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Share via Email All shook up.. On her heels pranced an army of masked Incas, leaping, whooping and pummelling their bare chests until their war paint ran. Glitter-strewn Mayan maidens swirled and shook behind them aboard elaborate floats, the silver tassels of their bikinis dazzling in bursts of camera flashes.
Accompanying them at every step was the explosive boom of the musicians' drums, the beat growing louder and faster, driving the dancing troupes into a frenzy of constant motion. The spell of so much music and movement was equally infectious for the spectators. Everyone was up on their feet, boogying and jiving, and the benched terracing on either side of the carnival route shook worryingly under so many bobbing bodies. Each troupe was greeted with rapturous applause, every dancer with a piercing wolf whistle.
It was hard to imagine that this was the same town I'd arrived at earlier in the day. Then I'd found nothing and no one moving, no party, no music, not even a strip of bunting hanging between the municipal lamp-posts. Drive a few kilometres out of town, meanwhile, and you'll find near empty beaches of white sand along the Rio Uruguay estuary. On arriving I walked down the 16 blocks of main street and didn't see a soul. It wasn't until I reached the final corner that I realised where everyone was hiding.
Sprawled out on picnic blankets, the town was at the beach - well, on the sandy riverbanks at any rate. Taking this to be essential pre-carnival preparation, I found a spot and settled back for a snooze. Two hours later, refreshed and sunburned, I turned my mind to buying a ticket.
A mix of pre-Christian customs and religious festival, carnivals enjoy a long - if not high-profile - heritage in Argentina. Most are low-key neighbourhood affairs known as murgas.