of patience, set his own pace, was relaxed and enjoyed the moment at hand. Those were the conclusions I came to after reflecting on his habits. For whatever reason it surprisingly was enough to have caught my attention.
We chatted quite a bit and later I came to find out that he'd taken an interest in filming. He started out making wedding films as a hobby a while back and had just begun a new journey - getting into the film world of BJJ. He has an unreal talent.
The day passed pretty quickly and everyone had talked about going out that night; it was a Saturday. I rested and got myself ready for a night on the town which didn't consist of very much since I had very few items packed with me. I came downstairs where Nye set me up with a vodka and that's when I was introduced to an extremely interesting character Joey Kuna!
Hahaha, I still just smile when I think about all the crazy things he does. He set me up with some pasta since I hadn't had a chance to do groceries yet having just arrived. While passing it over joey happened to share his bizarre "doing the laundry dance."
What first caught me about Joey I think were his massive eyebrows - they look great on him as you can see in the few pictures I've shared! Otherwise it was the fact that literally in MID-SENTENCE, while I was talking to him, he just burst out laughing!!!
He'd say "sorry, sorry" and then he'd continue. I was so thrown off, he was so strange! From that moment I realized some important things. Here is a guy who makes himself laugh at whatever, he's a goofball and is going to have an amazing life for those simple qualities. The ability to laugh at yourself and keep yourself entertained are incredibly beneficial to your life. You just don't get the opportunity to meet someone like that everyday, and thankfully I had the chance.
Everyone I was meeting at the house had their stories. Everyone was so interesting, there was never a dull moment. The house attracted the craziest people from all over the world, everyone with different goals, plans and ideas of how they were going to make the most of their trip.
For me it was a bit of a strange time. I had just traveled for 9 months, visited 9 countries, this was my last destination and I had a bit of mixed emotions dealing with the fact that it was all coming to an end. I put all those worries in the back of my head but I mean to get to Connection Rio with 10 days left, it was bittersweet and completely heartbreaking! I had SUCH an amazing time and met INCREDIBLE people and knew I'd be on another plane saying goodbye to this great group soon enough. Most of them had only just started their travels which made me wish I had more funds to keep on going.
A few other amazing guys and girls to name, Olga, Corey Ambrose, Freddie, Rory Quarrier, Allan Sherry, Santos, James, Nial, Celsinho. I'll put up a few links to some great work by Hywel Teague as well! Two of the best Polish fighters, Maciej Polok and Marcin Held, the unforgettable Camron Couch and his famous word "YEDDDDIRRRR" that spread through the house like nothing I've ever seen, Toly, Jeremy. I wish you all the best of luck this year, you've all got the power to turn dreams into reality so make it a big year with whatever you have in mind!!
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