The Salvador Carnival!

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February 21st 2006
Published: May 26th 2006
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The Boys In Brasil!
The Salvador Carnival turned out to be a bigger experience than I expected, a huge party, streets buzzing, dancing, millions of people partying, at times you just couldn't move, everyone was involved and Salvador also lived up to its reputation as a pretty dangerous place.

This entry is a long one, but lots of stories to tell.........

Carnival is a big event all over Brasil every city, town and village has a parade of some sort, everyone gets involved. The Carnival runs in the days leading upto Lent.....we have Pancake Day they party for a week.......says alot about Brasil and the Brasilian way of life. The two big carnivals are Rio and Salvador. Rio is all about Samba Schools parading the most outrageous colourful processions in the city's Samba Dome. Salvador on the other hand is a big street concert, its thought of more like the peoples carnival.

Luke, Mike and myself decided Salvador was for us. As the guys where coming here on holiday a decent hotel rather than a backpacking dorm was needed. We stayed at the Redfish in Santo Antonino near Pelourinho, the historic part of the city. The Psoudada Redfish has easily been the nicest accommodation of my travels so far, good cake for breakfast!

We weren't along in Santo Antino Bono was staying just down the road, tried having a drink in his hotel one night but the bar wasn't open.

The Salvador Carnival runs for a massive 6 days! starting on the Thursday night before Shrove Tuesday. The keys to the city are handed over to the carnival King and the party starts. There are three routes Campo Grande, Barra and Pelourinho.

Campo Grande and Barra (pronounced baha) are the main carnival circuits each at least 5 miles long. Campo Grande is in the city and Barra follows the coast road. Blocos parade the routes from early afternoon to the early hours of the morning, it takes about 6hrs for a Bloco to complete the full route.

A Bloco is large roped off area in which people dance around a huge articulated lorry basically a big moving concert. The act or Trio (as they're known) play on top of the artic lorry, which is filled with speakers and make it a massive very slow moving soundsystem. You buy a ticket (a t-shirt) to get into the roped off
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Mike making new friends
area and get to dance the carnival route! Some of the larger Bloco's have a couple of thousand people!

The roped off area is maintained by a team of stewards who by pushing and pulling keep its shape. Its pretty impressive watching these guys maintaining the shape along not very wide streets, keeping up with the lorry, not crushing everyone dancing inside and stopping those without tickets trying to sneak in.

A huge moving roped off area in which thousands of people dance around an artic lorry....where else!

To enjoy the parade you don't have to get a ticket for the bloco you can just stand along the route and watch them pass by. As with pretty much everything else is quite an experience. You get crushed pick pocketed and deafened as each Bloco passes.

Its very impressive to see Brasil's top musical artists & groups taking Blocos out on the carnival routes Ivete Sangolo, Chiclete Com Banana, Gilberto Gil, Timbalada, know all your favourites!

The Pelourinho parade route is a much tamer more family orientated affair. The historic old town is a maze of winding streets, the Blocos are local groups of drummers parading what seemed endlessly round the area.

We spent our first few days sightseeing and hangin out in Pelourinho at night. This quickly gave way to late nights/early mornings partying then lounging round the room all day, Luke sleeping/reading/iPoding...Me sleeping/reading/iPoding...Mike Sudoko'ing! Mike also has by far the strangest way to sleep I've ever seen. He wraps himself in a sheet with only his nose exposed. It was quite odd waking up and seeing just a nose sleeping in the next bed, see the pic really.

We really didn't know what to expect on the first night of carnival. After a few Carprinhias we headed down to the Campo Grande route. The streets weren't too busy and there wasn't many other tourists out. The Salvadorians are virtually all of African descent being 3 English white guys we stuck out. After a while we decided to get involved and followed Daniela Mercury's Bloco, dancing after a moving artic lorry! We also got introduced to the police crowd control tactics, a fight broke out somewhere in front of us - they steamed in swinging batons at anyone nearby.

Your never too far away from a drink, the streets are patrolled
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Drummers in Pelourinho
by locals with cool boxes ready with your next drink. Kids follow picking up the empty cans to recycle, a very efficient system.

As the days went on the carnival got bigger, by Saturday we actually left the hotel before sunset in order to catch the Ivete Sangolo and Chiclete Com Banana Blocos. They're two of the biggest acts. If we had known how big we might have stood elsewhere. You hear the Bloco from some distance but really feel it when they pass everyone gets squashed and pushed around. This is when the pick pockets and thieves strike, there's nothing suttle about it either every few moments you feel a hand rummage in your pocket. After a while you just get used to it. Over the course of the carnival we had stolen.....tissues, a disposable camera, a single sock, loads of lose change and Mike's diarrhea tablets - not sure what you'd get for that lot on the black market though!

Ivete and Banana where excellent. Banana is one of Brasil's most popular rock/pop stars even though he actually looks and for that matter sounds like he's a member of the mighty Status Quo, but the youth love him. You have to give them credit for playing non-stop for 6 hours!

We actually spent most of our time in Pelourinho. The streets where decorated with everything from flowers to mobile phones you either followed the nearest drummers beat or hung out at the street stalls drinking caprinihas. A huge statue dedicated to love stood on the hill, the Amour tee 20ft high and looked like a guy in drag with 'I Love You' translations around the edge...see the pic....very Brasilian.

Pelourinho was also the safest place to hang out. We still didn't take anything out other than cash and a disposable camera. The area still had its fair share of street urchins trying to con you out of a few Realis, the trick is to keep moving.

The drink of choice was the Capriniha a sugar based spirit. It consisted of a huge spoonful of sugar crushed with ice+lime then filled to the brim Caprininha all served in plastic cup......Good strong stuff. You can't drink it all evening though you'll be well and truly battered and come the morning your teeth will have rotted away. We did drink as much as we possible, Skol (yep that's right) was our backup drink and also Brasil most popular larger!

Mel a friend I made in Santiago arrived part way through from Rio with excellent stories of the nightlife the Stones gig and toilet facilities. The locals took great pleasure in trying to teach us how to dance. Not sure how best to describe this.....its all about the lower half of your body. We (non Brasilian's) tend to dance with our shoulders and occasionally hips, not so in Brasil its feet, hips and your backside! You shuffle your feet really quickly while swinging your hips and sticking out your backside...while trying not too shake your shoulders! If you can do it you look great otherwise you look like you've lost control of your body.

Mel was pretty good, luke was ok, Mike and myself put in alot of extra practice but it didn't seem to make use that much better.

It seems there was only 5 songs every played at carnival. After a few days we started to recognise them but had to makeup our own titles as nobody understood Portugese. There was the Capriosa song, the one that went Oh Ooh Oooh get the picture.

On the last night of Carnival we got tickets to the Skol D+ Bloco, Fatboy Slim and DJ Marky DJ'ing the carnival route!! What an amazing night it turned out to be. Getting tickets wasn't easy the price went up daily due to the high demand ended up paying over 50 quid. The ticket is actually a bag like T-Shirt you get altered to fit. A very friendly family not far from the hotel made the alterations and always wanted to smoke cannabis with us. Around the backpackers community there was a buzz about Skol D+ Bloco....probably because it was Fatboy on an articulated lorry and also he was the only artist we really actually knew.

Getting wrapped up in the carnival spirit Mike and I got our faces painted, I went for the Brasilian yellow and gold, Mike went for a butterfly both looked good........I think, checkout the pics. We waited at the start of the Barra route for the Bloco to arrive, due around midnight but didn't actually get going until nearly 2am. It looked awesome two huge yellow artic lorries the first was a huge sound system with Fatboy DJ'ing on top the second was a huge soundsystem with the bar and toilets.....a massive moving nightclub. We ducked under the rope and got dancing. It was a good mix of travellers and locals, more than I thought. Started as close as possible to speakers at the back of the first lorry, its taken a few weeks for my hearing completely recover, it was that loud. There must have been at least 2000 people going for it, everyone bouncing off each other Fatboy dropping some great music. Just after we got moving the heavens opened and the rain started, a perfect moment. It also had the added benefit as acting as a lubricant, instead of bumping into each other we now slide off each other! We spent the next 5 hours walking and dancing. Had a spell at the front of the Bloco, getting there involved walking passed the speakers, so fecking loud. At the front you get pummelled from all directions, fellow party goers, the rope stewards trying to keep the shape and the first lorry moving along. Yes Excellent!! I lost Luke and Mike several times, luckily Mike was easy to spot as he was now wearing a headband with springy
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Mike and myself hangin out with the police
antennas. Fatboy was playing dance and DJ Marky drum & bass, the crowd along the route didn't quite get it. To be honest the look on most peoples faces was of...what sort of damn music is this! what are you doing to our happy go lucky carnival! where are the 5 songs your supposed to play! Why are you all going crazy!

Uphill, downhill round corners it was even fun dancing in a moving queue for the toilets! The Bloco took about 5 hours to complete the whole route, the sun was rising as finally reached the end of the parade, I could have gone round again. Easily my best carnival experience and one of the best nights ever!!!

On the way back we had a chat with Zoe Ball who recognised us from Pelourinho and particularly liked Mike's butterfly face paint. Smelling my t-shirt the next morning was something else, a noxious smell of spilt beer and the combined sweat of 2000 people!

What a way to end carnival!

The people of Salvador are incredibly religious they have a very popular local religion called Macumba. Its related to Vodoo and came over from Africa with
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Mel, Mark, Me, Mike and Luke
the slave ships. On our last night in Salvador we went to a Mucumba church which was actually an elderly lady's front room in a pretty poor part of town. With Macumba there isn't heaven or hell or any rules, just 11 gods you worship. The ceremony was interesting but you got the feeling it was really just put on for the tourists. Still fun watching people getting possessed and then being cleansed by tree leaves!

Salvador and the carnival was an awesome experience!

Additional photos below
Photos: 39, Displayed: 30


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The Amour-Tee statue in Pelourinho
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That's it Mel shake it baby!
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Barra carnival route
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T-Shirts on, face paint sorted waiting Fatboy and the Skol d+ Bloco

31st May 2006

Ooh get you
Zoe Ball...... your such a name dropper
3rd June 2006

Gotta love the butterfly :-)

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