Historic city of Olinda, Pernambuco
20.02.2009 - 25.02.2009 30 °C
So finally we were to experience (carnival) carnaval in Brazil. Most people think carnaval is just in Rio but the truth is that it is celebarted everywhere in Brazil...for months! The twin cities of Recife and Olinda came highly recommended to us as a place to experience the real carnaval away from all the tourists and commercialization. So we went for it! We were told that places like Rio and Salvador has lost that genuine Brazilian carnaval feeling that it is all about. Whereas you got to buy tickets to view the parades from a distance in the more famous places in Olinda/ Recife everything is free and you can join in all the parades if you wish and dance away with the locals! As we will soon find out it will turn out to be so much fun but also completely mental with fun loving people filling the streets with dance and party!
We stayed at a hostel in a central location. Being carnaval we did not get to stay in the same dorm initially and they also managed to cram more beds into tiny spaces which made the dorms crammed, and hot hot, hot! Hostel was great with great common areas for meeting people and a pool. K initially stayed in a girls dorm with two Spanish girls. The first night had an opening in Recife which was suppose to be great and as we just had arrived we asked if we could hook up with the Spanish girls to go to Recife as it involved a bus ride...They initially seemed very enthusiastic and we agreed to meet up later that evening. In the meantime we met really cool people that asked us to join us in Recife too and although we knew we would have a great laugh with them we said we'd better wait for the Spanish girls...Big mistake- when they came back (late) they showed no interest and it would turn out that they wanted to hook up with these Brazilian guys and they basically DUMPED us (how dare they- we are so much fun- promise:-) )!! We cursed ourselves for not joining the other crew and had to make our way to Recife ourselves.
After mad bus journeys (people everywhere) we arrived to Recife and just caught the opening of the drums. This involves a parade of 100s of drums and it was absolutely amazing. We could not believe that this was just the start of it!!! Later there was a concert by some famous Brazilian dude (and Manu Chao) that we had been told to go to and as we managed to find a spot in the crowds in front of the stage it started lashing rain (seriously raining) and it did not stop for the night.. it did not stop the peole around us from having fun though and although we were soaked we quickly learnt to shrugg it off! In the crowds we met Lynne and Andy (who we would continue to bump into and hang out with during the carnaval ..... and amazingly 3 months later in Thailand....) and during the night we would be joined by several people dying to practice their English or just chat away dying to get to know us even though they had no English and we very little Portuguese. Funny how you don't need languages when having fun! We were embraced by two gay guys in particular who were really cool but we did not understand anything they said!!! Finally this famous Brazilian singer came on stage and although he was joined by all the 100s of drummers on stage (which was really cool) we frankly could not see what the fuss was about. Our gay friends nearly died with excitement as this middle aged guy in tight yellow jeans came on stage. He looked like a cross between Dustin Hoffman and Richard Gere and sang like Tome Jones. Despite this the Brazilians loved him and there was a great atmosphere!!! Many beers later we were soaked and decided to make our way home. Like everybody else! We had no clue how to get home to Olinda and despite there being plenty of Brazilians (so friendly but everybody was clueless) trying to help us to catch the right bus homwe we fianlly found a cab which naturally overcharged us gringos to take us home.
Next morning we woke up excited as we had heard that the caranval during the day in Olinda should be brilliant. We headed around 10am and thought we would be early but how wrong were we! It is hard to imagine the sight that met us- the streets were already mental with people singing and dancing on the streets everywhere! We hooked up with a Brazilian guy with a totally unpronounceable name who surfed for a living and 2 sleazy swedes. Not for long though, it all became a bit weird so we dumped them! Blocos (which are parades- these can be organised ones or just a bunch of friends dancing in groups down the street) were everywhere and despite the early hour everybody was drinking beers and carpirinhas. We would soon learn that Brazilians are the most fun loving nation we had ever met (they EVEN beat the Irish - K's comment!!) and they just love to party. We initially found the early morning drinking weird and decided on water but half an hour early we were somehow standing with a beer each in our hands ( it was impossible but to get sucked into the party atmosphere) and by 12 o'clock we were on Carpirinhas and by 1 we were hammered! The scorching sun did of course not help the amount of liquids we needed to take on!!! We wandered the streets and just looked at all the madness but it was not long until our feet were trying to copy the Brazilians dancing samba (impossible). even though we were well aware of that our attempts to samba were pathetic it is impossible not to get sucked in and we just had to get used to looking like idiots- happy ones though! Anyway, sometimes the crowds were so mad that you had no choice but to jump around like the crowds as the pressure would not allow us to keep our feet on the ground!
We found a favourite spot to watch all the partying which was a square which provided us both with shade and a great place to view ll the blocos. As we were watching the going on we suddenly saw a blocko of people covered in mud. It turns out that it was the whole gang of people from our hostel who had asked us to join us to Receife the night before who were dancing in a huge bloco of mud covered people. It looked like so much fun! We cursed the Spanish girls as we realised that that would have been us had we just stuck with that gang the night before! We spent the day just hanging out and having so much fun and we quickly realised the urgent need of going back to the hostel due to the state of us (no way we could have lasted the day drinking). In addition we were so sticky- the heat was something else!!!
It was a bit bizarre to return to the hostel in the middle of the day hammered. Turns out we were not the only ones. The hostel would quickly become a meeting point for everyone were we would meet up after a day of partying- have some food and relax by the pool- until the partying started back in the hostel and we all went out together again.
Our 5 days of Carnaval would turn out to look very similar but each day the group of people who hung around grew! The five days were just days of having a ridiculous amount of fun- going to bed only to do it gain the next day. The caranval did have some highlights- the parade of the 500 dolls ( giant dolls parading down the street), the mid night man (when we waited in the middle of the night for the famous doll to come out in the pouring rain in a dodgy area and he was so late we missed him. It rained so much we had to wade through the streets with floods of water up to our knees), getting stuck in a stall due to the rain and ended up trying to help the stall owner (Mario -the half French/Brazillian) sell beer and chocolate, great concerts and fabulous blocos. In the main though the caranaval is all about dancing, people getting together dressing up in brilliant outfits and having fun, fun, fun. So many people hook up and Brazilians are so friendly. We cant count the times we were told by friendly Brazilians to look after our stuff and many times did we hear them give out to vendors for trying to charge us gringo prices. Despite the edge that is involved in carnaval and you really have to be careful with your stuff for each dodgy Brazilian there are thousand more that really try to protect foreigners from being robbed and really want us to you in on the fun and have a great experience.
Despite all the greatness Brazil and carnaval is not all perfect! It is annoying that you cant bring ANYTHING out with you. Unless you wear scruffy clothes and make sure you have no watches, jewelery etc you are an immediate target. It was very annoying not to be able to bring the camera- particularly not at night time- and during the day you would be nervous for having it out! For that reason we do not have enough pictures that adequately capture the carnaval but better safe than sorry. Carnaval is great but it is definitely with an edge. Day time was always fine but at night all the kids come out and it is a much edgier atmosphere. We did not let this stop us from having fun of course!!! Also the Brazilain guys! OMG! We dont even know the beginning of sleazy at home. The would take every opportunity to touch ANY part of your body and have no qualms grabbing you so that you cant get away. K soon found here weapon in all this: Esther from Holland who happened to be blond and tall. She made sure Esther followed (or lead) everywhere. As long as Esther was in front and you could hide behind her she got ll the attention! poor Esther- luckily she did not mind it too much and she had Martin as her bodyguard!
We got on amazingly with so many people from the hostel. And despite what you might think we were not sick of the partying and all the fun and we were not ready to leave each other. It was quickly arranged that we would continue to travel together to Pipa which is a beautiful beach place. 11 of us from 9 different counties went to Pipa. It was Esther and Jessica from Holland, Gianluca the Italian Chiropracter, Phil and Ollie- the diplomats from the UK, John- another diplomat from Australia, Lucine and Kathryn from the UK and Mikaela from Germany. We were then joined by Alex from the UK and Marta from Portugal. The fun would not stop for a long time!