CARNAVAL 2006

Trip Start Sep 27, 2005
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Trip End Mar 07, 2006


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Thursday, March 2, 2006

Carnaval is the most amazing experience. The people, the music, the Sambodrome, the food, the sights and the sound all blend together to make a very potent mix. Our introduction was an evening out in central Rio. There we had a free concert of samba music where audience participation was to the for and age, for Brazilians, was no barrier to dancing, drinking and enjoying yourself. This was a good introduction for the Sambodrome as it was all of the music that is used by the Samba Schools who compete in the parades. At about midnight we moved about 1/2 a mile away to a area called Lapa close to our hotel and there we had a free concert of Brazilian pop amidst multiple food stalls and itinerant Brazilians selling beer from eskies. It seemed that everyone in Rio was trying to make some money by selling beer, water or caipirinhas. The sights and sounds mixed together with the crush of people lead to enjoying yourself so much that you forget the time and soon find out that for some people nighttime is for partying and daytime for sleeping.

On the Sunday night all of the group went to the Sambodrome. This is an area of Rio that has been closed off to traffic and where a stadium has been built to allow the Samba Schools to parade over half a mile in front of 30,000 people and some judges. This is the most visually and aurally stunning 7 1/2 hours Iīve ever spent. There were 7 schools parading on Sunday and another 7 on Monday and from that start there were people dancing in the stands, encouraging the dancers and just enjoying themselves. Itīs difficult to describe what it is like but that floats stand out for inventiveness, colour and animation, to that is added the costumes, the dancing, the audience participation and the music that just goes on and on and drives everything. All of the floats had men and women dancing all over them and were brightly lit with neon lights and are so large and complex that the people have to be loaded on and off by fork lift truck or by cranes! Then there are seas of dancers between the floats whose costumes add more colour and all are singing along to the song that goes on for the hour and 20 minutes each school has, yes it takes them that time to do the half mile but there are around 4,000 participants per school. The scoring is anathema to me but it includes the floats, how well certain nominated dancers do and how well the crowd interacts with the performers. One school, Rocinha, had a nightmare of a night as at the start of their run it started to rain which turned into a torrential downpour and soaked us to the skin. At the end of their run it eased off and then stopped completely thus destroying their run but not ruining anyone elses.

I didnīt stay for the full 9 hours but the last school I saw was Vila Isabel who were the winners this year. Their last float was a figure of Simon Bolivar standing 40 feet tall. This was too large to pass under a small bridge half way down the course for photographers so as it arrived at the barrier the figure sat down and passed underneath before standing up again. The floats are just amazing.

Carnaval really is party time in Rio and an experience that I will never forget. The pictures donīt do it justice but I hope you enjoy them.
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