Friday, April 8, 2011


The streets of Salvador

The crowd is pulsing with energy. A semi truck is blasting music from a band on its roof top. Twelve people are touching you all at once. You are dripping sweat. Your clothes are soaked through with a combination of your sweat, other peoples sweat and spilled beer. Confetti rains down from the sky. You dance your heart out to the unfamiliar beat. You sing at the top of your lungs even though you don’t understand the Spanish lyrics. The energy is intense, electrifying and contagious. Welcome to Carnaval!

After narrowly surviving the 52 hour bus ride, we finally had made it to Salvador. Boredom, anticipation and too many stops plagued us the entire way.  We arrived late at night, and were exhausted (I still don’t understand why sitting on a bus for an endless amount of hours makes you tired, but it does).  We decided just to go to bed so we could fully experience Carnaval the next day.

I had no idea what to expect in regard to Carnaval. All I knew was that it was a huge and crazy party. But that was enough to make it a “must do“ sometime in my life. The Carnaval in Salvador is actually listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s biggest street party. More than 2 million people are drinking and dancing in the streets every night for a week straight. Carnaval began hundreds of years ago as a festival leading up to Ash Wednesday. It quickly evolved into a celebration of indulgence; one last party filled with food, music, booze and sex, before the 40 days of abstinence and fasting until Easter. Today Brazil’s Carnaval is known all over the world. I was so excited to be a part of this world renown party!!

It was more than I could have ever imagined. More people, more music, more sweat and more fun. It is impossible to describe the energy created by more than 2 million drinking and dancing people. It was also overwhelming. If you had enough of the people, the booze and the heat, there was no escape. One night Laurie and I tried to leave early and we spent 2 full hours pushing, fighting and being tossed around, just trying to get out. God forbid you got sick or hurt in the middle…you would never survive.

We had gotten into the routine of heading down to the beach in the late afternoon with our hostel mates and hitting the streets for Carnaval right after that. We went to Barra Beach, famous for its sunsets, and sat on lounge chairs soaking up the sun and sipping the famous Brazilian cocktails, caprihianas.  A caprihina is a delicious concoction made with cachaca (sugarcane alcohol), sugar, and fresh limes. You can also get them flavoured with fresh fruit such as pineapple, mango, kiwi, strawberry or passion fruit.

Me and a pineapple caprihina
As the food vendors roamed the beach (and by vendor I mean guy walking by with a tupperwear container) we feasted on an array of Brazilian street foods. Most things I don’t even know the name of, but we ate deep fried pastry filled with meat, dough shaped pears filled with cheese and chicken, fresh grilled prawns, and my favourite, roasted cheese on a stick. A guy would walk by carrying a plastic container filled with a soft cheese on a stick and a pot filled with hot coals. When you wanted a cheese stick, he would take one out, cover it in herbs and roast it over his hot coals right there, and hand you a wonderfully hot, gooey, delicious hunk of cheese on a stick. Yum!
Meat filled pastry

Sitting on Barra beach one of those days, I experienced a moment that will stay with me forever. The sun was setting over the ocean, casting a warm glow all around. I had an ice cold pineapple caprihiana in one hand and  freshly roasted cheese on a stick in the other. I was surrounded by a great group of travellers from all over the world, who had quickly become my friends. I was getting a $5 dollar foot massage. I was in Brazil. At Carnaval. I had achieved another check mark on my life’s to do list. This is what pure and utter happiness (or too many caprihianas!)  feels like. It was one of the moments when I look around and think, my life is amazing!!! Nothing could have made that moment better.

Me and Larry as the sun sets

Me and Larry, a few cocktails in

Every evening after the sun had set and we had a few cocktails in us, we headed up to a little rooftop bar which was situated where Carnaval began. We would drink a bit more as we watched the party gear up. When it was crazy in the streets we went in and joined the massive party. We drank more, danced to music we didn’t know, listened to music we had never heard before and just revelled in the atmosphere of people.

And it starts...

A big part of Salvador’s Carnaval are the blocos. A bloco is a giant truck that has been refitted with a band or dj on top, a bar inside and is sectioned off from the street crowd with a square of rope going all around it. The drive through the streets extremely slowly, giving the streets a constant parade of different music. Party goers can pay a few hundred dollars to participate in the bloco and walk with it, in the confines of the rope. It is a little safer and not as crazy as the streets in the confines of a bloco. I am never the type to pay just for safety, so we just hit the streets and got lost in the crowd.

Our hostel mates

To escape the crowds, we would sometimes hit the beach, which followed parallel to the party in the streets. You can watch the chaos, but feel the ocean breeze, go for a swim and get away from the crazy crowds. One night on the beach we met some local Brazilians. Although I could not understand a word they said, I somehow ended up dancing with them on the beach. That was another highlight of my Carnaval experience; trying (and failing miserably) to stomp and shake and feel the music with some locals.

Every night we would escape Carnaval in the wee hours of the morning and sit at a stand serving “agua coco”, translation - coconut water. A fresh green coconut would be hacked open and a straw thrown in, so we could rehydrate on the deliciousness of fresh, cold coconut water. They were supposed to help with the hangovers too!!!

On the last night of Carnaval, David Guetta was going to be on a bloco. Laurie and I were so excited! We had our typical day of beach sunset caprihianas and then headed to the rooftop bar, where we could see his bloco getting prepared. As soon as David Guetta was on the move, so were we. We followed that truck all the way through Carnaval, singing, dancing and having a great time. It was a fantastic way to end a week long celebration.

Yup, David Guetta is up there!!

With the end of Carnaval, I completed another mission on my life’s to do list. With that, I had another mission that needed to be accomplished immediately. Liver detox. Mine was hurting. Next, we were bussing to Rio de Janeiro to relax on the famous beach of Copacabana, this time without a cocktail in hand!

Up next, at the Copa…Copacabana….

Join me as I TRAVEL MY LIFE AWAY!!!!