Carnival is mad, totally mad. I have been to quite a few parties in my day and I can safely say that this takes the cake.
The first night we took it easy as I was still feeling a bit sick. Trying to sleep while samba bands blare their way down the street outside of your room is difficult to say the least, but we managed. Speaking of our room, boy did we get horn-shwaggled! I think this room was Quasimotos old hang out. It’s at the top of a 6 story building, accessed by a winding wooden staircase. After making the ascent you are rewarded with a wonderfully tiny attic room with a slanted ceiling so low you can’t even stand up straight! We have one lovely window about the size of a postage stamp in the corner and two beds that must have come from the finest local prison. All that at the exorbitant Carnival prices! Oh well, its cool and dry and right in the middle of the action, so who cares. The owners are super nice too, if a little hyper. These guys like to party too and could not comprehend that I was not going to go out the first night. They told me to just drink extra if I was sick!
The atmosphere here is like nothing I have experienced before. All day and night groups of revelers walk the streets in groups playing music, wearing elaborate costumes and dancing. And EVERYONE dances, all the time! No joke, I have seen children in diapers here dancing the samba better than I can. It is a part of their blood here and the complex steps of the dance they have down before they can properly walk. Everywhere the people dance, even your waiter or the police (who thankfully are everywhere), it’s funny.
The second night of carnival we went out with a group of Aussies we had met in Rio. We went to a part of town called Campo Grande, which is one of the three carnival areas. We are staying in Pelorino which is in the old town and is a beautiful area of cobbled streets and traditional architecture. The Pelorino is a family oriented area although the party is still pretty wild. Campo Grande is definitely more of a young party area and it had some of the large floats you see on TV. We had a really good time walking the streets and drinking cheap beers with our friends. I took it easy though and called it a night early.
The next night we went to the Baha part of town which is meant to be the big, crazy and most elaborate party, and we bought Bloco shirts which are expensive but allow you to walk along with the parade in and among the big floats. That was incredible! We were in a group of thousands and everyone dances down the carnival route next to their float drinking and going crazy to live music from the biggest groups in Brazil. All around us on both sides of the street were thousands upon thousands of people rocking out on the sidewalks in apartments, clubs, everywhere. It was just out of control and one of the most fun nights of my life.
One of the strange things about the event that I knew about but Mattis did not, was the tradition of the boys trying to kiss as many girls as they could. It is a part of the event for a guy to grab a girl that he thinks is pretty and plant a big wet one right on her lips. The guys try to kiss as many girls as they can, the girls try to kiss the cutest guy they can and hang on to him all night. It creates a weird dynamic of girls trying to avoid being kissed by guys they don’t like and guys trying to woo every girl they lay eyes on. To someone who didn’t know better it would look like repeated sexual assault, but everyone, you and old, is doing it.
As I had said I knew what to expect coming into this but Mattis did not. The first time we saw a young guy very eagerly trying to kiss a girl who was trying to get away, Mattis reacted the way either of us would have back home and flattened the guy! I had to jump on him and tell all the people giving us dirty looks that we were just dumb tourists and explain to him that that is the way things worked here. He thought I had lost my mind until he saw the same thing repeated over and over again. Then, enough beers into the night and he was running around partying it up. I laughed at that as the guy lecturing me about passing up on culture was rocking out with the best of them!
We met a ton of amazing Brazilians again and had a simply awesome night. We were dancing and drinking and just loving life. It started raining sometime around 2 or 3 in the morning and no one even noticed. It felt good actually as it was a warm tropical rain and everyone just started making out and dancing more! I took it easy on the alcohol again but had a wonderful time and am looking forward to doing it all again. Although tonight, we bought tickets for a Camarote which is a space on a big platform where you hold still and dance and drink and eat and watch the parade instead of joining in. I have a feeling it wont be as good, but we want to try all aspects of the Carnival since we will not likely return. For the record, as I know people will ask, yes I kissed a few girls too, it is almost impossible to avoid it (not that I was trying to avoid it!). Girls would just come up and start dancing with you and plant one on you, then the kiss has to be good or everyone boos! So you really have to put your energy into it or look like a silly gringo! It makes for a unforgettable night of wild dancing, kissing, drinking and generally being really happy all night.
If anyone out there is contemplating Carnival, go for it, it is unlike anything I have ever experienced and is well worth the money. I hope everyone back home is well! I will post pics tomorrow of the following day, the internet is really slow today.