Old town exploration and samba
27.01.2013 25 °C
Despite the lack of many things at Adventure Hostel, the breakfast was brilliant. Many varieties of bread, cheese, ham, tomatoes, chocolate spread, toffee spread, melon, papaya, mango, fruit smoothies, cake that I think contained condensed milk, and lots more that I can't remember. We filled up and headed out in our mac in a sac's and with our umbrellas to explore the town.
During the morning it was foggy, which made it difficult to see landscape but the old buildings and cobbled streets were amazing. The boats were as brightly coloured as the doors and windows of the houses, and there were lots of horse and carts going up and down the cobbled streets...one Brazilian man leant out of the cart for his picture to be taken and said 'tag me on Facebook'
It continued to rain as we checked into our new hostel, Bossa Nova Hostel. Getting from Adventure Hostel to here was our first real walk with our backpacks and we soon realised we didn't have the straps fitted properly. 10 minutes in we were moaning about our back, neck and shoulders hurting! This was first priority to sort out when we got to the next place.
This hostel is much nicer than Adventure, the set up was almost like chalet style in that your room door was also the outside door, and felt very safe set behind a big gate and had chairs and tables for us to sit outside. The kitchen seemed well equipped and clean, which meant we were able to cook for the first time. The owner Alan was really helpful and told us there was a month of festivities happening and tonight there would be a traditional Brazilian band playing followed by a band practising for Carnival.
The rain stopped and we could see the mountains that had been covered in fog since we arrived so we went to the bus station to buy tickets for our journey to São Paulo, before going for another walk around the town. A nice Brazilian man helped us when the ticket office didn't understand us, but Andrew wasn't happy when we were told the 9.40am was full and we'd have to get the 1.40pm instead, as he said he could see on the screen that the earlier bus wasn't full. But what could we do, we can barely speak a few words, never mind argue in Portuguese?!
We grabbed salgados for lunch again and headed for another walk around the town. The tide had come in so we were able to pass through some of the streets and had to walk over a makeshift 'bridge'. The water on the cobbled streets allowed us to get some really nice pictures though.
With all the rain, we thought it best to get some spare flip flops, especially as Havaianas are so cheap out here. I got some pearly pink colour flip flops for £7 but unfortunately they only went up to USA 12 (UK 11) so Andrew couldn't get any!
There's a large supermarket a minute away from the hostel so we bought items for a pasta on our way back from town. We wanted chicken so I used my best, phrase book-learnt, Portuguese to order two chicken breasts - he understood! The only problem was the chicken was frozen so we settled on sausage, even though we didn't have a clue what was in it. Turns out it was a hell of a lot of fat and I'm pretty sure, through a rough translation later on, that the main meat in there was tongue!
After dinner we went to the town to see the festival. There was a lot of music and singing as we approached the square, but it didn't sound like what I expected at all. As we passed the church we saw people piling out and realised mass must have just ended so went in to have a quick look.
The square was busy and had stalls selling drinks, crepes, popcorn and churros, so we had a chocolate filled churro each and began to watch the band on stage. There were quite a few of them, the lead singer played an accordion, the female singer had a triangle, there was a guy with a drum, another with a guitar and couple more in the background. The music was a folk style, with a couple of main rhythms, and the definitely got the crowd going.
Soon the square was filling up with people, albeit it so much less than in Lapa(!), and it had a completely different feel to it - it was a family occasion with everyone from one to seventy years old, and there was real dancing. A young woman and an older woman were doing the tango (it seemed to me?!), and they were incredible! Other couples, young and older, we're dancing in a similar style and it was amazing to see - I could have watched all night.
I hadn't had a caipirinha yet so we went to a stall to get one and paid £3 for two cups. Andrew took a sip and his face was a picture - his description of it was that it taste like "lighter fluid". I thought it was fine, reminding me of the Barcelona trip touch PR made a few years ago, and drank both Luckily this was my only alcoholic drink of the evening!
Back to the stage, and after a small power outage, more folk band music and Brazilian people dancing (cue Andrew saying "I wanna' dance my own steps...it's the Pan Pacific Grand Prix", thanks to Strictly Ballroom), there was a brief few minutes of silence before an almighty sound came almost from nowhere. Then in front of the stage walked a 50 piece samba band and the sound was like nothing I'd heard before.
It was so loud but beautiful and precise, and the crowd went crazy for it! It gave a small, old, sleepy little town a fun, party atmosphere but one that was steeped in tradition - you could feel the pride of the town. Its hard so to describe how it felt to be in the crowd watching them. The conductor or director of the band was unbelievable, keeping all the sections in time with a hand or arm movement. Most of the music was traditional but then on stage came two guitarists, one accoustic, and together with the band they played Linkin Park's Numb?!
This was my favourite night of the trip so far! And I think it will take a lot to beat it