Zurich to Salvador via Madrid and Sño Paulo
9/10 February: We fly by Iberia from Zurich to Madrid, I'm surprised that they distribute headphones for the short flight. We have non-window seats quite at the rear of a MD87. It's getting dark when we arrive in Madrid. I'm quite tired because of my latent cold, I'd bought some Redoxon in Zurich Airport containing Vitamin C and Zinc.
In Madrid, we change some Euros and get a drink before boarding our Varig MD11 to Sño Paulo. Our seats turn out be be in the last row right at the back of the plane, just next to the toilet! Lucky for us that as soon as the stewardess sees this she urges us to swap to some middle-row seats a few seats in front.
Real soon, some brash young Spaniards plunk down right beside me. Loud and unruly guys. We get headphones, socks, toothpaste and -brush, and a sleeping mask, then dinner. Just after we get served, one of my neighbours complains to me in Spanish that they'd reserved three seats in our row of four, and they would want us to move. I hint I don't understand him, when he calls several stewards and stewardesses during dinner and proceeds to recount his pain. All cleverly deflect his wish with smiles. It's only after dinner when a fresh stewardess gives in and finds some new seats for us a bit further up the aisle, in the middle seats between two girls. They show a movie and I sleep quite well.
Early morning on the 10th they serve breakfast. For us it's still in the middle of the night. The landing at Sño Paulo shook me up! I was watching the onscreen altimeter indicating a couple of hundred metres above ground when suddenly the whole airplane bumped hard! I thought we'd just hit something but actually we'd just touched the airstrip. Did the altimeter have a problem?
We have to claim our baggage and recheck it in for Salvador, which we do after having some coffee. We depart in a large Varig 767 for this flight of just two hours. At last we have a double window seat. Once again we're served a chicken meal.
Opposed to Sao Paolo, Salvador's quite warm. We're picked up at the airport by friends. They drive us in their new Gol (Brazilian VW "Golf" car) to our Pousada Santa Maria (nickyspousada.com), where I'd reserved a room for three nights for us via Internet from Zurich. It's quite difficult to get rooms during Carnival, when prices explode horrendously. Ours cost "just" double their normal rate while rooms in other Pousadas and Hotels seemed downright outrageous!
The room's quite small, about 10-12 square metres plus a shower, has a fan and a direct view to the sea which is just across the road from the second floor! The whole hotel is hand-painted with people, animals and plants, inside and out, including the rooms! I argue with the pousada owner Nicky (who's apparently German) that we'd ordered bigger rooms. He's friendly but he doesn't seem willing to comply.
Valerie's arranged for Carnival viewing from a platform called a Camarote, ours is called Camarote Sementmix. She gives us arm bands and a T-shirt which must be worn to enter. She also gives us her handy so we can communicate with her, how thoughtful!
We nap, shower, change and set off in the direction of the Christ's statue. Most of the way's easy to walk, not that much of a crowd yet, but as soon as we hit the main carnival street it got r-e-a-l-l-y slow. Still sure that we were going to be robbed any moment within the crowd, I had my hand in my pocket around my camera. In hindsight I guess you have to be alert and careful, but there's certainly no need to be paranoid. Most of the revellers had uniforms of sorts on, coloured costumes (T-shirts and maybe shorts) of a certain design and colour, which showed to which Trio Eletricñ they belonged. Trio Eletricñs are trucks with huge decorated customized trailers with large electrical generators, on which a live group plays amplified music.
There was one huge truck blaring in front of us and we were walking along with it. After walking too far with the crowd, we turned back and found our Camarote at last. Alas, all the railing standing room was already taken, but there was still lots of the road-scene to be seen from the second row. A DJ was behind us, playing his own mix as long as no trio passed in front of us. I found watching the people grooving in the street even more interesting than watching the trios! They grooved to both the trios and the DJ, playing the fool the whole time.
At last Valerie and Eusinio (V&E) turned up, accompanied by their older kids. Eusinio later seemed to be busy buying all sorts of drinks and eats and offering them to us.
Among the Trios, I recognised the names of Daniela Mercury and Gilberto Gil's (I don't really know my way around Brazilian music). After my third beer I was getting quite tired. We decided to return to our room.
On the walk back we stopped at a Supermarket which was still open to get some water. Thankfully, there was no Trio music in front of our room during the night and, despite our hard bed, we slept quite well.