Carnaval do Brasil
08.02.2010 - 13.02.2010 35 °C
We flew from Rio to Salvador with VoeGol, one of the low cost airlines available in the country. Maria almost missed the plane, but in the end we managed to arrive all together. This time though, we divided into three groups; Olga and Chiara stayed at a nice Posada, whilst the rest of us were staying in two different hostels; we went with Maria to Galeria 13, and Patty, Marco, Luli and Joey went to the unforgettable Albergue do Pelo, where we would join them for the last two nights. Albergue do Pelo, better known as Versailles between us, was the worst hostel in Brasil, South America...to be precise, it was like an Indian hostel where you spend 2 Euro for the night, except we were paying an average of 40 Euro due to the Carnival. Filthy, depressing, ugly, and it was recommended by the Lonely Planet as a "hostel with very high demand". We hated it, but we had prepaid the stay and were therefore stuck. We didn't have breakfast there, we only used the bathroom when required and would not go back to sleep until we were a little drunk (despite the amount of caipirinhas in our systems, the hostel didn't seem any prettier).
Salvador is very different from Rio de Janeiro; our first impression was that it's poorer than the Cidade Maravilhosa, but still another fascinating place in Brazil. We were told by an Italian girl who worked at Galeria 13 that women should never walk alone at night, never carry a bag (carry your notes in your bra) and wear very simple clothes, otherwise you're a potential robbery victim. Our area was Pelourinho, the historic city centre, full of bars, churches, shops and services. Locals practise Capoeira in the main squares to earn some money from tourists, they dance and play the drums, they sell clothes and make funky hairstyles, they give away the famous wish bracelet from the Bonfim Church. There was activity on every corner, Carnival was getting nearer and the atmosphere was tense; people wanted to party and were waiting anxiously for Thursday Feb 11th to arrive.
We spent our first days exploring Pelourinho and the beaches outside Salvador. Again, kilometres of sand, decorated with palm trees and beach bars where a portion of camarâo and some beer was always the perfect add-on. We personally preferred the magic of Ipanema and its crazy hot people, but still, were happy to be there, and enjoyed every second. Around 5 pm, the beach bars were shutting and the waiters sent us home; too dangerous to stay around when there's no one and the sun is setting. There was definitely a higher sense of danger in Salvador than in Rio, Paraty or Foz.
Every evening, we would enjoy a caipirinha before having dinner at some random restaurant. We ended up going twice to an Italian place called "La Figa", which in Brazil is a gesture of good luck and wishes, whereas in Italy, the meaning is very different. The sound of the drums was always on the background, making us company and motivating us to keep enjoying ourselves...the words Brazil and boring definitely aren't made for each other. But the best was yet to come and it was the first Carnival night. During our first night at "La Figa", we met a guy from Naples who owns a hostel in Pelourinho, and he informed us about the "blocos", where you basically pay a ticket to dance and parade along with one of the many artists that perform during Carnival. The ticket is a T-shirt that you wear to be allowed in the particular bloco. Although it's also possible to watch all the blocos from outside the protected perimeter, we were told it can get quite dodgy as bands tend to have fights, so we decided to buy the T-shirts and truly experience the celebration from inside.
The night of the Carnival we met with Fabio at his hotel, located in Barra and right next to where all the blocos were leaving. On our way there, we saw a guy selling all sorts of crazy accessories and decided to buy colourful wigs for everyone! We had dinner and started our Caipirinha ritual. There was a group of Argentinian guys who were taking part in our same bloco and they joined us for some dancing and drinking. Around 10 pm we left to join the bloco. Inside each bloco there was a double decker that had been reconverted into a stage; the singer, Tatau, was ready to start the party, and we were ready; finally...our feet started to move. As soon as Tatau sang the first three words of his song, we were jumping and dancing along with hundreds of people who were even more excited than us, and we started to experience the world's biggest party! We were all in the same partying mood and nothing could stop us, not even the rain, which started to pour down heavily after a while. But nothing mattered, and all the Brazilians were still dancing, still drinking, still smiling, because they had been waiting for a year and nothing would stop them from enjoying themselves. That's when we understood that Brazilians are the best party people; go out with a Brazilian boy/girl and it's guaranteed you'll have fun.
The party went on all night long, but we retired around 2 am...4 hours dancing under the rain gave us a good idea of what Carnival meant. The streets were filthy, and the smell was a little terrifying...and we just prayed for a shower and a bed to rest. People during Carnival never seem to be resting, as at any time of the day you see people dancing, or playing the drums...where the hell do these people get their energy from?
We spent our last day in Salvador relaxing at Barra beach, which was an absolute disaster after the first night of Carnival. We watched how the blocos were preparing for the second round and said goodbye to Salvador, to its fantastic Pelourinho and good music. It was time to go back to Rio, our family was leaving...