After my hectic departure from Rio at 6am, I had a peaceful flight to Bahia. I arrived in Bahia around 2pm, and was looking for a bus to my hostel, but buses were not working that route during Carnival. I paid through my nose for a taxi, but really did not have any other option. I got to the hostel which was perfectly located in the historic center of Salvador. It was called "Pousada do Indio Asa Branca," and was run by the nicest family ever. I got to my room, freshened up and then I heard the guitar playing. That was my cue to go wherever the music was. I went downstairs to the hostel bar, and the whole family and some friends were there singing along as one of their relatives played the guitar. I loved the atmosphere. I joined them and drank what I believe are the most amazing caipirinhas I have ever tasted. Some were made with cashew fruit, others with pineapple and others just with sugar and lime. Delicious!
Two of the family's friends spoke English and they mentioned they would be passing by Carnival. I happily joined them. After my last misadventures with losing money in Rio, I stashed a bit of cash in my shoe. To my shock and amazement, it was not there once we got to the festivities. I have had the worst luck with money at Carnival. Me and my companions walked around a bit and it was amazing. On every street, there was a different marching band beating drums loudly, dancing, singing etc and they were all dressed in the most amazing clothes. I later came to realize that their outfits were particular to Bahia and its very African roots.
My companions eventually went home and I started feeling like going home too - especially considering I no longer had money. I passed by the largest Carnival party - which was thousands and thousands of people on the street, then finally started heading home. I was halfway back when I met a guy and a girl who invited me to join them partying. In my limited Portuguese, I was trying to explain I had no cash but they insisted we carry on partying. They were both really nice. The guy was a Capoiera teacher and the girl was his sister in law. They didn't really speak any English but we were somehow able to communicate. We went to very many different streets and parties, and the girl kept on buying me beers. I felt guilty accepting them given I couldn't reciprocate, but she wouldn't let me say no. People in Bahia are really kind. I'm not sure I would be buying drinks for a random stranger in Nairobi:-)
Some of the parties we went to were a really hot mess. There was this one reggae club where quite a few people had passed out - stone cold on the roadside or in the bar. The one major moment of culture shock I had that day was when I saw people peeing outside. There were too many people at carnival and not enough loos, but I have never in my life seen men and women pee in the same place - in public. It wasn't "Ok, this tree is now designated as the ladies and this other one is designated as the gents." You would turn round and see men peeing and women squatting next to them and peeing too ---and no one was staring awkwardly - except for me. The world over, I have seen men stop and pee wherever they want, but I have never seen women do it openly. It is always a very covert affair - one where someone seeks privacy of the highest order.....It was strange to me, but I always accept that culture is very dependent on where you are and is not a constant.
By the end of the night I really wanted to get the girl's number so I could treat her to drinks the next day to thank her for her generosity. Unfortunately her phone was dead so the only number I got was her brother in law's. He had very stalkerish tendencies so I decided not to call him, but felt really guilty that I wouldn't get a chance to thank his sister in law. It's amazing when you meet complete strangers and they are so nice to you. I have been really lucky during my travels to always meet nice people.