Salvador (Carnival!!!) - Day 41-51
Trip Start Jan 31, 2008
254Trip End Ongoing
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Day 41 - 16/01/09
I've finally arrived in Salvador after the longest bus journey of my life. Feeling rather tired and jaded, really glad it's over. 3 days and nights on a bus is such a long time! Really looking forward to stretching my legs a little now that I've reached Salvador, Bahia.
Caught a cab from the bus station to the Peloriniho which is the historic centre of this old colonial capital, I'll be staying here for the duration of Carnival. Within 1 minute of getting out of the taxi and walking to the hostel I was threatened with death! A guy asked me for a cigarette and I only had one left, so I said I didn't haven't any, with hindsight I should of just handed it over. The guy said to me in perfect English, "I'm gonna kill you later", as I walked passed him with my heavy laden backpack. A pleasant welcome to Salvador!! Something to look forward to this evening.
Checked into the hostel feeling slightly worried about the recent death threat. Took my bags to the six bed dorm and was soon joined by group of Londoner's, fellow Brits. We decided to go out for a wander to get some food which I was extremely happy about, didn't fancy going out by myself for obvious reasons. As we walked across the main square of the Peloriniho, one of the Brits was approached by a local guy selling bracelets, nothing too out of the ordinary, but then it got a whole lot shadier. The local wraps a bracelet around the British guys wrist and demands 50 reais which is a whopping 15 quid for effectively a shity piece of ribbon. Then a knife is pulled out, the British guy hands over 20 reials but the local is still demanding 50. At this point we see a hotel across the road, which we head for speedily. The local then scarpers. The Peloriniho is suppose to be the safest place in the city, the Lonely Planet says "Tourists are protected like an endangered species in the Peloriniho" and we've been mugged within 5 minutes of leaving the hostel. Is carnival really worth this shit!! After this interesting experience we headed to a bar to calm the nerves with a few Caipirinha's.
On a positive note, I didn't get killed tonight, which is a relief! The Peloriniho is really beautiful too, with some stunning colonial architecture. Looks like a traditional Portuguese town. Just a shame this pretty place is full of criminals intent on shafting Gringo's.
Day 42 - 17/01/09
Rained for most of the day and looking at the forecast for the next 5 days it could be more of the same. Salvador is 12 degrees south of the equator so it's hot and humid, a complete contrast to the more temperate weather in Uruguay. I'm well and truly back in the tropics now!
Due to the crap weather I only had a short walk around the Peloriniho today, visited an extremely ornate catholic church in the main square and just meandered on the narrow cobbled streets for a while. When the rain became torrential, I was forced to return to the hostel for shelter.
In the evening we went out for a wander and followed a samba band who were doing laps of the streets of the Peloriniho. Then we went to some random bar with a live band playing a sort of Cuban stroke Brazilian salsa. The place was like a scene from a music video. The locals were dancing and having a good time in this hot and sweaty little club.
Returned to the hostel in the early hours. A couple of the British guys went back out to get some food and got robbed at knife point as they approached the hostel's front door. The second mugging in 2 days!! Getting use to this state of affairs now in Salvador. I've been to safer war-zones on my travels!
Day 43 - 18/01/09
It's been a good day today, no one got robbed in hot and steamy Salvador, makes a considerable change!!H
ad to move to a different hostel today, I'm staying at the Albergue dos Anjos for the duration of carnival, which I booked month's ago. It's a really nice place with a resident artist who's colourful art is displayed on all the walls. Everyone seems really friendly and hospitable too.
The final countdown is on for the start of carnival on it's eve, the excitement is certainly building. So we obviously had to go out tonight and warm up the hips for the imminent dance carnage. Went to a club to see a samba band across the road from the hostel, only went for an hour or so before returning to the hostel to drink Caipirinha's which continued into the early hours. The owner of the hostel is so cool, she's probably in her mid-forties, kind and really good fun. She stayed up drinking and feeding us for most of the night. I've definitely chosen the right hostel for Carnival!!
Day 44 - 19/01/09
Today is officially the start of carnival! I'm sharing a dorm with three Austrian guys, so we all went out together for our first carnival experience. Safety in numbers, we hope!
As we walked on the closed main road to Barra from the Peloriniho, the crowds started to get larger and larger. Then we got to the point were the road was completely packed with carnival goers. The big booming trucks started to pass packed full of speakers, with the bands and groupie's perched on the top. The police presence here is massive! Groups of 5 fully kited out military riot police with guns and big battens march up and down the road. These groups are separated by 100 metres, with more police on raised platforms over looking the road. They menacingly march up and down, pushing people out of the way who get anywhere near them. Hardcore but reassuring! I get the feeling this place would be a war-zone without all the cops.
We were having a really good night just stood beside the road with the locals watching the carnival trucks rolling by. It was getting late so we decided to walk back to the hostel behind the last truck. At this point everything started getting a bit aggressive and the party atmosphere changed. Guys were running into the crowds and punching people completely at random, then hiding in the crowd. The police were catching some of these maniacs and were being rightfully brutal with them! We continued the long walk home, and in slow motion a guy sprints out of the crowd and punches one of my Austrian friends hard in the side of the head and runs away like a coward. My friend was very shocked, so we grabbed him and kept moving. I was constantly looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was likely to punch me next, may get some notice of any approaching blows. We thankfully arrived at the hostel without any further injuries. What a shity end to a good first night of Carnival.
Day 45 - 20/01/09
Tonight I went to a "Caromote", an event in one of the grandstands along the road overlooking the parade in Barra. In the Caromote, there's a big area where you can watch the parade high above the road in relative comfort with Sofa's, clean toilets and Nintendo wii's. Yes, Nintendo wii's!! Why would you want to play on a wii at the Salvador carnival??
The best fun we had all night was on the streets as "Popcorn", a term used for the party goers outside the organised events. Down on street level it was far more fun than the civilised "Caromote" above us in the grandstands. We did make use of the sofa's occasionally to chillout and take a break, the pisser was a bonus too, but down on street level was where the fun was at!!!
Day 46 - 21/01/09
I've gone AWOL from carnival for a day and a night. I've had a relaxing day with a friend in a villa just north of Salvador along the coast. A complete contrast to the craziness of carnival, feels like a different planet!! I've eaten great food and generally chilled-out and had a much needed break from the chaos. Back to carnival tomorrow, one day away was all I needed, the batteries are fully recharged and I'm ready for more! It was nice while it lasted but I need to return to the craziness because that's what I'm here for.
Day 47 - 22/01/09
I'm going to stop talking about my daylight activities in Salvador because there're non-existent at the moment, so straight into the nocturnal activities. I went to a Bloco with the British guys i met in the previous hostel. They bought the T-shirts which we needed to allow entry into a Bloco. So you may ask what the hell is a Bloco? In a Bloco you basically follow a carnival truck through the streets which is jammed packed with speakers pumping out the tunes of the band who are playing live on top. The truck is surrounded by hundreds of marshals holding a rope protecting the procession of excited party goers wearing the same polyester T-shirt. The truck probably only moved 150 metres every half an hour so everyone in the Bloco was dancing, drinking and generally going mental. The people outside the Bloco in the grandstands and beside the road were going mental too dancing to their favourite bands as they slowly rolled past. The Bloco's are a bit of an elitist thing for the Brazilians who see entry as showing off their wealth due to the high cost of buying the T-shirts. For gringo's like me it's the safest place to be at carnival, if the locals can afford T-shirts to get in to the Bloco, their less likely to rob me, unless they stole the T-shirts which often happens. I think we've picked a really good Bloco, it was full of young Brazilian's and hardly any Gringo's, which is the way I like it. Plus when the truck passed the big grandstands, the place just erupted. The music to my untrained ears sounded like a mix between reggae dancehall, hip-hop and Ska but played ultra-fast. Amazing music to dance too, even if you don't like dancing you just can't help yourself, the beat, tempo and atmosphere is intoxicating.
It rained heavily on and off all night, but it far from dampened the mood. I got completely drenched but it didn't matter, it was actually really nice to cool down a bit. I lost my flip-flops on several occasions in the carnage of the Bloco but miraculously found them. Carnival tip of the day, never wear flip-flops in a Bloco, trainers are a must!
Tonight was probably the best night out in my life, completely amazing! It's really hard to put into words! The music, the people, the atmosphere. Over 2 million lined the streets of Barra, Salvador tonight, unbelievable!!!
Day 48 - 23/01/09
An uneventful day and night at Carnival today. Stayed in the historical centre which is a lot less hardcore than the beach at Barra where I've been previous nights. There's a more relaxed carnival vibe here with small samba bands roaming the narrow cobbled streets followed by people dancing of all ages. Barra seems to be for the young and reckless who want to dance till dawn. Tonight was a nice change from the carnage and chaos of Barra.
Day 49 - 24/01/09
Today is officially the last day of carnival. It would be rude not to go out on this final day of sinning, so of course I did. Most of the guys I've been hanging out with left today so it was down to me and a British friend to try and go out in style. We caught a taxi to Barra, and worked our way through the crowd as "Popcorn" until we reached the area near the lighthouse. The trucks and Bloco's begin the slow journey through the streets from this point. The reason we headed down to the start tonight was to find the Skol truck which has 3 European DJ's including Pete Tong. We didn't have the T-Shirts to get into the Bloco because we didn't fancy paying 75 quid. So when the house tunes started blaring we followed the truck outside the Bloco. After half an hour or so, I snook under the rope into the hoards of people wearing their extremely expensive black T-shirts. I lasted 20 minutes in the Bloco before security saw me in my purple T-shirt and abruptly chucked me out, not literally thankfully. As we continued "Popcorning" we approached a couple of Dutch guys who were outside the Bloco in their black T-shirts. Turns out they wanted to leave, so we offered to buy the T-shirts. We only had 80 reials between us, so we negotiated a price of 72 reials (£21) for the pair, RRP 500 reials, did all right!! We had a small problem though, now we have no money for transport back to the hostel and we only had enough money for a couple of beers each. We decided not to worry about this predicament now, we'll deal with it later. So we put our black T-shirts on and jumped into the Bloco. To be honest I didn't enjoy this Bloco too much, there were too many pissed-up Gringo's, to much pushing and the music just didn't seem to fit with carnival in Salvador. Most of the locals didn't look too excited either when the truck passed, so I wasn't really feeling the vibe. The tunes were really cool but it just didn't seem right in this setting. I had such a better time in the Brazilian Bloco a couple of nights ago listening to the local music, where a small group of us were the only Gringo's in sight. Tonight is a Gringo-fest! After a few hours of pushing and shoving we decided to leave, now we needed to sell our T-shirts to try and fund our ride home. We found some guys to buy the T-shirts for 20 reais, so we sold them. The taxi drivers wanted 30 to take us back to the hostel which we didn't have, so we ended up catching the bus and buying a couple of cheese burgers instead. Of course catching a bus in Salvador in the early hours and during carnival was not the safest option but luckily we had no problems.
Day 50 - 25/01/09
Carnival is now sadly but thankfully over. I've had such a great time, met some great people and partied hard, but to be honest I'm glad it's all over. My body just can't take anymore! Carnival is an amazing assault on the senses and a fantastic experience. Everyone should go to carnival at least once, it's definitely on the list of things to do before you die. I would love to come back and experience carnival in another Brazilian city some day, but who knows if I'll have the opportunity again. It's such an intoxicating and addictive experience, but also tiring and taxing at times. The only draw back with carnival is the crime, if the government and police could resolve this problem, carnival would be faultless. I would say 30% of traveller's I've met in Salvador had been mugged at knife-point during their stay, a real shame. It's not nice having to watch your back constantly and not being able to take a camera out with you in fear of it being stolen, I have no pictures of my carnival nights out in Barra.
Tonight has been my most relaxed evening in Salvador since I arrived. I was back at the hostel by 10pm listening to a really good salsa band playing on an adjacent street to the hostel. Don't think carnival is quite over yet but all the streets in and around the Pelo where a lot quieter today compared to official carnival days. I think nearly everyone is partied out, but by the sounds of it a few people still have enough energy to carry on. Not me that's for sure!
I will certainly never forget Salvador carnival 2009 for as long as walk on this earth!!
Day 51 - 26/01/09
The big clean-up is on after the conclusion of carnival. I went down to the beach at Barra this afternoon, and all the signs, boardings and railings are being removed. Salvador is beginning to return back to some form of normality after the biggest party on the planet. Someone told me today that well over 2.5 million people were on the streets of the city during each night of carnival week, crazy!!
I've been feeling slightly under the weather today, maybe it's just tiredness after a hectic 10 days of carnival. I've heard lots of people have been going down with a viral illness in the hostel's, just hope I haven't got what they've got because I need to get out of Salvador tomorrow. I'm ready for a change of scenery now!