February 23, 2004

Salvador - Carnival

Thursday Night - February 19
Carnival has begun! On Thursday night, the first official night of carnival, Ben, Dieter ( Belgian friend ) and I walked from Pelhurino, the old center of Salvador, to Campo Grande, the start of the Curcuito Osmar carnival route. We were a little concerned about safety because we had heard many stories about crime during carnival so we left our digital camera at home and just took some small bills with us. The first bloco was an afro performing group that danced to an infectious drum beat and were dressed in tribal garb. The second group had an egyptian theme with drums and horns. They were at last 300 people and carried out the king of the carnival dressed as a pharoah. There was alot of ceremony including flower petal and confetti throwing and lots of dancing as the king kicked off the first night. They moved on at a snails pace and were followed by a group of young kids doing coreographed dances. We watched a few more groups go by including a group of at leased 100 men dressed as fairies in pink tube tops and tutus. They were a riot and had the crowd howling. We started the walk bak to Pelhurino after this as we were a little beat and knew that Friday and Saturday were bigger carnival nights.

Friday Night - February 20
Ben and I bought tickets for a bloco called Timbalada that was recommended to us by our guidebook and also by our friendly english speaking ticket seller. Tickets were about $50 CAN each and included a cheesy white and florescent orange tank top with a cartoon cupid on the front. We wore the shirts and headed out to meet our bloco at the Barra-Olinda carnival circuit. This circuit runs along the beach and is more popular that the original circuit. When we arrived we found at least 3000 others wearing the same tanks. The Timbalada en Voce bloco consisted of 2 huge semis, both covered in speakers. The first had the band set up on top, and the second had fans on top with bathrooms and beer below. The Timbalada en Voce trio featured three performers, a male, and then a female opening act and then the star Timbalada. They played in rotation for the duration of the route. We started off around 6 and reached the end of the route at midnight. The truck moved very slowly, especially when the performers were in front of TV cameras or camaroches ( viewing areas fans had paid to attend ). The two trucks and all of the thousands in the orange and white t´s were surrounded by private security guards stretching out on either side of the road. The guards pulled out on a huge rope that encircled the trucks and all the members of the bloco. This rope kept onlookers out and provided us inside the bloco with lots of dancing room. Beer and water vender kept sneaking in to sell to us at the front of the bloco. Drinks were available in the second semi but it was so crowded that it wasnt worth going all the way back there so business was good for the venders. Ít was humerous watching these guys sneak in, get kicked out and then repeat. The music of the 3 performers was fantastic. The crowd seemed to know every song and most songs seems to have a dance associated with it that the crowd all knew. The only song that Ben and I recognized was Redemption Song by Bob Marley. By the end of the route, we knew all of the songs because they repeated then 3 or 4 times. As we progressed, people became increaingly drunk and rowdy. The enthusiasm and energy in the crowd was overwhelming. There were mosh pits and sometimes a line of people in the middle of the bloco would stand still, while people ahead of them continued moving and created a space. When enough space had been formed they would run full tilt and throw themselves at the crowd ahead of them. That was scary, a bit like a stampede!

By the time we reached the end of the route, my back and feet were aching and we were hungry for dinner. We pushed our way through thick crowd towards the bus stop. Ben was being sandwiched between two guys, while walking through the crowd as they attempted to pickpocket him. He realized what was going on and pushed them out of the way. We walked to a nearby bus stop and looked for a bus that would take us to our hotel in Pelhurino. We jumped on a bus to the neighbourhood of Lapa, bordering Pelhurino because Pelhurino buses were not running during carnival. The bust first took a 20 minute detour to a carnival pickup point and then started off in the opposite direction we wanted to go. Frantic, I confirmed with the bus attendant that this bus did in fact go to Lapa. We continued further and further away from Lapa and I started to get frustrated. I returned to the attendant, suspecting that this bus actually went to the airport and my guess was right, event though it said Lapa on the front. This is about 45 minutes each way from town, so we jumped off and seeing no buses, caught a taxi home.

Posted by bforsyth at February 23, 2004 12:11 PM

i must hear about bjork. tell me about bjork!!

Posted by: beth at February 23, 2004 06:33 PM

Have you gotten soaked with water balloons, water guns or even better- garbage pails full of water yet? This seemed to be a highly popular activity in S. America around Carnival time.
Can't wait to see the photos!!!

Posted by: Rhona at February 24, 2004 10:54 AM