Day 84: Carnaval in Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro Travel Blog› entry 113 of 120 › view all entries
We arrived in Bocas town, on Isla Colón, just after midday. Isla Colón is the largest of the group islands that make up Bocas del Toro (mouth of the bull) archipelago, and Bocas town is pretty much the only place in the archipelago where you can get accommodation. We realised that we hadn't made any hotel reservation, and that the place might be busy because of carnaval.
We need not have worried. Yes, it was busy, but evenso we found a reasonable hotel quite quickly. A nice little place smack in the centre of town, with a bustling restaurant on the ground floor. A perfect base for the inevitable partying that would be happening today on the last day of the carnaval.
Carnaval (or carnival, for you Yanks) is a Christian tradition mostly known for the way it is celebrated in Brazil.
I still intend to visit the Brazilian carnaval one day, but for now Bocas del Toro would have to do.
The entire town was just filled with people. People walking, laughing, eating, dancing, drinking everywhere.
Seemingly a local tradition is that people get dressed up as devils or monsters, walking around amongst the crowd with whips. Every once in a while they'd sneak up to someone and then crack their whip right behind him, scaring the bejeezus out of the unsuspecting victim (and they didn't always miss either).
Many of the local kids did the opposite though, chasing the monster instead, up to the point where the monsters would roar and pretend to attack the kids.
In the late afternoon a parade was held in the main street, with decorated trucks on top of which the island's most beautiful women (?) stood all dressed up.
And around the trucks pretty much the entire island population was singing and clapping and dancing.
It soon became clear that even though this is the most touristed place in the area, the carnaval was very much a local affair. The tourists were more than welcome to visit and watch, but not so much encouraged to participate.
In the park there was music everywhere, and people were just dancing in the street. We saw a bunch of drunk tourists trying to join the celebrations and this was quite obviously not appreciated by the locals. Arnaud and I decided to remain spectator instead of participant.
Speaking of spectators, during the parade I noticed some very sour looking Chinese people standing on the balcony above a grocery store. The Chinese are traditional tradesmen pretty much everywhere in the world, and a small island in the Caribbean is no exception. However, it was obvious that they had no business with carnaval whatsoever, and having to close their shop for several days was an obvious nuisance.
We bumped into the four Americans and Canadians we had met yesterday. So they had managed to get their visas and paperwork sorted after all. They had arrived the day before, and told us we hadn't really missed much.
So we figured it was best to act like the typical tourist then and stick together, having a little party of our own.