13.02.2017 - 28.02.2017 33 °C
Brazil. Wow ! Home to the Biggest Street Party in the World ! In Salvador. 2 million people. That is a lot of people. And the party goes on for days.
Part of the 4 kilometre route of one of the three street festivals happening on 26th February 2017.
There are three areas to enjoy this spectacle; on the Blocos, ie one of the buses/ floats that drives the festival route, as part of the crowd (which is just wild. You end up jumping up and down (in Brazil they call it “popcorn”)), or at a “side venue” which is much more sane. We chose the latter. Or were lucky enough to meet up with expatriate French woman Sara whose friend Emilie managed to get us into an area on the edge of the parade. Very cool and just an amazing spectacle.
We got into the groove…
Looking out at the parade at Barra in Salvador.
We didn’t get as dressed up as Sara (in the blue), or Emilie, or Andre….
But I’m getting ahead of myself, we started off in Uruguay hearing all of the horror stories about the police going on strike in Espiritu Santo State in Brazil and 137 people being murdered in an 8 day killing spree, and the police in 27 of the 100 police “wards” in Rio also going on strike. Evidently the government stopped paying wages and so the wives of the police officers blocked the entrances of the police stations to stop the police from entering and exiting the police station.
So, whilst we had been cautious in Argentina, and, to a lesser degree in Uruguay and Chile, we were very cautious in Brazil, and were prepared to use Nikki’s Maxim of “If we’re gonna die, we fly”.
However, what we didn’t understand was the saying “It’s Brazil”. And yes, whilst the corruption level is higher, the crime levels are higher, this enormous country of 8.5 million square kilometres (10% bigger than Oz), of 210 million people, is a world leader. In partying, at least.
Our view before we left was, and is, that if you want to get a real appreciation of a country, the travel must be by land. We have now travelled from Montevideo in Uruguay to Olinda in northern Brazil by bus. A lazy 6,000 kilometres or so (in 14 days….).
Map of Brazil showing our stops in Barra de Lagoa, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Seguro, Salvador, and Olinda
Our first impression was of the Porto Alegre bus station was favourable. We felt safe and whilst, of course we are very careful with our bags etc, it was all good.
We eventually ended up at the fantastic Barra Beach Club in Barra de Lagoa close to Floreanopolis. It was quite simply a world class quality beach. Our hostel was that rare breed of a great hostel; a great vibe, friendly people, good food, good bar area, mixed with being quiet at night.
View from our hostel, the Barra Beach Club.
Barra de Lagoa
Went for a hike out to Praia Mole
“That’s not a stubby holder, This is a stubby holder !”
Then a little jaunt of 1,140 km from Barra de Lagoa to the outstanding Rio de Janeiro. Rio is the most beautiful city in the world that I’ve been to. From the awesome Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) Statue.
At Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), Rio de Janeiro.
To the fantastic people that we met (thanks to Ann Marie, Eric, Natalie, Flo, Francis, Rachel, Mark, Cesar, …..)
Natalie, Eric, Ann-Marie, me and Nik…
Then on to Sugar Loaf
For my friend, Mr Simon Youl (who has a PhD in Bond films). Moonraker – Roger Moore as James Bond fighting with Jaws on the cable car to Sugar Loaf mountain.
And here’s a couple of photos of the sunset view at Sugar Loaf.
View from Sugar Loaf towards Christo Redentor.
Looking up towards Sugar Loaf
To Copocabana and Ipanema beaches. Time to go off on a tangent……
So, two blokes were in a bar. The Veloso Bar a block from Ipanema Beach. In 1962. Composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and poet Vinicius de Moraes. They were just working on a musical comedy about a Martian who landed in Rio during the carnaval (yes, really) and had half written a song that they’d called “the Girl passes by”.
They sat in the bar for a few days and an 18 year old young woman who had a way of walking that de Moraes called “sheer poetry” kept walking by. She, the fabulously called “Heloisa Eneida Menezes Pais Pinto”, inspired them to finish the song, change its name to “The Girl from Ipanema” and have a massive worldwide hit with Stan Getz and Astrid Gilberto. Google it. It’s a blast !
Heloisa Eneida Menezes Pais Pinto – The Real Girl from Ipanema.
The Girl from Ipanema won the Song of the Year Grammy in 1965.
I have to mention the favela that where we were staying. It is a “pacified” favela. A favela is traditionally a slum, but in the build up to the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, some of the slums were “pacified” and the favela at Leme, at the end of Copocabana beach was one of them.
Our hostel, recently built by Tibo and Marielle was just beautiful, with a great view and great rooms and a fabulous rooftop bar.
View from the Rooftop of our hostel
Jamming with Eric on the hostel rooftop
Downstairs in the hostel
Whilst it is a “pacified” favela, when Marielle mentioned that there was a really nice restaurant up the road, about a 15 minute walk but that she thought that she should mention that the drug cartel that was in the area would probably be there and carrying big guns, but that we shouldn’t be concerned, they were only interested in ensuring other drug cartels didn’t move in, and wouldn’t hurt us, we decided to go to one in the other direction. By the way, to Bar do David. The food was very good. I got the meat sweats…..
Bar do David, Leme, Rio de Janeiro
The fabulous, and award winning, ribs with a pineapple relish from Bar do David, Leme, Rio de Janeiro.
So, of course, Rio is famous for the Carnaval. Carnaval is held between the Friday (51 days before Easter), and Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent (40 days before Easter). On certain days during Lent, Catholics and some other Christians abstained from meat and poultry, hence the term “carnival”, literally carnelevare “to remove (literally, “raise”) meat.
We were there for only the run up to the main carnaval and so the Bloco (ie a party where there is a truck/ float driving down the street) in Copocabana “only” attracted 200,000 people. It was a thoroughly good natured affair, although, because this is Brazil you do not carry bags, money belts, cameras, and, well, the best place to keep money, we figured, was Nikki’s bra…..
Bloco party on Copocabana Beach in the run up to Carnaval – Sunday 19th February 2017. Note the Bloco truck with the band on top in the middle.
The bottom line is that we loved Rio. It is the most beautiful, vibrant, astoundingly scenic, larger than life city we’ve ever been to.
Street art in Rio
So then it was another 18 hour, 1,100 km bus ride to Porto Seguro. Blimey, what a picturesque little town this was. We picked it because we didn’t want to do the whole haul up to Salvador in one hit, but, after the craziness of Rio, it was such a great place to take a breather.
Looking out over Porto Seguro
Porto Seguro Original House
The Carnaval was on in Porto too, but it was much more laid back and smaller. We stayed in a great hotel. And then it was another overnight bus ride to Salvador, but only 700 km’s this time.
Salvador ! Wow ! I started this Blog with a description of the Carnaval in Barra, but it was so much more.
Nik and I have during our “Gap Year”, stayed predominantly in hostels. Our view is that it is much more difficult to meet people in hotels than it is in hostels. And the people that we’ve met ! Fantastic, caring, lovely, interesting, smart, funny people.
Galleria 13, our hostel in Salvador, was no exception. Sara, Andre, and Emilie. What a blast !
Me with Sara’s Dad Andre. Yes there was a bit of glitter
The Carnaval in Pelourinho was amazing and Emilie was drumming in a community band. Great job ! (I’ve attached that as a link in the facebook post/ email)
Here are some photos
Dancing in Pelourinho
Nikki’s brain unfortunately fell into a cup of Caipirinha, a cocktail of lime and sugar cane brandy during the evening. And Nikki jumped into the pool. Fully clothed. As did Sara. It took two Alcohol Free Days to recover !
Nikki and Sara in the pool
Olinda. So have you ever seen someone (or been yourself ?) on a 4 day bender ? The best description I’ve heard is from Gaby in the Barra Beach Club in Barra de Lagoa, of her (Ex) boyfriend, who took the drinking of alcohol a tad to the extreme and was a little, er, unwell. She looked after him but shaved off one of his eyebrows as payback….
So we arrived in Olinda, and let me talk about toilets around the world. I’ve been in some that smell pretty bad. Olinda, yes, the whole town, smelt like that. Really harsh. The Carnaval was staggering on, like a drunk about an hour before they pass out. All of the restaurants were shut. All of the churches boarded up. Armageddon had come. The room in the hostel (Passada Alto Astral) was, however, brilliant. Nikki had come up trumps. Again.
We were tucked up in bed at 8 pm.
The next day, however, was better. The boards came off the churches, the restaurants opened, the streets had been scrubbed clean, and all was well with the world. We had a great lunch looking out onto Olinda and the high rises of Recife.
View from the hostel
View in one of the many 400 year old churches in Olinda
On to the next part of the adventure.
Part of the reason for scooting through Brazil faster than we’d have liked was that we want to get to French Guiana in order to see a rocket launch on 6th March. In order to make it in time there will have to be a bit of flying…….