Carnival. What Day is it ?
Easy 150km or so run into Salvador for Carnival and even the feared Salvador one way system wasn’t too bad to negotiate and we are all ensconced across 3 apartments by 11.15 or so. Ours is a nice apartment, spacious rooms and excellent facilities – close to a major shopping centre and the main carnival parade route. We are sharing with Duncan & Angela, Sue, Vanessa, Heather and Lisa as apartment owner specified married couples and single girls. Whatever, we are very happy with our digs for the week.
We went for a nice lunch at an Outback restaurant in the shopping centre, one of a number of good places to eat, watched the chaos of the supermarkets – Christmas, Easter and August Bank holiday shopping rolled into one. Which beer to buy and how much, do we need 15 or 20 cases? seems to be the major consideration. In the supermarket the major brands all had promotional staff offering various carnival freebies to entice you to buy Brahma versus Schin versus Skol.
Thursday evening we went to the old town, Peleurinho,to meet up with all the group for a gentle introduction to Carnival. The centre is a beautiful old colonial square and the marching bands / groups parade, sing and drum their way through the evening. Cocktails and snacks available from the little stalls set up for the purpose. A couple of the group given tee-shirts for their enthusiastic participation and joined the parades.
Lots of silly photos and a really fun evening, we shared a taxi home with Duncan & Angela and got in around midnight. There was a slightly depressing follow up next morning when Sue reported that following one the parades into possibly a less salubrious area she had her St Christopher ripped from her neck receiving some minor scratches and a shove in the face. Regrettably there is that element to carnival and all the advice is to carry nothing visible and hide your money as pick pocketing is rife.
A timely reminder for Friday nights big event, joining the Bob Sinclar float – a sample from last year here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9P8yh5sTFo – it gives you no idea whatsoever of the volume of the base, you can physically feel it 50 metres away.
Sat am – well a real experience and delighted to have done it but to be honest probably 25 if not 35 years past being able to derive maximum pleasure being neither “on the pull” or determined to get totally wasted. We started in front of the truck but it was simply too crowded so we fell to the area behind the truck and had more space to dance (breathe!) and party.
The loading area was fun, the next float pulls up about 200 metres short of the parade start up and the bloco members join behind the roped area, then they switch the sound system on and warm the partygoers up, at departure time we edge forward, the float gets announced and at the start line they really switch the sound system on along with the lasers, light show, smoke machines and video displays. Simply amazing spectacle to see and be part of, these floats must cost a fortune to build and then unused 360 days of the year.
The security generally worked really well around the float. It consisted of scores of rope pullers varying in age from 20 – 60, some quite frail looking, with gloves to hold on to the thick rope. Plus security men dotted all around some offering more protection than others. Also lining the route are small booths above the crowds housing half a dozen armed police with police regularly walking through the crowds as well. After a couple of hours it was getting just a touch too rowdy for us, too many drunken lads, a couple of minor spats around us and at least one minor theft so we stepped out and made our way home. I’m sure the rest of the partygoers, being under 25 thought it was a perfectly routine Friday night out.
It was clearly a popular ticket as even though the parade was nearly done lots of people wanted to buy our tee shirt as we left so they could join in the fun. We decided to keep ours as souvenirs and to avoid walking home shirtless!
We got home and thought we had lost our key so sat down in the pool area (Karen cooled her aching feet in the pool!) whilst we waited for someone else to get back, only a 30 minute wait before Dunc & Angela appeared, we were then delighted to discover key not lost but left on the dining room table – Karen quote “I definitely brought it with me”.
Security precautions worked well, no visible jewellery, Karen removed wedding ring for first time in years and we carried money in shoes, sock and bra 🙂 Having sussed it out we will take a camera to tomorrows Olodum parade, avoiding the crush areas where you can barely decide where to go or move your arms and stick to the parade loading area which is a fun and lively but not too packed place to be.
Quiet day planned for Saturday; maybe explore some of the other many charms that Salvador has to offer, think we will have a wander in the historic centre or curl up by the pool with a book. Decisions, decisions.
Mon am. Well apart from a trip to stock up on food and take photos of the beer promotion girls in the local supermarket never stuck our head out of the door Saturday. A very relaxing chilled out day.
On Sunday we were up for an early breakfast and then countdown to the big event – Olodum. Afternoon started well watching the Rugby with (Irish) Lisa and commiserating her on England’s ground out result – first win in 10 years in Dublin.
Your T-Shirt is your ticket to the bloco and of course it’s a great sight to see 100’s of people in the same “uniform” however to stand out people modify their shirts, adding slashes, fringes, straps to stand out from the masses. There are even shops that will do it for you professionally in an hour or so, Karen did a fine job of turning mine into a tabard as the one size fits all was a bit snug!
The locals of course extend this with beaded hair, Olodum symbols on heads, we even saw some girls with their teeth braces in Olodum colours.
A really hot day so lashings of sun cream on all exposed parts and a hat for me, money in sock and Karen’s camera attached by carabineer to belt and in a zipped pocket and we were good to go. We were slightly late leaving the apartment so missed the joining up with the others and got slightly lost getting to the start point, however it worked out well, thankfully Olodum were the opening bloco so we just walked down the parade route and they came up to meet us ! Our shirts giving us free access between the security guards.
The parade was truly excellent – a much more mature crowd than Friday, less crowded, great interaction with the locals who both wanted photos with the gringos and were happy to have their photos taken.
There was still plenty of beer being consumed but it was just people having a good time, Olodum and the accompanying vocalist were pounding out a great rhythm and being first float there were less of the stops that occurred on Friday.
A great time, no incidents other than, completely accidentally, Karen’s camera got knocked out of her hand. Well actually kicked as it was a Capoeira (martial arts) dancer, security was there in a second to make sure battery and memory card recovered and nothing untoward was happening; camera slightly dented but no apparent damage to functionality and dancer could not have been more apologetic. In fact he wanted his picture taken with Karen to prove the camera was still working. Taking it was always a risk at such an event but we are pleased with the photos and it was a great way to interact with the crowd.
We stayed right until the end of the parade route (about 6.30) and then walked back to the parade start and up to the light house to watch more of the parade. Grabbing some snacks – the ubiquitous and tasty grilled cheese and of course some beer along the way. Karen has taken to Smirnoff Ice as being sold in cans she knows what is in it.
Again more interaction with the locals who seem genuinely pleased to share “Carnival” with the world. The dance I had with guy on the beach wasn’t the only impact I made that night.
We left about 8.30 tired but very happy with Lisa and Heather to walk back to the apartment. We stopped at a garage to get water & chocolate, the girls went in and I waited outside. Guy asks me a question” sorry I don’t speak Portuguese” he then switches to English and introduces himself (as the locals do) when we shake hands he says “ooh what a firm grip, you are so strong” (Small alarm bells ring) . We then proceed to chat about being in Brazil enjoying the Carnival and so forth. He asks if I am here alone, “ no, with friends” but insists on giving me a telephone number, and a carnival CD, as maybe we could meet another time. (Fire alarm now going off in my head).
At this point girls reappear and I introduce Karen as “my wife” strangely Eddy seems to lose interest and wanders off. Karen of course thought the whole thing hilarious. I said she should pay attention as clearly she has competition……………there is life in the old dog yet.
Monday plan to find somewhere to watch Liverpool games as premiership is broadcast by ESPN and tomorrow we will explore other things the city has to offer and no doubt a last sample of Carnival.
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