Whenever anyone asks me what my favourite experience while travelling was, the Carnival in Bahia always pops into my head. I used to be a bit of a party animal, not so much anymore, so for me the adventure of being in one of the biggest street parties in the world was high on my list of priorities. If you’re thinking of going out to teach English in Brazil, then I’d definitely try to plan it around the Carnival. Not only because term time normally starts just after, but because you can really see what parties are like in Brazil. And with next year’s World Cup in Brazil it would be a great time to get settled there. Anyway, here’s the next excerpt from my book.
|Electric Trios in Bahia
Photo by wanderlasss
The first day of Carnival was mental. Murphy suggested we start at the beach in Barra (pronounced Baahaa). We met Joe and Lucy, and one of Nish’s travelling friends, Simon, a lanky Scottish man who had dropped his high profile job in London to travel the world, by the cathedral in Pelo and headed down.
Pelo had transformed into a Carnival goers paradise; bands were warming up around Praca da Se and there was a lively buzz in the air. I’d made up a potent concoction of rum and sweet peach juice, which went straight to my head. Nish was the first to notice.
“Mate you’re pissed already. Stop prancing about.”
“Come on man, it’s Carnival,” I said, slapping him on the head and bouncing round.
On the way to the beach, a carnival band appeared from a side street. Everyone cleared a space as the proud posse whacked their drums, tooted their trumpets, and jived through creating a wave of energy. We bopped along, smiling and gazing at the artists performing in their Carnival costumes.
“That was mental,” said Simon as the band made their way towards Pelo.
Trio Eletricos with speakers bigger than large church doors lined up along Baahaa’s beachfront getting ready to crank up the party. We topped up with some beers off a guy strolling round with a white cool box and sat on the beach wall. Dark had fallen but streetlights lit up the road packed with excited English, American, and Australian tourists, who stuck out among the hoards of Brazilians.
“Why are they all wearing the same colour?” I asked Nish as a group of Brazilian women in red t-shirts shuffled past.
“They must be doing a dance or something later,” he said.
“It’s part of the Carnival,” said Simon. “Each truck has a group of followers, and each member will have paid for the t-shirt to allow them entry.”
After an announcement, one of the trucks began to move and the crowd cheered.
“It’s starting,” I said to Nish.
“Yeah baby, come on let’s go over there,” he said, pointing to the other side of the street. We barged through the crowd wearing red t-shirts.
Along the beachfront, the Trios edged out as masses of energetic Carnival goers collaborated round. The Trio next to us cranked up the base and everyone cheered and danced. We managed to push through to the side as some tough bouncers pulled a rope around about two hundred people in red t-shirts. If you didn’t have the t-shirt on, then you weren’t going in.
We bounced alongside the slow moving Trio as the band on top blasted out their samba songs. The atmosphere was electric and I was ecstatic; hundreds of frantic partiers bounced up and down in rhythm to the pumping music. Goose pimples ran down the back of my neck. We were at the Brazilian Carnival.
“Here we go,” I said to Nish, holding on to his shoulders. I felt pissed.
“This is fucking mental,” said Joe, shaking his plaits about. Everyone went crazy; screaming and jumping around in unison.
After a while, the crowds started to get manic. Everyone seemed to be pushing and shoving and we kept losing each other. Lucy felt uncomfortable and we waited on the side.
“It’s lucky you’ve got that stupid haircut,” said N
ish. “I’d have probably lost you otherwise, where’s Simon?”
ish. “I’d have probably lost you otherwise, where’s Simon?”
“He’s up there,” I said, spotting the lankiest bloke in the Carnival, but he was in trouble. A party of young thugs were pushing against the flow towards him.
“Oh shit,” I said to Nish. “Look, they’re going for Simon.” As Nish climbed on the wall, the hooligans surrounded Simon. As the aggressive mob pushed him about, panic rose up inside me.
“They’re just looking for trouble,” said Nish. “Typical bad boys; individually they’re wimps, but as a group lethal.”
The louts vanished and Simon clambered through the crowds and waited on a hill on the corner of the beach. We tried to reach him but we got caught behind a Trio and had to wait.
A few policemen with helmets and batons were controlling the crowd when a group of thugs bowled along, smacking into innocent people. One pushed into a copper so he smacked the lad in the arm with his solid black baton. The bone cracked. The policemen clobbered the hooligans with their rock-hard truncheons. Eventually they dragged one lad away, presumably not for a cup of tea and a slice of carnival cake. Maybe Frizzy and Marcus had had a point.
Simon was unharmed but shaken up. From the hill we felt safer, less cramped, and we could watch the bands on top of the Trios. We were glad to take a breather. The locals were generally vibrant and happy, but a few were spoiling it, including yours truly.
“Fancy a drink?” I asked Joe.
“Nah man, we’ve still got some of this vodka, have you seen that brown shit everyone is drinking?” he said, pointing to a couple of lads holding an odd brown bottle. I bought one.
“Jesus, it’s strong stuff,” I said, taking a sip.
“Blimey mate, it’s like paint stripper,” Joe said after a swig. “You gonna drink that?”
“When in Rome my friend, when in Rome.”
I’m not sure who invented that expression, but if ‘Salvador’ happens to be ‘Rome’ and you’re faced with drinking some potent brown liquid, then don’t feel obliged to finish the bottle. Things, quite literally, went downhill.
“Mate, watch this,” I said to Nish as I got in position to roll down the slope.
“What are you doing? Wait…” he said, but it was too late. I was already rolling through a gap in the crowd. The world spun around as I headed straight for a woman’s drink stall. I felt a thud, heard a crash, and got up dazed, confused, and in jeopardy.
The irate woman was staring at the floor wondering how her cool box had just been knocked over and her merchandise was sprawled everywhere. She shouted at me as I tried to mend her stall, but she was pissed off and my constant apologizing in English and Spanish only frustrated her more.
“You twat,” said Nish in hysterics when I got back. “What were you thinking?”
“I dunno,” I said.
The rest of the night turned into a blur.