My best ever carnival experience.

Hi everyone! Well, what an extraordinary week. It dawned on me quite early on that trying to combine carnival with blogging would end up in a sub-optimal carnival experience for me, and a sub-optimal blog reading experience for you. Better to just concentrate on having as much fun as possible for a few days and then tell you all about it afterwards. Let’s think of it as intensive research shall we?

Some of the blocos have great names. This one, which started at the top of a steep hill in Catete, was called "Desce Mas Não Sobe" (Goes down but doesn't go up). Of course WE had to go up to get to the start...


This past week flew past in a blur of music, drinking, dancing and general carnival fun. Each carnival day (in fact each bloco) has its own personality – different music and locations, different mixes of friends, chance encounters – all these things contribute different highlights (and the occasional low-point – more on this another day).  Well this year, one specific moment stood out, and I’ve been dying to tell you all about it!



A little while back I explained a little about the carnival bloco and one thing I mentioned is that some of them change their names each year. One such bloco had got a bit of a reputation for unusual routes or daring locations. A few years back the entire bloco took the ferry across Guanabara Bay from Niteroi to Rio – that year they called themselves Se melhorar afunda – “If it gets any better it’ll sink”!

Last year (my first carnival) the bloco was called O Sertão vai virar mar – “The Sertão is going to turn into the sea” (Sertão being a very dry area in the northeast of Brazil). People came dressed as fish, octopuses, hammerhead sharks, you name it. The bloco swam through the downtown streets until it reached a fire engine at which point the bloco leader hopped on top and started spraying everyone. It was pretty cool.

20 or so people came dressed as "The Sea"! See if you can spot the hammerhead shark and the octopus.


OK, so that is the background to my favourite ever carnival moment. To summarise, these guys have past form for a bit of mayhem.

This year the bloco was named Baianada and a lot of people came dressed as Baianos (people from the northeastern state of Bahia). The music was great and as we roved around the streets in the Centro neighbourhood, spirits were up. There was a short pause and then suddenly the bloco started moving again. Next thing I knew we were all piling into Santos Dumont Airport!

It was an amazing moment – many of us had lost our bearings and hadn’t realised we were even close to the airport. Next thing we knew the whole bloco was passing through the revolving doors. You could sense the feeling in the crowd – it went from Are they going to let us do this? to a realisation that There is no way they can stop this many of us.

There were people waiting for flights who were taking photos of us as we danced and sang our way into the airport. There were security guards variously laughing, pretending they had everything under control (the guy at the top of the escalator) and getting angry (as I got to the bottom of the escalator).

But more than anything, look at the faces of everyone going up and down the escalator – they’re all waving and smiling like they’re famous! It was as if everyone recognised this rare moment of magic and were just celebrating the fact that they were part of it – that’s how I felt anyway.

As we reached half way up the escalator, everyone started singing the song of Rio de Janeiro – Cidade Maravilhosa. It was an amazing moment.


15 replies
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Thanks Brae! I have heard a lot of people say it was the best carnival ever this year. It certainly helped that it was unbroken sunshine all the way through 😀

  1. Alex
    Alex says:

    Wow, that video is awesome!

    I love the spontaneity and the genuine joy that I see in the people there. Why can’t everyone be like this? This has inspired me to write a post…

    To end:


    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Thanks Alex – Rio will be waiting for you! I am going to be looking out for this bloco next carnaval – I wonder what they’ll get up to next time…

  2. The Gritty Poet
    The Gritty Poet says:

    Shame on you for using touched up footage of the Cuban elite on their way to exile, hours after Castro took Havana.
    Regardless: glad to see you back in one piece.

  3. Tamara
    Tamara says:

    just now saw the video – AMAZING! it gave me goosebumps (the good kind) when everyone started singing Cidade Maravilhosa. Rio truly is. 🙂

    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ah thanks Tamara! You know that is exactly how it made me feel at the time and I still get the same feeling when I watch it again. It was an incredible experience anyway, but when everyone spontaneously started singing Cidade Maravilhosa I just thought to myself “This is a perfect moment” – beautiful! I’m so pleased that I happened to be filming from the start. 🙂

  4. Noeleen
    Noeleen says:

    Hi 🙂

    I am SO hyped after reading your article/blog. And the photos really give it buzz. It sounds so wonderful to be part of. It sort of makes me cry that humans can be so grossly sick/cruel/demented – and then so joyous, free of spirit, all-embracing.

    This experience of yours is just amazing, & really what I call living. I commend you your wonderful existence of now.

    Sincere best to the joyous in the world!


    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Hi Noeleen – what a nice comment – thanks! 🙂

      It’s interesting that when something wonderful like this happens, unmarred by violence or idiotic behaviour, we wonder why it can’t always be like that (I thought about it too). We’re a complicated bunch aren’t we? In a way I suppose that the existence of, and potential for, violence, ignorance and cruelty make the good moments, where such negative influences are absent, all the sweeter.

      Thanks for dropping by and I’m looking forward to spending some time reading through your blog (I wish I wasn’t such a slow reader!!), Tom

  5. Stephanie Spada
    Stephanie Spada says:

    Hi! This is all awesome. I was curious if you might be willingly to tell me a bit more about your experience? I am doing a small project for school and I’m focusing a lot on the music. I would really appreciate any first hand feedback regarding music or instruments you saw or might’ve heard during the festivities. Also, anything you’d be willingly to share about your day to day schedule would be extremely helpful!

    Thank you!!


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