Farol de Barra - new years in the STREET!

Salvador da Bahia Travel Blog

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<<sorry kids, decided it was prudent not to take the camera with me on this particular adventure, so no pics.>>

I organized this trip around 2 main datepoints: Carnaval in Olinda, and New years in salvado. i had decided on olidna for carnaval after a long debate with myself between the pros and cons of the carnavals of olinda, salvador, and rio. New years in salvador i knew nothing about, but one of my english students, guilherme, told me he'd be here for new years and i should party with him.

sounded fun. haven't been able to get in touch with the kid since leaving São Paulo.

Luckily, the spaniards from chapada diamantina are still in town, so we arranged to party together at Salvador's public street party at the Farol.

We met up at elevador lacerda, and bused it together to barra. we walked around past the light house to the beach, decided it was a little late for a dip, and kept walking to the big jesus statue on the hill opposite the light house. we hung out up there for an hour or two, enjoying the view and watching the last sunset of the year.

afterwards, we had some tapioca pancakes and oyster chowder for dinner, then wandered around the party scene. the capoeristas who always perform at pelourinho had a big roda going for the tourists in front of the main stage, which was currently being occupied by a group of traditionally dressed women who danced along to pre-recorded music. we decided to find some caipirinhas.

drinks in hand, we walked to the railing overlooking the beach where a crowd had formed. squeezing in, we saw what everyone was watching: a candomblé cleansing ritual being performed on the beach. we finished our drinks, went down to the beach and got in line. The area where the ritual was being performed was fenced off, and you could only enter barefoot. inside, some drummers played a beat in the corner, while women in blue and white traditional dresses sang along. the women formed a line, each representing a different station. each station had a different kind of food or herb (popcorn, beans, long perfumed leaves) that was passed over the body to clean the individual. it was really interesting, and by the time i got out i realized i'd lost the buzz from the caipirinha i'd just drank. hadn't thought the whole cleansing thing through, i guess. while we were already on the beach, we decided to jump our 7 waves for the new year, as we predicted it would be really hard to get to the beach from the stage area once midnight came around. we were the only people jumping waves, but whatever man!

the first act was an axé group i didn't recognize, but they played a bunch of songs i knew so i dug it alot. afterwards olodum came on and played through midnight and ended a little after the fireworks really got going. very very fun way to bring in the new year. Afterwards, Carlinhos Brown, the guy who started Timbalada, came on. Super animated, running back and forth across the stage in this huge indian headdress, he pumped the crowd up with his energy.

As great as the music was and as much fun as i had, not everyone was feeling the love. Basically as soon as the music started, long lines of policia militar (cops) and choque (swat) troops patrolled through the crowds, forging nonexistent paths through the multitide. as the night wore on, more and more fights broke out around us. It was pretty easy to see them starting, so i'd just kinda nudge the spaniards and give them the international "hey, maybe we should go hang out over there instead" facial feature/hand-gesture combination. luckily, the most involved we got was in the sudden mosh that formed of people backing away from a recently started fight.

during the his set, carlinhos repeatedly pleaded with the crowd to settle down. at one point, the PMs approached the stage, and he told the crowd they had an announcement. expecting a message along the lines of "everyone please calm down," what i got was "SAMU to the stage. Will a SAMU unit please respond to the front of the stage." SAMU is brazilian for EMS; he was requesting an ambulance. From watching Tropa de Elite, i'd learned that some police units couldn't afford radios and instead used cell phones, but i mean, come on, this was a serious party!'you'd think the city would pitch in....

as soon as the request went out, i ditched my friends and forced my way towards the police officer that had made the announcement. i informed them that i was an american EMT asked if they wanted my help. Dude basically said "hell yeah!" what i found was a guy on the ground breathing, apparently conscious but unresponsive, with his head in the hands of a PM. cops said he'd had a seizure (i was kinda drunk and didn't think to ask if they'd witnessed it). i tried to interview the guy, but he wasn't responding. not much i could do, and the cops began to feel it. all of a sudden they hoisted the guy up and dragged him out of the crowd, which was probably best for him. luckily i found my friends easily enough and the party went on.

after carlinhos brown ended, we headed down to the beach. chilled on the sand a little, then started to walk towards the hill we'd started at. all of a sudden, dude ran by us wielding a machete, another guy at his heels wielding a beach chair. crazy crazy scene.

luckily we came out of the night unharmed and unrobbed. from the end of the beach we walked into the city a few blocks and found a cab. it was fun, but enough was enough.

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