Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Carnaval in Floripa! Drag queens, caipirinhas, samba and white beaches…

Three flights. Three effing flights. Never again will I book a trip to somewhere with two stopovers. This time even the second flight left an hour late so made second change was a bit more “exciting”. But these are the things a girl needs to do to get to a nice carnival! So I flew from Argentina to Brazil, from Salta to Florianópolis (=Floripa), on the Thursday before the Carnaval. The Carnaval - a Catholic holiday - is a major event all over Brazil, in most places in South America as well as many places in the rest of the world as well. The Brazilian Carnaval though seems to have nothing to do with anything that resembles a religious holiday ;)

I had heard that Floripa is one of the nicest places to see the carnival in the southern Brazil. I manage to get the (idiotic) flight and a hostel there so I was all set! I was staying in the island in front of the city of Florianópolis, Ilha Santa Catarina, as most tourists do. The island is full of beaches and funky “towns” or neighbourhoods and there’s a lake as well. My spot was at the lake, Lagoa de Conceição. Lagoa is pretty much in the center of the island and there's plenty of shopping, restaurants, bars and hostels. Also kite surfing spots!

First morning I headed to the city to try to get some carnival parade tickets. I had already asked the hostel about them before I arrived but they had no resources to get them for me so I was just on my own on this one. After some walking around I found the place where they sell the tickets and as I had feared the Saturday’s parade was sold out. So I got the next best thing, the champions’ parade, which only cost 10 reais (less than 5€). I had a walk in the city but it was too hot to sightsee! Brazil, why you so hot?

Floripa - downtown

In the evening we headed with a group from the hostel to the north of the island, to Santo Antonio de Lisboa for the local parade. There were tons of people, mostly drunken teenagers making out or dancing on the street next to a car with a massive sound system. In the middle of the village there was a parade with some funny costumes, big dolls, a dragon, lots of people singing and dancing, and even a few solo dancers! We squeezed our way to the front row so got really into the party atmosphere! I quite liked the small town feel of the event.

The next day I was really tired but luckily I had time to sleep in. In the afternoon we went to the city to a street party, Bloco de Sucos, where all the guys dress up as girls… the cutest ladyboys I have ever seen!! The girls… some of them dress up too, mostly in sexy or funny costumes but didn’t see girls dressed as guys (maybe all the sexy boyz distracted me!). Actually the majority of the girls didn’t have costumes. One thing everybody seemed to have was a great party attitude and a big cooler of drinks. Some wheeled them around in shopping carts even! :D Music was playing everywhere and a small parade pushed its way through the crowds.

Our bloco gang!

The costumes were really funny, lots of small dresses on lots of hairy men. Superhero theme seemed to be quite popular but there also cartoon characters, samba dancers, swimsuit models…. The guys seemed to LOVE their new roles as girls! Many of them even totally knew how to dance like a girl and looked like they had been waiting to do that the whole year! I took so many pictures! Below a small sample of my favourite ones.


After the blocos we jumped back in the hostel’s minivan and went to have a bbq! We had so much meat, that’s one of the things that’s also cheap in Brazil (or comparably cheaper than most other food). After the huge dinner I couldn’t think about going out anymore.

Between the carnival days I had planned to just sleep late and go to the beaches. The roads to the south of the island seemed to be standing still with the amount of traffic so we headed north. First we went to Campeche beach, a lovely long stretch of white powder sand, quite windy so you get covered by the sand no matter what. I really like the beach life, there’s always people walking around selling food and drinks (and clothes and jewelry and sunglasses…) so we just ate the whole day there! Not the place you want to go if you’re on a diet. When we got back from the beach we even topped that by cooking up some gourmet burgers!

The next morning I slept late too, but managed still to join the people to go to the beach. Had I know what kind of walk was waiting for me I wouldn’t have joined them – but would have missed a fantastic day! It was the most annoying climb and ascend on a very rocky and hard to walk path through the jungle hill. I think we walked about an hour before we got to the lovely Lagionha de Leste. There was some people there and one guys selling some drinks but mainly you were there by yourself. There were nice waves and despite the cold water I could just about force myself for a swim – to get some of the sand off! And it was fun!!

On the other side...
Descending to Lagoinha do Leste

A boat ride back to the other side cost only 15 reais – I could have paid 50 just to not do the climb again! :D We arrived to the beach just before the sunset and were greeted by yet another group of old guys dressed as girls! We went to have a couple of beers and had dinner in a nice restaurant with thousands of notes posted on the walls by all the visitors. All of us were pretty much starving by then and ordered a massive meal: beware, when it says “a portion for two” it means “ a portion for two grizzly bears”. But we were hungry enough to finish the meal. And had just about enough cash on us to pay it :D There also happened to be a big beach party on the beach that night. We'd just the other day talked about finding a beach party and that’s just what we walked into. Lots of party people and Brazilian music!

Floripa town in itself is not very interesting and for that reason it mostly serves as a port of entry for us travelers (if you arrive/depart by bus). If you stay on the Santa Catarina island you will find all you need there: the shops, the restaurants, the hostels, the beaches. The bus lines connect the beaches and the "towns" on the island pretty well (prepare for traffic especially to the beaches) – one trip is 2,90 reais. There are buses during the carnival nights but we also found some taxis easily.

How to know where to go and where the parties are? You just have to ask the locals, that's the best way to go. There are plenty of parades, street parties, pool parties, beach parties, music events with famous artists... you name it. Street parties are commonly free and you can find lots of free concerts here and there. The carnaval parade tickets you should book early but if you can't get any you can also go hang around the sambódromo during the parade nights and you'll be sure to see plenty of people in costumes. More about the champions' parade on my next post!

About safety during the carnival – I have nothing bad to say. I felt safe and didn’t see anything very alarming. The biggest annoyance might a thick crowd of people that you need to cross or a guy trying to talk to you or kiss you :D But they do understand “no”. I carried my money on my body but my camera was either in my hand or hanging around my neck and nobody went after it. I could have been lucky but I didn't even see anything happening to anyone else. But I was surely alert all the time. Best things to do are use common sense, avoid the thickest of crowds and the emptiest of streets and not get drunk… and wear comfortable shoes!

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