Is the Brazilian Carnival on your bucket list?
I don’t have a formal bucket list of destinations and adventures, because the list would be ginormous! It would be much easier to write a list on things that I don’t want to do before I die, like free dive with Great Whites, live under a repressive regime or eat cow eyeballs (I am pretty sure Andrew Zimmern did).
So I don’t have a bucket list, but if one existed, participate in the Brazilian Carnival would be on it. For some reason, I never seem to be in South America around February/March when this spectacular event takes place. I have participated in many other Carnivals around the globe, but never in Brazil.
What if you are not in Brazil during Carnival?
If this happens to you while visiting Brazil, fret not! There is a way to get a feel for the experience even out of season. By attending a Samba School rehearsal you will be able to hear the percussion, see the dancers, get a feeling for the community and see firsthand the organization it takes to pull off something of this magnitude. It is also a very cheap way to get to the heart and soul of what makes this huge country completely stop and celebrate for a week every year.
Which one should I choose?
If you are in Sao Paulo, try the Mocidade Alegre rehearsal on Sundays from 7pm-Midnight. The entrance fee is R$10 for the floor and R$100 for the VIP for 5 people. I liked the floor better as it allowed me to join in the fun instead of being segregated, but if you are in a group or prefer to just watch, the VIP is a good option.
If in Rio, try Salgueiro. It’s every Saturday and starts at 10pm.
Inside the event, there is security and chances that you will be accosted or robbed are slim, but these events usually happen around disadvantaged communities, some of which are unfortunately run by drug lords and require a little more caution, so as a precaution don’t hang out outside of the venue for too long, don’t take your expensive cameras, wear expensive jewellery or take pictures of people without first getting a “feel” for the environment. Respect the community members and you will be invited to join in the fun, but never forget, you are not part of the community so a certain reservation is required, which means, this is not the place to get drunk. As always if you feel in danger, the best thing is to leave and if accosted never, never, never, resist a robbery. None of the stuff you have is worth your life.
With that in mind, I had a blast and was welcomed by a member of the Old Guard (a respected group inside the school) to join in the fun. They taught me the steps and there I was, in the thick of it all! One of the best travel moments of my life.
Now I have to go back for the real deal! Put that on my “inverted” bucketlist…don’t die before attending the Carnival!
PS: I was going to post a video, but I am having serious issues with it. I have been playing with it for a while and it’s just not going to happen tonight, so here are the few pics I took ( you really have to see it in video to feel what it is like). I am sorry in advance that they are not my best pics ever. I took them all in my iPhone. It didn’t help that the lighting wasn’t great and I or the people I was trying to photograph were not standing still…