Taking a 32 hour bus ride away from Rio de Janeiro in the two days before Carnaval may seem like a foolish move to make. After all, it's the 'Rio Carnival' right? Well, it turns out that week-long festivities are actually observed in earnest throughout the region; not just Brazil-wide, but across the whole continent. Rio is simply the most well-known carnival location; the most touristed, the most commercial. It was only during my first encounter with David and Lauren (way back in Colombia on Halloween night) that I heard whisperings suggesting that perhaps Salvador was the best place to be for carnival week instead. After a little further research, my mind was made up. I would join D & L (plus the later addition of Woodgate) in Salvador when the time finally came. And now the time had come....
|Home for Carnaval!
|Anna & Jimmy
|Free sushi at the Camarote
The five days that remained after the camarote went by in a blur of caiprinha-fuelled decadence and it would be nearly impossible to recall events in any sort of linear form here (my memory is somewhat blunted anyway). Instead, I will just randomly recall whatever events I can in no particular order; my attempt to convey some approximation of the Salvador Carnaval experience.....
The streets in Barra are lined with almost as many vendors as revellers, carrying cool boxes and offering 4 beers for 5 reais (approximately £1.75). Pockets stuffed with beer cans, we'd venture into the throng of carnival-goers: tens of thousands of carefree bodies, drunk on life (and cairprinhas..... and beer) determined to have a good time, feeding off and adding to the hedonistic atmosphere in equal measure. Nothing else matters except to give yourself up to the moment, the now - give in to Carnaval!!
|Beer for sale!!
On occasion, one of the trucktop bands would stop outside a particularly rowdy Camarote and perform especially for those inside. A particular highlight for those of us lucky enough to witness it was an impromptu rendition of No Woman No Cry, led by Daniela Mercury (a hugely popular Brazilian singer) atop her moving speaker stack, and then joined by Rohan Marley (son of Bob) who suddenly appeared on one of the camarote balconies, and then Gilberto Gil (a legendary figure in Brazilian music and politics) who just as suddenly appeared on another. A spellbinding, unique moment, epitomising the random beauty of Carnaval, Salvador-style.
Another 'spur of the moment' occurrence that sticks in my mind is when we were wandering around the Pelourinho late at night, only to turn around and find a troupe of Capoeira artists (a Brazilian martial art that incorporates elements of dance and music along with incredible athletic ability - or, think Eddy Gordo from Tekken) performing flowing movements in perfect unison and slowly moving towards us. Their faultless synchronicity was ruined the moment we all joined in, but nevertheless, we were welcomed with open arms, encouraging smiles and became part of the gang for the rest of the procession.
|James & I
|Loz & Han @ Olodum
To be honest I was relieved when the party was over, but only because I wasn't sure my body could have coped with the excesses of Carnaval for even one day more. An experience I will never forget, and quite a way to end the trip!
As the long-ignored hangover kicked-in and the streets emptied for the last time, I realised this was it: The end of the road. There was now just a 32 hour journey back to Rio to look forward to, before jumping on a plane and heading home - not a hostel 'home', real home. The fat lady had found her voice and it was time to face the music....
As I write this, I've now been back in the UK for about a month and a half. As you'd imagine, it was slightly strange returning after all this time, but I'm back into the swing of things now: It's been great to see friends and family again after so long, and I have a new house and job in London sorted. Still, I have no intention of calling time on the travels - there are so many new places to be explored, and just as many that I need to return to. I've had many people ask me if I've finally "got it out of my system now" and if I'm now ready to face "real life". I find this statement rather nonplussing - I was never travelling with the aim of expelling some unwanted desire from my body and I don't consider the most socially-accepted and common lifestyle to be 'real life'. In fact, surely it should be the opposite! How can residing inside a concrete building, staring at a computer screen for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, be the 'real' way to live? There's so much to see, do, feel, experience in the world that you would need a thousand lifetimes in order to even scratch the surface. I'm under no illusions that people need to work in order to make money, but I'd rather see that as a necessary evil in my life - something that allows me to do what I really want - rather than the primary reason for my being. So, I think it's fair to say that it's not quite over yet: Tennetstravels is on something of a working sabbatical, but will return at the earliest opportunity.
Thanks for reading! :)
See below for some photos of Carnaval (I didn't actually take any myself, so these have been stolen from Anna, Lauren, Sophie & Inbal - thanks guys!):