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Published: February 28th 2009
Handing back the keys to our adorable apartment in Buenos Aires, Gerborg and I said goodbye to Argentina and boarded the bus for an 18 hour trip to the Iguacu Falls which border Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. I was completely overwhelmed by the size and seemingly endless range of cataracts surrounded by miles of lush tropical jungle. We mustered our courage and hiked down, down to the point called The Devil's Throat which jutts out in the center of the main curve. Getting sprayed by the mist, I was revived enough to get back on the bus for another 17 hours to our real destination: Sao Paulo!
One of the beauties of going on exchange, like the one Gerborg and I did in Toulouse, France in 2006, is having reunions with the friends we had so much trouble tearing ourselves apart from there. That was the elation we felt when Hugo met us at the metro station near his office in downtown Sao Paulo. After a hilarious and nearly deadly city-bus ride (deadly for the other passengers who kept on getting smacked in the head by our overloaded backpacks, due to the MAniAc driver's antics) we breathed a sigh of relief
and chilled out in the city for a few days. It's lucky we had some time to relax because the city was already getting pumped up for the kickoff of Carnaval, it was almost a tangible excitement in the air and very evident on seemingly every TV channel.
So around midnight on Friday, with the trunk packed tight with all the necessary provisions of an amazing Carnaval week in Paraty, (prounounced Par-a-CHEE) five of us set off for the southern coastal town where 20 other Brazilian friends were already waiting in the little hotel. 150 km south of Rio, the traffic was awful, as expected, but it only contributed to the feeling that something huge and exciting was happening all around and we were headed for the heart of it. Paraty is a historical city famous for 17th century architecture during its days as a gold-port town for the Portugese. Over the centuries it has also developed an original carnaval culture, evident from the first to the last crazy moments of our time there. I had heard vaguely of the traditional called Bloco da Lama roughly translated as "Block of Mud "but it was only when I was rolling
around in the muddy beach, covered from head to toe in grey, sticky, spa quality guck that I knew what it meant. Hundreds of people had been "warming up" all day at the Jabacuara beach and no sooner had we gotten good and icky did the huge float take off, blaring loud drumming rhythms and spouting clouds of red smoke. To add to the hellish atmosphere,, the crowd was hoisting long poles topped with cow sculls and chanting "Uga UGA, Ra RA"to the drum beat. Natually I ran right for the middle of the crowd and got smacked in the back with a gob of mud, a little girl on her dad's shouldlers borrowed some excess guck from the top of my head, and wearing only bathing suits and mud we paraded through Paraty (all the time chanting loudly). It was a really great feeling to be able to participate so completely in a foreign tradition, and not stick out at all due to the mud bath and simple phrase that united us all. Actually, the anonaminity I find in Brazil has been a stable enjoyment because until I open my mouth OR try to dance samba in the streets
Mud BlOQUO madness
yes we paraded through town like this, cuz its what you to in paraty :)
nobody assumes I am anything apart from local...and being surrounded by Brazilian friends is an even better camouflage.
The next five days in Paraty were a blur of island hopping and tanning during the day, eating Brazilian BBQ and fresh seafood, drinking kiwi and lime caiparinias at all hours and napping in the evening until the Bloquo (dancing crowds) reassembled to samba rhythms again around midnight. Boating around the many islands we saw truly the most exotic landscapes I have imagined and with some Caribbean blue to the sea it would have been too perfect to handle. I didnt even get sunburned, thanks to the obsessive-compulsive sunscreen applying habits the other 25 guys seemed to have in common. On the last night of Carnaval everyone was up to watch the sunrise from our balcony together, some jumping in the pool and climbing onto the roof....and that's the end of the sunny times. The rain started around noon the next day as ten of us were heading for an island beach to eat more calamari. Meal finished, we noticed a mass migration of nearly everyone else on the beach heading for the little colourful boats that would take them to
the mainland. I mentioned something but...as it would happen, the moment someone from our group got up to negotiage the trip back the heavens OPENED up on our heads. An impressive wall of water had been moving across the sea, blocking out the view of the islands and gradually encompassing us as well. What else could we do but throw off our clothes and jump into the ocean to wait out the storm? Some crazy lightening and winds later we made it back to the shore, drove back to Paraty 40km away and learned that the city was doing what it often does when rain hits hard. It floods. Luckily the irrigation and canals are set up for such events, but last January 2meters of water flooded our hotel and nobody wanted to stick around to see if the same thing would happen while we were there. The pizza order was canceled and replaced by the general order to pack up ASAP. By 10:30 the water in the streets was still rising and nearly up to the car doors. Gerborg and I said hurried goodbyes to our new friends and with promises to "See you soon in Sao Paulo!" we
waded through the heavy rain to the car, water to our knees and drove for higher ground. That's when Hugo coined the term Carnaflood. On the drive back to the megacity we stopped over at his parents' lovely home in San Jose dos Campos for some sauna and hottubbing, and a few hours of sleep. Not a bad way to end our first Carnaval in Brazil....without a doubt the most memorable yet!
Tonight six of us are reuniting to head to the stadium for the winner's Parade...it's basically an excuse to keep the party going for another weekend by allowing the First Place Samba school to have a victory march. Then we'll move the troublemaking to Rio sometime next week!!!!!!!!! Till then, who knows what tomorrow will bring 😊 ?
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