Joy and shame of Brazilian Carnaval

To be in Brazil in February and not to feel Carnaval – impossible. In different ways.
How I experienced the Carnaval 2012 and what I think about it – in this post.

This is how it started…

Two weeks before the Carnaval the Civil police of Salvador claimed a strike. While policemen stayed at home, waiting for the government to claim bigger salary and additional payments, thieves and bandits went on roads, having almost unlimited possibilities to get some profit. Without claiming anything.

Salvador still had Policia Militar – Military police. But these guys, who all the time carry heavy guns in state of readiness, are not so numerous, and definitely not enough to provide safety for citizens in all parts of the city.

As long as police was absent, busses were attacted and people robbed on place. Most of districts of Salvador, not very safe in peaceful time too, became extremely dangerous. Bandits from poor areas went to the beaches, creating mass assaults. By the way, that’s not a rare thing even when the Police is present.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdkFzTJoxjY (arrestao em praia de Ipanema)

We heard that thieves went in groups to shopping centres and dragged everything that was under their hand.

I could hardly believe that.
Anyway, in 4 days after the strike started, we went to Shopping Barra. Suddenly people started to run and cry:
– Arrestao! (Assault!)
We ran a bit too. But near the escalator stopped and waited for action. But nothing happened. People continued to escape Shopping, others stayed, discussing vividly what happened. Or, better say, what they think, happened.
That evening we spent in a heavy traffic jam near the Shopping centre…

After that a joke was born:
– Lets go to a supermarket and shout: “Arrestao!” All people will run away and the whole store will be only for us.
Not funny unfortunately. News claimed that there were more than 130 people killed in days of strike.

These events led to cancellations of tours and flights to the Carnaval. Even locals hurried up to leave Salvador (and not only those who hate Carnaval that is big percentage).

Anyway, the strike came to the end and the Carnaval couldn’t but come too.

How it went…

The Carnaval in Salvador is more about music, as in Rio more about show. Main feature is trialeticos – huge cargo cars that carry bands through streets of the city. They are also called “blocos”. The most popular are of Timbalada, Olodum, Daniela Mercury, Ivete.
Not only artists participate in show here. People can buy tickets to get inside the block. There are two ways:

  • to walk behing the trialetico car. Stuff holds the rope to mark the territory of the block. Inside it is much safer and more space than in frenzy of the street.
  • to go on top of another trialetico that carries guests. This includes free drinks, much space and access to the bathroom.
The block of Chimbalada: http://noticias.r7.com/carnaval-2012/files/2012/02/timbalada.jpg

Another variant to watch Carnaval in safer place – camarote – huge tribunes on sides of the roads. VIP-zone there also include free drinks. Moreover, they have bathrooms available.
All trialetics pass in front of camarotes that are built all around the city: Campo Grande, Barra. Ondina.

http://globalvoicesonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/4384390710_87f0edc657_b.jpg

Through friends we got tickets to both: camarote and block of Chimbalada. Gathered in the evening in the house to have some beers and adjust T-shirts.

Inside block everyone wears T-shirts of the same design. This is our ticket. And the way for the stuff to define us and let us in and out the rope and the car whenever we want.
The difficulty is that all T-shirts are of the same size and pretty awful design. For me as Russian is hard to imagine that any girl could wish to show up on a party in a clumsy and ridiculous T-shirt. But it’s “must wear” and cost much money (as a ticket). So girls and guys cut them and tie them in different ways to look more fashionable.

Chimbalada had a crazy colourful T-shirt with eye-popped fish on it, Camarote Central – just green.

People in the block of Olodum. It had been raining much, but it's more a relief to party people than trouble.

After all preparations were finshed we rushed out to the quay of Barra, where the party passed.

Well, that was completely different Salvador. Many people walking in the middle of streets, some of roads closed for cars, those that are not – stuck in traffic jams.

Soon we crossed with many people in T-shirts of the same colour. Our block is close! We entered the quay and passed beneath the rope that many young people carried, separating block from the street.
From the top of the car we saw a big crowd of our block that went by foot in front of trialetico. The pavements of the road were not so crowded – it was just Thursday, the first day of Carnaval and officially not a day-off as Monday and Tuesday.
On main days, Rafael told, there’re so many people on the sides of the road that it’s impossible to move. Then it’s better to choose the right position – on crossings of big streets or squares. Then there’s a space to step apart, when the block comes and squeezes the crowd on a street.

During the Carnaval you can be easily robbed. Or kissed. Both is not very pleasant. While me and Lari were passing through the crowd, got many creepy suggestions. And dirty offer is the least annoying thing that can happen.

Bloco de Timbalada: http://edgblogs.s3.amazonaws.com/camarotequemivetesangalo/files/2012/02/timbalada.jpg

Close to Ondina we left our block, gave our t-shirts to random pedestrians and rushed to the camarote Central. This part I already don’t remember very well : )

Resume

What can I say about carnaval – loud, messy, dirty and drunk. That’s it. Definitely not “must visit”. Don’t believe travel magazines.

So…after 2 days of recovering health we left to Chapada Diamantina, amazing national park on the west of Bahia. By the way, this time there was almost no solitude, the surroundings were full of “Carnaval refugees” like we were, mostly – locals.

The district of Barra after carnaval 2012

To be fair, I need to say that there’re many people who love Carnaval, espesially in Bahia. For those who love parties without borders and non-stop, Salvador in the middle of February is a right place. ]

For me one day of Carnaval was more than enough. Probably, for the rest of my life : )

Some posts about magnificent Chapada are already here:

Don’t miss more stories from Chapada Diamantina in my next posts ; )

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Chapada Diamantina: lost in the dark

Dark… And silent. This silence is ringing in ears and compressing body. Artificial silence for a human but at the same time – the most natural one.

We’re sitting on dusty floor in the cave Torrinha, with our spotlight off. We try to feel ourselves a part of endless darkness. Imagine how we would live not knowing what is light.

And we have almost forgotten it: the sun and clear blue sky, sparkling of drops in the morning and fires of sunset. But suddenly a beam of light crosses our resting legs. It’s a touristic group with a guide. The walls of the cave are lit brightly now – they carry kerosene lamps. They wear helmets.

The guide seems confused in view of us, sitting on a wayside.

– Where is your guide?

– We don’t have one. Just decided to have a quick look around.

We all know that the exit is pretty far. Finally, the guide decides not to take responsibility for reckless visitors, and leave with his tourists in opposite direction, taking away bright light of kerosene lamps.

Again darkness swallowed us…

We enter the tiny hole in a rocky wall, from where the group came. Without them we would, probably, never find this way, so hidden it is among huge rocks filling the corridor.

We start to worry. The spotlight that we bought was charged. But how long will it last? We have no idea.

We try a lighter and photocamera that we have with us. Photocamera is almost useless. And it’s hard to imagine way back just with a fire of tiny lighter.

We enter a huge hall with figure rocks in the middle. It’s much bigger than all dimentions we have already passed. The most ineresting part starts!

But we decide to go back, not relying on our weak Chinese spotlight. Before we make decision we turn it off and try to walk in full darkness.

No, it’s not possible. We will be lost in these endless corridors…

Make “a trophy photo” of fancy rock – and go back.

Hardly found the narrow hole that just passed 15 minutes ago. Of course, in excitement of revelation noone cared to remember the spot.

But here we are – far away the spot of light appeares, and we sigh with relief. Day is beautiful after enternal darkness.

On the exit a guy from information center meets us. He said, he is on his way to search us in depths of Torrinha.

One waterfall that tried to reach the sky

Lemon-yellow butterflies fly across our way. They are not in time to dodge the speeding car and hit the glass, poor kamikadze.

The strict guard meets guests on the entrance to Information centre.

We drive to the center of the national park Chapada Diamantina to see one of its natural wonders. It takes us 1,5 hours. Finally, we are on place on the bottom of a huge slope. We are glad to get out of the stuffy car and start ascend.

Despite the rock that is pretty steep, we go up fast. On way outrun several touristic groups. I enjoy this fact silently – hate to trudge in a crowd.

On every step we catch shots of stunning beauty: picturesque rocks and hills, separated by valleys covered with scare greenery.

In almost an hour we reach the top but it’s just beginning. In front of us – kilometers of walk through the plateau. The only person who we meet is a vender. In the middle of nowhere he offers his “bebidas geladas” – cool drinks to exhausted after ascend tourists. I feel a bit pity about him – sitting there, fanned by winds, burnt by sun, alone, greeting rarely passing hikers.

In an hour I listen to natural sounds thoroughly, in hope to hear the sound of falling water.

But nothing.

Soon the wind brings to us sound of voices. Looks like we are close. Here’s the river that creates the waterfall, narrow stream descending to an abyss.

We are on the edge. Under our feet – grand valley, canion of Valle de Capao. Rocks like monstrous skyscrapers raise on both sides of it. Above the valley trembles a little peace of rainbow.

Flow of Cachoeira da Fumaça – Waterfall of Smoke – or disappeares far underneath, or, taken by sudden wind, raises in miriads of microscopic bubbles.

The height of the rock – 353 meters, and before discovery of Cachoeira da Araca in Amazon Smoke waterwall was believed the highest in Brazil. Hikers, who have come to admire the natural wonder, with fear reach the edge to look down.Far-far underneath there’s a tiny lake. Probably, it becomes bigger in rainy season. But now nothing disturbs its calm surface. The stream of the river is so weak that can’t reach the earth, falling into billions of drops.

Curious tourists from time to time try to climb higher on a rock, ignoring the tablet: “Nao transito” – “Don’t pass”. Responsible guides from time to time ask them out of there, explaining politely that someone not so phisically fit and fearless can fall down from the height.

But one prohibited spot I can’t but not visit – the place where the river turns into waterfall. I saw two reckless men, standing on a very edge in a cloud of water dust. To dive into magic stream of Cachoeira that, against laws of nature, flows from earth to the sky, I go too.

Chapada Diamantina: For courageous priest wind sings

Staying on an edge, we all imagine: what will be if we step forward. Will fall down like a stone or haver above the earth taken by wind? Despite the fact we all studied physics at school, we dream. But not dare to make the ultimate step.

Towards the top of Morro (Hill) Pai Inacio leads natural staircase, formed by huge stones. Climbing up, I regret that don’t remember names of minerals that are tread by my feet. They present a huge range of colors – from tender pink to raven black. I wrote about Soviet geologists for two years – should remember something…

But memory is so selective.

Surroundings are just stunning – valleys look like shots of Miyadzaki cartoons. And I look as its heroine, persistently ascending a huge single rock. Far away there’re others like sisters and brothers, built by enormous plasts of yellow soil.

Tres irmaos - Three brothers

Before I reach plain platform of the top, I observe the road I arrived. A couple of kilometers of dust road – typical for Chapada Diamantina. Can’t say it’s a pleasure to go through it. But for national park this’s much better than asphalt.

Wind starts its song of the height. I stop to listen. Here on top of Pai Inacio it brings news from all over the world. It chants and wispers, and lures to follow its whips.

I don’t. Or I could repeat sad story of Father Inacio, whose name holds the hill. The missionary had been bringing “God’s word” to indigenous people of Bahia – this was his way to civilize and educate new world. But Portuguese troops, who invaded later to Bahia, had different methods – massacres.

As a protest to this, Father Inacio jumped from the rock that we climb now.

Pai Inacio

About this legend reminds a huge cross on the top of Pai Inacio – in honor of merciful and reckless priest. Wind here is even more powerful. His gasps are so strong that can easily through me down.

Tho, looking on a valley from the height, I feel that I can not fall but fly with the wind. Maybe, Inacio thought the same…

Trail to Pai Incio is closed after 17-00, so it’s impossible to watch the sunset from the legendary place where wind talks. It doesn’t make me sad – there’re many slops around))