Mindelo, Part III – Keeping up with the force
The night before carnival
Monday night, i.e. the night before carnival should be your “the” night at the carnival on Sao Vicente, this is the night you should be readying yourself for. Some would tell you that this is not Carnival yet, that real Carnival is on the following day.
That the night before carnival in Mindelo is the night for lesser schools to show off their staff while best samba schools compete for top prizes on the following day. Don’t listen to them listen to me. You can skip that following day and night all together but, whatever you do, don’t skip Monday night. Go see, for God’s sake go dance with those “lesser” schools. If there is ever a night to let loose it’s Monday night. Carnival route is no more than 5km long and each school walks it, I mean dances it twice.
Processions begin around 6-7 at night or maybe later. Around 10-11 you should be there with your camera on ready trying to find best spot to see the happenings. Unless you’re able to find yourself on a balcony along the route, the best place to see Carnival is somewhere along 5 de Julho, or even better along Ave. Baltazar Lopes da Silva. Forget about Rua Lisboa or Praca Nova it’s usually packed.
The energy on Monday night is absolutely unbelievable. Everybody are happy, everybody are dancing. The colors, the dresses, the costumes and the same song plays over and over again so eventually you begin humming it along too. Love and joy is written on every participants’ face, and pretty soon you feel part of it and you never feel like a sardine.
Cape Verdeans say that Mindelo Carnival is similar to Rio’s. I beg to differ. 3 main Carnivals of Brazil are very different from what you experience in Mindelo. In Salvador you’re stuck behind one trio electrico for the whole night, in Recefe/Olinda you will often feel like a sardine, and in Rio there isn’t that much going on outside of Sambadromo anyway. In Mindelo you are always part of the party. Moreover if you want to buy a costume or bring your own and participate in the procession there is a way. I have no idea how you do it but I saw plenty of Westerners among those dancing the route.
The party begins
I came out around 11ish. There I soon run into Leo, a guy from Senegal who I met a week earlier. Leo is a great guy who works as a guide on Cape Verde and who was recommended to me by Germans that took a tour with him of the other island, Santo Antao. Leo speaks good English, German & French (we communicated in English) and knows everything about Mindelo including how and where to get pussy. More on that in Part IIII on MIndelo.
My head was still reeling from last night. My body was still aching from last night too. In my state of semi-delirium I forgot to ask girls’ for their contact info. So now as I was excitedly recounting to Leo the events of last night Leo appeared to be only marginally interested, and more destructed by the sounds and colors of the Carnival and was repeating in somewhat detached manner: “Yea, let’s look for them, let’s find them, yea, that was great,” and the like.
None of the girls from last night was anywhere to be seen. First round of processions were coming to the end. Last to walk-dance was the large group of locals dressed in whatever clothing, which apparently was meant to conclude the first round after which it all started anew. Leo and I were hanging around close to the intersection of 5 de Julho and Cristiano Sena Barcelos where hookers usually hang too. The last group was getting ready to step out. I said to Leo “Hey, we should try to join them”. I have no idea how I was able to ease myself by the chain of police officers but before I knew I was at the front row of the procession with Leo right next to me holding his camera phone up.
We began to move. I was the only foreigner dancing at the front row. I found myself surrounded by much younger locals who kept looking at me, as if I was David Bowie who just fell on earth. I threw my hand out and screamed: “The best Carnival in the world!” which was met by elation all around, and we danced on. Leo was filming as he danced next to me. I should’ve asked him for a copy on the same day but just like with girls’ contact info it slipped my mind and by the time I got around to it 3 months later he already erased it from his phone. I was told that they showed me on TV the following night as the only foreigner dancing with last group. Maybe if I ever come back to Mindelo I’ll stop by TV station or something. Because at this point it’s whatever it costs.
I don’t remember exactly how Leo and I got split up but at some point we did. We agreed to meet on Praca Nova but the crowd was crazy so there was just no way. Suddenly I felt somebody literally throwing herself at me from behind. I span around and found my lips locked in a pretty powerful French kiss. It was Yasmim from last night, with her eyes as wild as ever. She was there with her sister who was cute as a button, and another couple, her cousin with a much younger man who apparently was her boyfriend.
Yasmim pulled me to a more empty side street and pretty soon I discovered myself sitting at the table of some small food shack with everybody enjoying common Cape Verdean fair naturally at my expense. Yasmim’s sisted ended up being a total bore (there are few things in my book worse then boring women) despite making herself obviously accessible and available; talking about looks and sex are not being everything.
The couple seemed more interactional and Yasmim was her gud ol’ energizer bunny albeit not as crazy as she was the night before. I was phoning Leo trying to explain to him where I was but that night we weren’t meant to meet anymore.
I felt that Yasmim wouldn’t mind me asking her and her sister to my hotel room but at some point I felt so beat that there was just no way I could see myself going for a threesome, even if it’s with two sisters after dancing around for couple of hours and especially after the night before. God damn it, would I regret that later! But my mid-30s (let alone mid 20s) were long gone, l was stuck in my mid-50s and my mid 50s were telling me – bro, you had your fun! It’s time to recuperate that’s that. So I got Yasmim to give me her phone# and around 2:30-3am I checked out for the night but this time alone. The price for me not bringing two sisters to my hotel room would become apparent next day.
The day of Carnival
Next morning there was no reason to be even thinking about hotel breakfast. I got up way pass noon and off to Café del Mar for my morning meal. They actually make pretty good omelets in Del Mar you know that. I tried to call Yasmim – the phone was disconnected. I called Leo, Leo wouldn’t pick up.
The city of Mindelo was really gathering up for the main event. It was a day of the actual Carnival. What I describing before were the warm-up days that led to today. Grandiose trio electricos were mounted by one humongous creation after another. There was a dragon the size of the real dragon. There was a boat the size of the war frigate – all mounted on their own trucks and sprinkled with colorfully dressed performers waiting to turn in “the” procession. Many were yawning from being stuck in their respective formations and from passing many sleepless and vigorous preceding nights, I was sure of that. Nowhere to be seen were little pick-up trucks garnished with one or two design sets and a group of jovial people that I saw previous night. The performers on the day of the Carnival itself appeared to be genuinely bored and I’ve got a distinct feeling that many were impatiently waiting for their “ordeal” to be over. I should’ve done the two sisters even if it would’ve led to my last breath and took the whole day today off! I was warned about day of the Carnival being a let down by one or two locals beforehand too!
I walked around the block where I thought I might have a chance to run into Leo and headed back to the hotel. I slept for 3 more hours and around 5ish or so went back to see the procession. The procession too was a shadow of what I’ve seen the previous night. On one hand the sets were certainly more imposing, on the other there were fewer people dancing and the energy level was getting dangerously close to when a bear is getting ready for his winter sleep.
So the bottom line and my suggestion for the Carnival in Mindelo (which you should attend at least once) is to come on Saturday (or Friday) before Carnival, go to at least one Carnival party either in Hotel Mindel or Porto Grande, and make it to Caravella disco if you can but surely not before 1am. Then dance Monday night away and take the day of the Carnival itself off or even better fly to neighboring island of San Nicolau and spent it there. I hear the day of the Carnival is amazing in Ribeira Brava.
Somebody was smiling at me. It was Yasmim’s sister and her cousin minus boyfriend. We hang out a bit. Yasmim’s sister was really cute but would hardly say a word! Her cousin was trying to engage me somehow but she just wasn’t my type. Pretty soon I knew that absence of boyfriend made Yasmim’s cousin available to me together with Yasmim’s sister if I wanted too but that just wasn’t in my plans like at all. To my question about Yasmim and her phone# the ladies responded that Yasmim was busy with some domestic staff and as for her phone# she didn’t have a phone (Yea, right!).
I invited the two for pizza at major pizzeria of Mindelo on Rua Lisboa. The pizzeria was on the 2nd floor and had a nice balcony overlooking the proceedings below. It was predictably packed but 2 weeks beforehand I accidentally met its manager and so we were in.
The night of Carnival
The Carnival itself was over but events on the street below were beginning to pick up.
At the end of Rua Lisboa, they build a stage in front of Museum of Cesaria Evora (by the way, don’t go to Cape Verde before learning who Cesaria Evora is and listening to her music! Bad news.), and now somebody was singing Cape Verdean and Brazilian pop and the crowd below was enjoying the concert. I hung out with ladies and we danced a bit but at some point I felt like I wanted to head back to the hotel.
On the way home I run into a Portuguese girl that I knew from before I went to Santo Antao. She and her friends seem to be trying to exhaust the beer inventory of a place called Elvis. I had a few laughs and took a beer with them and wrapped it up. I felt a bit under the weather. The intensity of the last 3 days was beginning to take effect. I could only imagine how I would’ve felt if I let Yasmim and her sex crew to exhaust me not one, but two and possibly maybe even three more nights.