Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Yes, it’s been a while and again I have fallen behind in my writing. There were a few things that I wanted to accomplish on my trip, one of which was to experience the full-on Carnaval. I decided on the Salvador party because this is where the people and the musicians are. The Carnaval in Rio is more of a parade, where you buy expensive tickets to watch everything from the stands. Plus, you can watch the Rio Carnaval on TV, which I did while resting.

I was not sure how accomodations would be in Salvador Bahia, so I decided to fly up to assure myself a good place to stay. This I did in the historic centre of Pelourhino, with a huge breakfast and still within a safe walking distance of everything.

The Pelourhino route was one of the three circuits that go on and as I found out turned out to be my favourite as the bands walk through the narrow cobble stone streets, drumming out infectiously danceable rhythms in which dancers lead followed by the bands and then the fans. It could get really crowded, but everyone managed to samba walk wherever they wanted to go.

The other two circuits were for the popular musicians to play in and the Afro blocos, on top of huge semi truck trailers. These would be roped off to the general public, and you paid a variable amount to get close to your favourite band and get a t~shirt to identify you. Inside the ropes was safe, outside you could stand in place and endure the crowds but watch as the blocos passed by. Crazy costumes were the norm, as was the general party.

The other option was to buy a ticket to one of the restaurantes/camarotes along the circuit and watch things from up above. Some other groups just started their own theme, with their own music and just made their way around... guys dressed up as wonderwoman, the bodypaint bloco, the pink afro hair group.

One of the most traditional of the afro blocos was Filohos (Sons) de Ghandi, which have been in existence since 1947 with about 7,000 members. They looked very regal with their blue turban and white toga. They say there are on the average 1.5 million people on the streets dancing at any one time. It is indeed the biggest party in the world!

Things usually got started around 4 pm after the heat of the day, and went on until 6 am, I am not kidding. Brazilians prepare for this the whole year so that they won´t miss out on anything. Me, I took a more rested approach to things, and would either go out follow a band that I liked then go get some rest, find a good place on the historic circuit and watch, or buy a t~shirt off someone halfway through and get to be inside the ropes. Either way, I was still tired from dancing but looked a lot more rested than most after Carnaval.

Some of my favourite bands are Olodum, which I saw three times, Timbalada, Afrodisiasco, Ilye Arkati ... and U2. U2 was on Ivete's bloco for a guest appearance, which I got to see, after their concert in Sao Paulo. They stayed just up the hill from me, and you always knew when they were going somewhere when all the military police would get ready for the escort. I was in Bahia for a while and was happy to get out when everything was done, but really did enjoy myself and all the great people that I met.

Just before this all started, I also went to a Candomble ceremony. It is another truly Afro-Brazilian religion that synthesizes Catholicism and various religions from Africa. Since the Portuguese did not want revolts, they mixed slaves from different tribes, each bringing their own gods and customs from their homeland. The ceremonies can be very long, and you don't know which god or saint will be conjured up. This is done by dancing by women and drumming and chanting from the men. Fireworks indicate when the god arrives. All this and it was for a baptism! Then there was a feast, and I was able to talk with some of the congregation in my very bad Port-anol (portuguese-spanish) to find out more. Very interesting.

Most people want to go to the beach to rest afterward, myself included, and I tried to avoid the crowds as best I could by finding a small fishing village on a river called Imbassai. Nonetheless, some of the revelers found it as well, but not too much. I had my hammock looking into a garden and coconut trees to allow me to relax for the next four days.

I finally felt healthy and took an overnight bus to the National Park of Chapada Diamantina (rough cut diamonds) which was known for its table top mountains, rivers and waterfalls! It reminded me of the American Southwest, but much greener. We had some freak weather of rain and thunderstoms, but this only made the waterfalls more impressive.

Most of my time was spent in an old mining town now tourist town, called Lencois. From there, I did a lot of day hikes to waterfalls and one tour to some of the more out of the way caves and mountains. All very impressive. I changed locations, to a green mountain valley, Vale do Capao. The 4x4 public transport to get there let me know how far out I was. This was where I felt at home. While there, I hiked to the tallest waterfall in Brazil: Cachoera do Fumaca which is 420 meters high.

I met some great Spaniards that were working for an NGO in Paraguay, on the way to what turned out to be a downright adventure. Because we got caught in a downpour, the trails became streams, then became creeks, then at points it was like going through waist to sternum high water, holding onto trees so that we didn't get pulled away. You will see the fotos!

Anyway, all this meant that the waterfall was huge. The only three people to see it that day were very happy in the end. It continued to rain the next day, and since some of the bridges were about to be covered; I decided to go. I said my good-byes and made the 24 hour trip to Olinda.

More next time.



Blogger Looeee said...

Jeremiah is an awesome guy. I ran into him in 2004 in Turkey. He was going to show me some grappling (I have hardly any background in that), but the beach we were on had too many rocks! I had a great time hanging with another american, and we probably spent 3-4 days together.

In the past 2 years, I've lost his email. I'm heading back to Turkey this year, and wanted to let him know that, since he travels all over the place. Could you please forward him my email address? I'm Looeee AT virosa DOT net.

Thank you very much, and I apologize if this is a double post - I believe Blogger might have eaten my first post.

10:43 AM  

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