Friday, July 28, 2017

Olinda: A Very Traditional Carnaval

On the final day of Carnival, we took the bus to Olinda for a very traditional Carnival experience. The Carnival in Olinda is famous for its 24/7 street party that lasts for a week and a half! I really don't know how the locals do it!

It is held in the Square known as Quarto Cantos or Four Corners. The streets are rough cobblestones which make it hard on the feet, especially when being pushed along by a crowd of humanity. There is a lot of music playing and throngs of people moving with it. This Carnival is noted for its huge colorful paper-mache' dummies that march though the streets.
One of the highlights of Carnaval in Olinda is the opening day, which starts with th bloco of As Virgens do Bairro Novo. Apparently, this is a very amusing drag queen parade. We were there on the last day so we missed it.

Even though this was daytime, there were more security issues than at the evening events. The crowd was huge and pressing. It was hard to walk as you were just pushed along in the crowd.

When the various parades came by, you could easily get crushed or pulled into the line. One woman in the parade told me to put my camera somewhere safe! I had been holding it to take photos. She did not know that I also had it attached to my body with two different straps. I took her words seriously.

Unfortunately, one of our group members had his camera taken right out of his hand as he was walking. I think he took a great risk in chasing after the young man who took it. He saw the thief change his shirt so he couldn't be easily identified. Fortunately, nothing happened to cause harm other than the loss of his camera.

Another one in our group had his iPhone grabbed out of his pocket. It was a new one, too. We had been warned not to take cell phones to the events. One other guy in the fleet had a few hundred dollars stolen out of his pocket. Again, we were warned. Dennis carried our cash in his shoe and only took what we didn't mind losing. That all took a little edge off the fun of Carnaval, although, it was not unexpected. It was just the reality that hit you!

I think our experiences were more interesting than going to Rio de Janerio and sitting in the stands watching the parades go by. Our son-in-law was once at the Rio Carnaval and decided he wanted to march in the parades so he bought an outrageous costume with a huge headdress so he could get in it! It probably cost him a small fortune, but at least he can say he did it!


In the heat of the day and with very tired feet from the cobblestones, we escaped from the crowd and found a beach a few block away! It was a perfect place to enjoy some shade and lunch. And the people watching was fun, too. All in all, it was a great day and we were all ready for the bus ride in the air conditioning!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Recife: A True Brazilian Carnaval!

Not having enjoyed the Pre-Carnival event in JoAo Pessoa, I was not enthused about the other upcoming trips to Carnival venues. Of course, I didn't want to miss any of the experiences, so onto the bus we went again! At least the air conditioning was worth the trip.

Actually, we had been told that the Carnivals in Recife and Olinda were two of the best and most traditional. That being said, I had a different set of expectations. And rightly so! The Recife outing started at 14:00 (2 PM) when we all piled onto the coach bus and started the drive to Recife. We would gather again at the bus at 01:00 or 1 AM so it was going to be a long evening.

Since it was a nighttime event, once again we were warned of safety precautions: no purses, no large camera, take only money you won't mind losing, keep your pockets free of valuables, stay in small groups, have a defined meeting place, etc. We were still in Brazil - and it was party time. That is a good opportunity for thieves to make their grabs especially from tourists.

I had my small inexpensive camera strapped to my body with two different tethers. I also kept it in a pocket out of sight most of the time. Dennis kept our money in several different places, including in his shoes. Fortunately, we had no problems that night.

Actually, the whole evening was very much a family affair. The locals were dressed in costumes and the children were cute. I loved the way they all participated in the fun with their creativity. It is obviously something to which they look forward each year. Somewhat like a week long Halloween when no one goes to work!

There were stages throughout the city with different kinds of music in each area. There were some big name Brazilian entertainers were headliners, but we did not know any of them and could not understand the lyrics. Between acts of the stages, groups in fabulous costumes paraded across the stages.

Here are some of the costumes:

Dennis was happy to taste a variety of street food. I declare he will eat anything! Me - not so much! Fortunately, we were able to find places for all of us to sit and rest from time to time. Pushing along with the crowds on cobblestone streets is a bit challenging at times.

Bob isn't too sure about whatever this is!
Our good friends, Merc and Bob, from Chicago had joined us in Cabedelo to finish the final World ARC leg with us. We first met them in Panama when we were preparing to pass through the Panama Canal. Actually, Merc and I first met over a couple of rum punches that were way too strong for both of us! It still gives us a good laugh. Then we were rafted along side a catamaran, Vivo, when we went through the canal.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Heading North for Carnivals

Carnival is a major holiday in Brazil and they go all out for it. In fact, they have pre-Carnival events several weeks before Carnival! Every city has its version; some bigger and better than others. In the smaller towns, it is more of a community event with lots of music and dancing, some parading in costume, others in street clothes.

Our first encounter of pre-Carnival was in Salvador with music and body painting. We didn’t really participate as we had been warned about the cautions one must take at Carnival. We chose to sail north to Cabadelo, where we would stay for a couple of weeks. From there we could go to four different Carnivals.

Our sail up the east coast of Brazil was lovely. It was just the two of us for a change. In fact, it was the first time we had been without crew since last August when we left Mackay, Australia. I love crew for long passage, but enjoy the quieter time when it is just two of us. Of course, we don’t see much of each other as one is usually sleeping when the other is on watch. It works for me for 4-5 day passages. Longer than that is too tiring. 

The Marina Jacare lies up the Rio Paraiba (river) between Cabedelo on the north and JoAo Pessoa to the south. We had to arrive at the river’s mouth at the beginning of a rising tide to avoid the 3 knot current against us. The marina is owned by two French guys and fortunately, Nicholas speaks English. They have a nice restaurant and gathering place for the fleet to relax and use the Internet. The marina arranged for  the bus trips to the Carnivals in Recife and Olinda for the WARC plus to the local ones. 

Dennis waiting for cold drinks and food.
The first Carnival – actually, pre-Carnival – experience was in JoAo Pessoa, a twenty-minute bus ride from the marina. We went at night and tried to figure out what gringos do at Carnival. First, we walked the length of the street, passing huge entertainment trucks. It was like Pine Knob on wheels! I have never seen such large moving stages or heard such sound systems. I could feel the music vibrations in my chest!

People paraded in costume and carried banners.
There were all kinds of foods and beverages available on the street. Vendors were selling everything: cold water, plastic cups, head decorations, candy, beer and soft drinks, cotton candy, etc. We found a place to buy drinks and sit for a while. The parade did not start until 9 PM and we were at the lower end of it so it would take a while for it to reach us.

One of the many large sound stages on a semi truck
The one thing that was very noticeable was security: municipal police and military police. They were perched on high platforms every few yards and they continuously marched single file through the crowd. They made it clear that they would not tolerate any trouble. We saw them body frisk a number of young boys looking for drugs. The kids seemed to be used to it and were very compliant.

I can’t say we were impressed with the event. The music was too loud and we were not into street dancing. Maybe it is a sign of aging! The young people were so wound up and excited. It was like 10 New Year’s Eve parties in one.