Carnival 2015, Finally.
The most extravagant parade on earth. The biggest street party there is. Carnival, Brazil. I was finally here after last years plans hadn’t worked out. It was a last minute decision to go, booking a relatively cheap return flight from Buenos Aires. It was so close that it was one of them impulsive decisions you sometimes make when you travel. I had not expected to fall to the lure of Brazil again. However, to be back in Brazil in February in the near future, it didn’t seem at the time that was going to happen.
As usual, I randomly end up going out the night before my flight. I hadn’t partied much in Uruguay for 2 weeks, Buenos Aires was something of a landing spot rather than a place I was in love with for its scene. I guess partying the night before this time was good preparation for 4 days of living it up. My budget was low this time around for Brazil, so food was the catalyst for any cost savings.
Sao Paulo was first up, and I had arranged to stay with a friend I had met in Brazil all the way back in June time. That seemed a while ago now, with the World Cup for 4 weeks then 4 weeks backpacking Brazil. It seemed an age ago. Mariana, was a typical happy go loving Brazilian. Up for a party, amazingly hospitable and ecstatic to see me, she and her family picked me up from the airport. We soon began with the beers at her house, listening to Latin style music ranging from Don Omar to Marc Antony. The beers in Brazil aren’t the strongest you’ll drink, however they do go down fairly easy. As you would expect, Marianas friends were present, all dressed up with hats, wigs and other bright decorations. We hit the streets of Sao Paulo, and man, I didn’t know what I was in for. There was parties everywhere we went, and given Sao Paulo, albeit a bigger city than Rio, hadn’t got the reputation of the main spot for Carnival. It lead towards Rio as you would imagine, aswell as Salvador and Floranopolis, two other cities on the coast of Brazil.
I remember instantly having a different feeling about Brazil. Just walking the streets, there was a sense of happiness and relief. I guess it depends on you and your expectations when you travel somewhere. I must admit, when I first headed to Brazil at the beginning of my South America adventure, I had a different expectation of Brazil. I thought it would be easier to get around, and Rio itself I didn’t expect to be so big. The expense was more than I thought aswell which surprised me. The World Cup wasn’t exactly backpacker vibes , and maybe I was a little naive with that to expect it. As I left Brazil then, after 7 weeks, I had enough. I had fun, but I knew I was in for better times elsewhere.
This time though, I embraced the place. And there was no expectations this time. I just went to party, and that’s what made it a happier place for me.
Drums banging, people dressed up, local songs chanting, traffic being stopped harmlessly – this place was a party and I wasn’t even on the dance floor yet. After slurping alot of beer than night and staying out until my eyes were shutting, I made the next day a priority to get to Rio. 6.5 hours it took on a bus, which I mostly slept, however managed to get some peeks at the scenic exotic landscapes the route had to offer. Getting into Rio at night, I was meeting up with another friend, Otta, from Italy. She had managed to find some cheap accommodation, for Carnival at least, but was still 100 Aias a night. And it wasn’t a hostel. It was squatting. I liked the layout, the personal effect it gave of everyone sleeping next to each other was quite endearing. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it’ll do, and you accept that when you backpack. You make do. Especially with a low budget.
The next day, we hit Flamengo. The metro was packed and really a sweat fest. You couldn’t move and in comparison to the Football games for the World Cup, it was so much more intense. There were people dressed up, drinking, singing and dancing on the metro line. Non stop, jam packed party. People were so happy. The World Cup had a similar vibe, but this was more local, and if the two were to be compared, Carnival had a majority more joyful atmosphere. After that, the drinks came in full flow. Tequila shots, Caprinhas, Bramhas & Whisky were all consumed in quick concession, I was getting drunk. The music was good, from Latin music to classic western hits. Flamengo actually felt more like a festival than a parade.
Lapa was close by so we ended up hitting the streets there. The party didn’t stop until the morning for some. By this point, the lack of food and quick drinking had gotten me, lets say, tipsy. Otta was my hero that night, helping me getting back home as if she was my wife. At one point during the streets, I was half naked with my buddies I had met back up with, Max & Leon from Australia. Guys and drink hey.
Just a note on the costs. I didn’t spend much. I ate cheap at local stores for 5 Aises, and drank from street sellers. I took local buses and walked alot also. It can be expensive, but I budgeted the hell out of this to the best I could.
The next day was a write off but I was only here until the 4th day when I was flying back. So I booked my bus ticket for a overnight bus back to Sao Paulo, saving cash on the stay at the squats again. By the way, the squats were flee and mosquito bitten like I’ve never know it. More than my times in the Jungle in Venezuela, or out on the beach in Guyana. Although, they were flea’s mostly, and little nibbles when I was asleep from all angles certainly wasn’t comfortable. The alcohol was the only medicine for me to ignore it mostly.
I headed to Books hostel, where I stayed partly for the World Cup and had some great catch up and reunions with people I knew in Rio. Such a great, short time there. The thing is about Rio, like in the World Cup, you tend to know someone there if you have travelled before. To meet up? It can be impossible. There are so many different parties to choose from and areas, nevermind the crowds and transport. So to meet up with several was a good surprise. I drank until I had to leave for my bus and headed back to Sao Paulo that night.
This tale isn’t about longevity obviously, but about a quick fire time back where I had begun my trip in South America. My opinion has slightly changed about Rio. I got to experience the best street party in the world and had some cool as reunions. As for partying left in South America, that’s gonna be some of the very last times I think. I’m near the end, but had to have one more shot at something spectacular.
You haven’t been to a Carnival if you haven’t been to Carnival. After that, if all goes well, I’ll see you next year Brazil.