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.
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.
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.”
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
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 Nish. “I’d have probably lost you otherwise,
“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.
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
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
“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
“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
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?”
The rest of the night turned into a blur.
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