I love it when a plan comes together. A few last minute bookings saw friends Pedro and Felipe joining from London and Sao Paulo for Carnival and in Salvador de Bahia for four days.
Arriving in from Northern Brazil myself met Pedro at the airport straight off his flight and headed into Salvador city centre. We had an AirBnb apartment in a good part of town halfway between the two big parade areas – the first down by the Olinda beach promenade and the other up in the old town
Our first day was on the beach in town which was absolutely packed to capacity. Felipe arrived direct from the airport and after a quick change of clothes was down for caipirinhas and beach time.
Back at the apartment when we were getting ready I got the most amazing news – my sister had gone into labour and had a little baby girl Aoife! After a few celebratory drinks it was straight down to the Olinda parade route.
The parade involves large trucks with speakers on all sides and stage on the top called blocos progress down the route over the course of several hours. Surrounding the trucks in front and behind is a roped off area with people for that bloco. Each one has a different tshirt each night which you need to have to get access.
As such there are really two ways to do carnival – either watching all the blocos go by in a fixed viewing area called camarotes or down on the street in the bloco itself.
We had bought entrance to the Cerveja & Cia camarote where they have free food and beer but it was a bit dead as people were just standing around at the start of the night. After an hour or two we headed out on the street to be in the thick of the party.
Felipe posted on facebook that carnival was an assault on the senses – he had no idea how right he would be!
All alongside are beer and drinks sellers offering small cans of beer for 40 pence so realistically all you need for a full night out is a few pounds and some emergency money in the shoe just in case.
Salvador has a bit of a reputation and people had warned me before going – the guidebook also says that if you will be pickpocked or mugged in Brazil its most likely to happen here but off we went.
Finishing up at 3am by the parade route we started on the 20 minute walk up to our apartment.
Along the way as we were just a few hundred metres away from the apartment we had spread out a bit with Pedro walking fastest, then Felipe and then me. Each about 20m from the other.
Out of nowhere I just remember two punches to the face and jaw and being pushed over. A few seconds later I was on the ground and knew this was a bit situation. At the same time Pedro and Felipe had been attack and pushed into a wall. Felipe managed to get away and saw five guys around hitting me. Pedro ran up the hill where a policeman happened to be coming down. At this point Felipe heard a gunshot in the air and people were running everywhere and we managed to rendezvous back up at the apartment.
Pedro was bleeding all over from a cut in his head as we got inside the compound. After stitching up and cleaning ourselves up we headed to bed a bit ruffled. They didn’t get any money but surely it was a mugging gone wrong, bad as it was it could have been a lot lot worse.
The next day I saw on TV how the police deal with people caught for assaults – they were paraded in handcuffs and barracked by questions by TV reporters.
The next day we headed to a beach club, with big sunglasses, to see some fun friends of Felipe and not let the assault. That night myself and Pedro decided to get back on the horse and headed out to the blocos again – this time getting a taxi home!
On our last day it was time to look around the old town where the celebration is a little less commercial with smaller community group bands and dancers going around until all hours.
I foolishly booked a place in the old town looking to catchup on sleep on my last night – fat chance with a brass band under my window every 10 minutes!