February 17-20, 2007
I was told that Morro Branco was probably the best place to experience Carnaval in the area, so today I decided to head there. With all of the stories I had heard of tourists getting robbed during Carnaval, I decided to travel light: I just had the clothes I was wearing, enough money for the night, and a copy of my passport. I planned to stay out all night and return to Fortaleza in the morning.
After much random wandering around, I found a city bus to take me to the bus station. You would think every bus would go there, but in Fortaleza that was not the case. When I got to the bus station it was crowded beyond belief. Huge lines of Brazilians wanting to flee their city were everywhere. Everyone except me was carrying an overnight bag of some sort. It took awhile, but eventually I found the line for Morro Branco and had to wait an hour to get my ticket. At least the crowded place remained civilized, unlike the slums of Ecuador and Miami.
I found my bus amidst the hundreds about to disembark and was disappointed to find out that all the seats were full. Standing on the bus I realized that everyone was either drunk or getting there. Bottles of booze and Coke to mix it with were being passed indiscriminately all over the place. Finally, the craziest one of them all passed a cup my way and promised me it wasn't poisoned.
Soon I had met Ari and all of his friends on the bus. They told me I shouldn't be going to Morro Branco alone and invited me to stay at their place. We walked to the second home of a retired guy from Fortaleza and hung out for a bit. He had learned a bit of German and English working on the docks, so he was happy to practice them both with me, even though I don't speak German.
A bunch of us went down to the beach where I thought the party would be, but there was almost nobody out because it was raining. I got to try a tasty stingray dish, but nothing else happened. The real party would be tomorrow night, I was told. I had no choice but to accept the invitation to sleep in a hammock at the old guy's house.
The next day was spent mostly at the beach. It was hot and sunny all day, so I got good and burned. The beach was a beautiful place, but it was more full than the beaches in Fortaleza. I wondered why the people even bothered leaving the city. Everyone told me all day how great the party was going to be, but everyone went to bed early tonight. The party will be great tomorrow night, they said. I had to stay another night.
The next day was again spent at the beach, but I also walked all over the small town. When night finally came, so did the big party. A group of us took a mini-bus to the next town and went to a big outdoor concert which had flooded from the town's main square into the streets. We brought along a bag of flour and before long, it was gone and our faces were white along with those of everyone else around us. It wasn't Carnaval in the sense of having a big parade with elaborate costumes, but it still was a good time.
After three days I had to go back to Fortaleza. I had no clean clothes, no money, and only had planned to spend one night at Morro Branco anyway. The people I was staying with tried to convince me to stay one more night, but I wouldn't budge.
I took a bus back to Fortaleza, once again standing the whole way. I got to the bus station with about an hour to go before dark and tried to figure out how to get to the downtown area. Surprisingly, I couldn't find any buses going there (although maybe I just didn't know which bus to look for), so I started walking. I finally found a bus that I thought would take me all the way to the beach, but it just went to another bus station. At that point I only had about twenty cents left so I had no choice but to keep walking.
It was dark and therefore more dangerous by then, but I was still covered with flour, smelly, and only had enough money to buy a piece of bubble gum. In fact, the people on the street were probably afraid I was going to rob them! I eventually found the beach and navigated to Daniela's apartment from there. Somehow I had managed to take in Carnaval for three days with nowhere to stay, no spare clothes, and barely enough money for one night.