We arrived in Olinda the day before carnaval to discover our colonial pousada in the process of being transformed into a pirate ship. A pleasant enough surprise, but on checking-in we were hit with the ¨gran sorpresa¨ that a corporate hospitality contract had recently been signed with Montilla rum (Brazil´s leading brand, owned by Pernod) for the duration of the carnaval.
In return for a daily invasion of Montilla employees on a corporate jolly and several b-list Brazilian celebrities, we would have four days of limitless free booze, an all-day buffet and a band of beautiful pirates and piratas in case we got bored of observing the scantily clad and sweaty mob outside.
So it was with a great sense of anticipation that we awoke on Saturday and donned our special carnival t-shirt, (a different colour being provided for every day).
The Olinda carnaval is supposedly the most traditional of celebrations in that it is a straightforwardly disorganised four day street party where numerous blocos (bands of maybe 30 people with brass instruments and drums) parade impromptu through the narrow cobbled streets followed by large groups of dancing, singing and increasingly drunk revellers.
Venturing out onto the streets was like nothing we had experienced before. The combination of noise, heat, smell and sheer number of partying people was pretty intoxicating, by 3 in the afternoon we were very glad of the safe haven of the pirate ship, to which we retreated to watch the increasingly delirious mob drink, dance, sing and grapple each other until sunset when they began to disperse.