I had been dreaming of Carnival in Brazil for years, decades perhaps. Gorgeous women in next to nothing, their bodies gyrating with the samba beats. Masked revellers filling the streets, anything and everything allowed, encouraged, celebrated! Debaucherous heaven!
Originally Rio had been the destination of my longing, but when my time finally came to visit a good Argentinian friend of mine, Alejandro, was heading to Carnival in Recife, in the north of Brazil. A little research and I discovered this was supposed to be the “true” Carnival of Brazil, more like the original style with everyone together on the streets dancing and partying together, rather than the huge corporate-style monolith Rio Carnival had apparently become. I didn’t need much encouragement to change my mind and head to Recife!
First step: I needed to “costume up”!
Alejandro had come a little more prepared than me, with his sailor’s hat and a few other accessories. I’d flown in from Mexico and hadn’t really thought too far ahead, so first night and seeing everyone else in costume I had my eye out for suitable accessories. And my luck was in, a brightly coloured feathered headdress was perfect! The gold sunglasses a great combination! I was set. Alejandro was soon jealous of my outfit and bought his own feathered headdress. Copycat!
The first night of Recife’s Carnival is a little more relaxed than the following days, more family focused and in the centre of the main town rather than in Olinda. So after a few hours dancing and drinking to welcome the opening of Carnival, we headed back to rest up for the big day on Saturday.
Unfortunately Alejandro had booked a hostel far from the festivities, and when it’s hitting 35 degrees with a 40 minute bus ride to get to the party, the enthusiasm can drop a little between leaving the hostel and finally starting to party. I tried to cater for this lull in our daily procedure with some morning beers to get the heart started, but Alejandro was shocked that I would want to start drinking so early. He’s obviously never partied with Australians very often!
Nevertheless, despite these drawbacks, when we hit the party in Olinda it truly was something to behold! I have never seen so many people all dressed up, all drinking, all dancing, all crammed together in hot, sweaty, beer-soaked streets. And boy was it hot! There was no avoiding the “hot & steamy” reputation of the Carnival, it was damn hot & steamy!! At times unfortunately uncomfortably so… and this is where a strategic hostel in Olinda, in the middle of Carnival central, would have been perfect. A few hours out in the hot sun dancing, then back for an hour or so’s rest and recuperation, before heading back out for the cooler all night festivities would have been ideal. As it was with the distance we had to travel once we left the hostel for the day then we were gone for the whole day.
Am I sounding old? I defy most to survive 6 hours of dancing in 35 degree sun and then continue all night for 5 days in a row! I did my best, but after 2 days & nights I was exhausted, and made the choice to fly to Salvador to experience Brazil’s second largest Carnival for the last couple of days. More on that in a later post, but for now some photos from Recife and Olinda…