We had originally planned to head to Rio De Janiero for Carnavale but every other traveller we spoke to telling us that it is ridiculously expensive. So we made the difficult decision to can that idea, which was not as easy as writing it. We will definately make it back there one day!
So in need of another destination for the festival we found it in Bolivia in Oruro. We're told that it is the second largest celebration of Carnavale to Rio and given that we planned to volunteer in Bolivia afterwards, this was the perfect alternatiive.
Again another spanner in the works for our Carnavale plan was that we were going to stay in Oruro for the three day weekend but it turned out to be ridiculous trying to book any accomodation, not because there was none, but because their systems are stupid. So in the end we found a one-day tour from La Paz. Trouble was that the drive is 4 hours to Oruro from La Paz which involved us leaving at 3am and getting back at midnight!
So we attempted an early night the night before but failed miserably to get any sleep due to a mix of the sounds of La Paz (crazy town) and worried that we would sleep through the alarm. luckily the little sleep we did get was light and the alarm did get us up. We met another Aussie couple in the hostel lobby who were on the tour and in true Latin America fashion, we were picked up late.
The ride over we got hardly any sleep as it was the coldest bus ride we've ever been on and we stopped for breakfast after an hour and a half when we were actually getting to sleep. Afterwards another 2 hours of restlessness and we arrived.
The parade was under way and we were taken to our seats in the small grandstands that were purpose-built for the weekend. We happily took our seats and started enjoying the show. unfortunately, more an more people kept arriving and with no seats left. This is when the officials came along and showed them to the "seats" at our feet. We ended up sitting on the person's feet behind us and straddled another infront of us. We were literally packed in like sardines... and then a few more. Not to let it annoy us we concentrated on the show.
The dancer's costumes were amazing. So much work went into them. There was a mix of crazy giant heads with smoking pipes out of their mouths, fat bear suits with crazy eyes, girls in intricate skirts, local women in traditinal outfits and kids looking really cute wearing the same as the adults and used as mascots in front of their group.
The dancing was a mix of people who look bored out of their minds and groups of over 100 dancing a routine and getting the crowd really involved. When we first arrived we spotted the women in traditional outfits swigging on a hip flask to keep them going! Haha! The parade goes for a few kilometres so we couldn't blame them. It was really entertaining to watch.
After 4 hours of enjoying it all we both wanted to cry from being restricted for so long and needed to get up. the problem was that everyone comes prepared with canned foam and waterbombs for the day. Anyone who gets in anyones view of just stands up up and/or just being a gringo, are targeted. There were massive water/foam fights both in the stands and everywhere around the streets. Even the dancers weren't left alone. Many dancers either slept in or maybe just forgot what day it was and arrived late. You could see them running up the side of the road to catch up to their group and join in. These guys also became targets and the crowd bombarded them and left them looking like they were in a bubble bath by the time they caught up to their group.
Anyway we escaped the stands and strecthed our legs with a coouple of cold beers in hand. We were missing the parade but by then we didn't care too much because we couldn't handle the stands any longer. So instead we got involved in the water/foam fights. Kate had a stand off with a girl all of about 5 years old. Result: Kate 1: Little girl 0. The little girl ending up with aa face full of foam. She turned her head at the wrong moment the poor thing and copped it right in the head. Haha!
That occupied us for a few hours and a crappy lunch suplied by the tour. Later on after a few beers we ran out onto the road under the ropes and got front row seats to the parade that was still raging on. Here we got to jump up into the parade and get some photos with the dancers in their costumes up close. It was so much better watching it from here than up in the stands! But unfortunately we had to leave not long after cos we still had a 4 hour trip back to La Paz.
So at 8pm we left the parade and Carnavale and rode the 4 hours back to La Paz and arrived just after midnight. This finished our 21 hour tour with hardly any sleep and an full day of water fights, beer, bus travel and a great parade. It was a great day and we're definately glad we did it, although I don't think we'll do it again any time soon.