Catching the last parade

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
Trip End Feb 01, 2005

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Wednesday, March 3, 2004

I wasnīt expecting to arrive in Recife to the last Carnaval parade, but apparently the Carnaval there lasts for 11 days.

My hostel was 2 blocks from the beach and after checking in at 10am decided that I would go and hang out by the beach where the Carnaval parade was happening. Little did I know that I would be one of 250,000 people doing the same thing.

The street was full of people and I kept seeing four or five policemen escorting some handcuffed troublemaker to the divvy van. All along the street, vendors parked their wheelbarrows or stalls to make some reais.

About eight trio electricos (the big trucks with bands atop massive sound systems) participated in the parade and towards the end of the parade the street was a sea of samba. Foam was being sprayed at people and the whole street was jumping up and down. I stood on a fence, sambaing and marvelling at the crowd. As soon as the last trio electrico had passed, the vendors were chasing the parade with their carts, trying to catch a few more customers before going home.

Day 2 was spent in Olinda, a gorgeous little colonial town with brightly painted terrace houses and the requisite handful of crumbling churches. As I climbed one of the cobbled streets, puffing and panting, I came across an amazing vista out across the greenery of the town and out to sea. It was gorgeous and I stopped for a drink to savour the view, which was spoiled somewhat by the guy that was trying to sell me some pictures, and then when that didnīt work, started telling me that I was beautiful. Muita bonita and muita linda are seriously the most overused pickup lines in Brazil, and their impact is wearing off.

Although Olinda was pretty, it was also pretty quiet. The hordes of tourists had departed, along with Carnaval and the streets were quiet as it was the first day back at school for the kids. After a bit of a wander, there wasnīt anything else keeping me in Olinda so it was back to Recife.

Instituto Ricardo Brennand
Some gap girls from the hostel were going to visit the Ricardo Brennand Institute, so I decided to tag along. After an epic bus journey to the end of the line we stepped out onto a dusty footpath opposite a university and headed to the end of the street. We stopped for lunch at this restaurant that served our meat cut up into little cubes and our fries with just toothpicks for eating utensils. At least it made it easier to get that last little bit of meat stuck between your teeth at the end!

We came across the entrance, complete with security guard, and proceeded to walk down the long driveway with palm trees lining the road. We got halfway and realised that the driveway was in fact very long, and we spent about 20 minutes walking to the Institute, growing more excited with each step.

The Institute was a very English looking castle, complete with drawbridge, swans and flamingos (not the plastic pink ones). Inside was a gallery of tapestries, maps and paintings from the Dutch occupation period. In another castley building beside the main one was the most massive collection of swords, armour and pocketknives. After seeing a zillion pocketknives behind the glass I felt like donating my own leatherman to the cause, although it would have looked very anorexic beside the pocketknife with 170 tools. Yes, I kid you not, there was a pocketknife the size of a dinner plate weighing goodness knows what, amongst the collection. The other highlight was the armoured dog, standing beside an armoured horse and knight. It was very cute although Iīm sure that it was meant to be vicious looking.

After our little piece of medaevil history, it was back to the bus and the hostel, where the girls left for their flight to Manaus and I met an Irish girl who had been in a bus accident that night. Apparently the bus driver hadnīt seen the very poor signals indicating that the road had fallen away from a bridge and crashed the bus, leaving people with broken bones and needing evacuation out the back window. Added to the story of two Swedish girls in my dorm room being on a hijacked bus out of Salvador and a bus driver falling asleep at the wheel and killing everyone on the bus, travel by bus doesnīt seem so safe anymore. With a bit of luck I wonīt have any stories like that to share.

My time in Recife ended the next morning when I was getting on the bus to the train station and before I had gone through the turnstile (turnstile manufacturers could make a killing in Brazil) the bus driver braked and I went skidding backwards towards the windscreen of the bus. As I was moving I was trying to grab the handles of the seats reserved for old people at the front, but had no such luck, my weighty backpack propelling me towards the front. I landed on my back on the engine cover beside the bus driver, looking somewhat like a turtle on itīs shell. In the process of this, I had managed to pull the plug in my thongs that goes between my toes out. I struggled up and all the passengers and the conductor were looking at me trying to conceal their giggles, however when I started laughing, so did they. I managed to get through the turnstile a man helped me put my thong back together and I was on my way to Natal.

What I learned
* Donīt buy anything fragile as you never know when your backpack is going to break your fall
* Outside of Bahia, men are much more normal and donīt jump you like they do in Bahia.
* I am addicted to the novela (a soap opera that goes for 6-12 months) Da Cor Do Pecado or The Colour of Sin. Even though I donīt understand what they are saying, I know what is happening as the acting is so melodramatic.
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