Gualeguaychu, in Entre Rios, is sort of a back-water, one-horse pretty little town on the shore of the Gualeguaychu River, about three hours by car from Buenos Aires and close to Uruguay. No high rises, no gourmet restaurants, very few buses, lots of bicycles, people sit out on their curbs at night during the summer to cool off. But what it does have, since 1997, is a Carnaval to rival that of anywhere in the world!
During the military dictatorship, Carnaval and Murgas, as well as tango, were suppressed. But all three have come back with a vengeance! Well ok, Gualeguaychu doesn't have tango, but Guau! What a carnaval--every Saturday night in February and through the middle of March.
Five years ago, we made a turn-around trip in one day with a tour company, Eternautas. It was hot and cramped in the small van, we were all exhausted from the Corsodromo parade which didn't end until after 3:00 a.m., but worst of all, that was the night of Ruben's first gall bladder attack--and it was bad.
Typical Gauchito Gil altar along the road
We stayed in a lovely posada for four nights. Ruben went fishing and to the Casino, I read and relaxed, and we swam in the dark pool at night to cool off. Saturday night we walked over to the Corsodromo (which used to be the train station) and had cocktails on the grass while we watched the people buying feather headdresses and posing for photos.
Every weekend there are three comparsas competing in the Corsodromo, each one with their floats, amazing costumes which are mostly feathers and glitter, dancing boys and girls, snazzy orchestra and singers, and batucada band. We saw Kamarr, Mari-Mari, and Ara Yevi.
She was the leader of the Nazis.My favorite was Mari-Mari, just as five years ago. Their 2011 theme is Pesadillas, or Nightmares. Think Cirque du Soleil. Beginning with a boy reading scary stories in bed, with every kind of feather-bedecked nightmare dancing after him in the parade: spiders, bats, dragons, vampires, monsters, werewolves, German Secret Police, royals followed by a guillotine, and all bouncing along the way to the infectious Mari-Mari music like colorful chickens. A gigantic float was a writhing haunted house with claws moving beds in and out--with a person screaming on each bed! Most of the floats are hand pushed or pulled but a very few are pushed by tractors.
I'm so sorry my photos can't do the Pesadillas de Plumas justice. And oh yes, there were gorgeous barely dressed young beauties as well.
The final Comparsa ended their parade of "Education," (at least that's what I think the theme was) with the best batucada group of the night--and they were all wearing motarboard caps and gowns! But you have to see the video. Ruben took video, but it's very hard if you're not in the first row. We were in the fourth row and even so had to stand up on chairs and it still seems like we got nothing but the big heads of the folks in front of us.
We ate at Campo Alto twice, and enjoyed great meals and live folk music.
However the other 2 restaurants we tried (La Cascada and El Argentino) were awful.
More info on Carnaval en Gualeguaychu. And here in WelcomeArgentina.