Arriving in Salvador de Bahia
Because of the delay we ended up arriving late in Salvador. Initially, we had planned to take the bus to the center of the city. After waiting for 15 to 20 minutes it seemed like the last bus had left already. We confirmed that by talking to a local woman who also recommend taking a taxi since it was already quite late. It would be much safer that way she nodded. There was another traveler, a woman from Holland, who needed to go in the same direction and joined us for the ride.
Downtown Salvador is beautiful. It has many old colonial houses on streets made of cobblestone. The taxi dropped us off at the Plaza, which meant we had only a few hundred meters to walk to our destination in the pedestrian only area. The flip side of Salvador is that it's known to be very dangerous, with a high crime rate and tourists being prime targets. We heard that there were some serious incidents just weeks before we arrived and so we were very alert while walking through the streets. However, we noticed that every two blocks you would see a policeman in uniform standing around watching the scene. In the hostel we learned that the local government increased the presence of the police due to the recent incidents. So as long as we did not venture too far out of the city center we would be safe. The manager at the hostel offered to take us along to a place we could have dinner. It was one of those places that we would've never picked if we had been on our own but the food was rather good there.
In this restaurant we ran into two other backpackers, one of who we remember quite well. He was from Denmark, very young, about 21 years old and came to Salvador to practice Capoeira. Salvador is known to be Brazil's capoeira capital, so if one is serious about it here is where you go. He told us since being a little boy he had severe stomach problems, similar to Alexandra's challenges. When he was 16 or 17 he started practicing Capoeira and that had helped him tremendously with his stomach ache. He claimed it literally went away. We both felt it was good to see that there are many people finding their own way to healthy living. The nice thing about this city center was the pedestrians only area. As we walked back from dinner the streets were illuminated in warm yellow lights radiating from houses, bars and streetlights. There was Brazilian music playing everywhere, adding to the atmosphere of this warm night.
No cars, just sandy paths
The main reason why we came to Salvador in the first place was because we wanted to get to the island called "Morro de Sao Paulo", just off the coast of Salvador. To get there one has to ride the ferry, a bus and finally a ferry again (if, as in our case, the waves were too big for the ferry to go directly). Knowing this, our first task of the day was to get the ferry tickets. On the way to the ferry building we went over several beautiful plazas, saw some of the oldest buildings of Salvador, spoke to a tourist information center representative in French because we did not speak Portuguese and he did not speak English, went down an elevator to get to the harbor and walked through the market with all it's interesting goods. In fact on the way back Alex bought a set of beautiful red necklaces made of dried seeds. Since the ferry wouldn't leave until around two o'clock we had plenty of time for some sightseeing. At one point Alex started talking to these women in traditional clothes and I was contracted to take a picture of them. One of the things that wsa really obvious here was how different Brazilians look - there is not one physicallity that binds them altogether. In this area in particular, because of the African influence, the physical features like darker skin were very obvious.
After lunch we grabbed our bags and headed to the ferry terminal. While waiting to board the boat we saw a very interesting looking fella, an American backpacker, who was rather short - so short that his huge backpack seemed bigger than he did. In addition he was carrying a day pack on his front which made him almost completely disappeare among his luggage. It was an interesting site.
The ferry was a modern style catamaran and I spent a lot of time up front on the bow of the boat as it cruised through the water, checking out the view of the harbour. Eventually the waves got so high that everyone up on the bow was in danger of getting seriously drenched. I didn't take that risk and returned to Alex. In the inside they were playing the DVD of a concert given by one of the most famous Brazilian bands. Most of the scenes were from of the band playing at sites during Carnival and we were very impressed by the ability of the Brazilians to party. A more interesting story was that while I was outside Alex was approached by a very young man - he maybe was 20 years old, French traveler who walked up to her and said: "Excuse me, but I have to tell you, I am in love with you!". Luckily, Alex took it as a compliment and I thought it was really cute. We disembarked from the ferry, boarded the bus and drove for about 90 minutes through beautiful green countryside until they made us board yet another boat for final the jump to the island. Upon arrival we were happy to find out that our hotel was not very far away from the pier. Our room was small but cozy, came with a little balcony and its own hammock. After asking around we got a recommendation for a fabulous restaurant, the kind the locals would go to, and went there to satisfy our hunger.
Soon after we sat down, another group joined us in the restaurant and it turned out to be the same group of girls that were with us on the boat today - all Brazilians from Sao Paulo on vacation. Because the menu was all written in Portuguese they were so kind to help us choose our meals. The food was delicious and we received an invitation to join a beach party later that evening.
So here we were in a lovely island town that had only sand paths instead of streets. No cars, besides the occasional donkey cart. Exploring after dinner, led us down to the beach where we enjoyed some of our best cocktails made from fresh fruit by owners of fruit carts that were lining the beach. It was still some time till the party so we decided to go take a quick nap. That was a fatal decision. Because none of us woke up until the next morning, but hey we both slept very well.
First time on a surf board
After breakfast at our hotel we decided to walk the beach. At this point in time the tide was turning from low tide towards high tide and so the beach offered a lot of space for exploring. Rowboats and the occasional small fishing boat was beached due to the lack of water. We saw people wading through the tide pools and soon joined them ourselves. We checked out trapped fishes, tiny crabs and other creatures. On our way back the tide was already coming in again filling the bay and hiding its rocks.
Later that day, around lunchtime, we joined the Brazilian girls at the beach. They were just on their way to buy a bowl of acai - a Brazilian berry like substance that comes from the Amazon is full of vitamins, antioxidants and energy boosting agents. Here, it is served ice cold, almost like sorbet, with granola in a bowl. They were surprised Alex knew about it and that was available in the United States - you can even get an Acai smoothie at Jamba Juice. The girls had made the acquaintance of two Israeli guys who were here to surf. It was these guys who convinced me to go rent a long board and try it out myself. And so I went "surfing" for the first time. Both of them were very helpful offering advice and short lessons on surfing 101. I never caught a wave, but got caught by waves quite a few times. I had fun, but what was more amazing was to see the local kids, many with broken boards (a fin or tip of the board missing) do their magic. They were true surfing wizards.
When the sun was starting to set the whole group walked towards the west side of the island. We hung out at this restaurant that had a beautiful deck overseeing the sea as the sun was going down. Alexandra decided to go take a yoga class while I rested in the room. I later met up with the Israeli guys for a drink at a beachfront bar, waiting for Alex to drop by. It was dinner time and somehow pizza sounded like a very good idea for us. The island is small and so it was no surprise that later on the young French guy from the ferry and his friend came to the same restaurant. It seemed as if the "man in love" was too shy to talk to us because he had sent his friend over for a chat. A local artist swung by and drew a picture of Alex on the piece of paper with the intent of selling it to us. We declined but he still found a paying customer: the "love struck" French boy.
We found out that there was a party happening at a bar in the inner parts of the island. The walk there was about 20 minutes and led us through small farms and villages. We didn't stay too long and that was a good decision because as we walked back it started to rain on us. On our last 500m the skies opened and poured down, which was enough to drench us completely. But, hey, who was going to complain - the rain was warm!
Today are ferry back to Salvador would leave at 1 p.m. which allowed us to do some more exploration and I went to the citadel at the tip of the island. Later Alex and I went back to the beach where it was now very low tide and we were able to see how the locals transported goods back and fourth either using a donkey train of five animals or using a tractor that was able to drive on the beach due to the low tide. We had our lunch at a beachfront restaurant and saw the short American from the ferry again. But something was wrong. He looked somewhat distressed and soon we learned that the only ATM on the island was broken and he was out of money. On top of that, to us it seemed as if he was very drunk as well. We saw him try to sell his watch and try to convinced the bartender to give the money. At the end, I believe he found a solution in some pricey cash advance deal he cut with a local.
Getting back to Salvador was a breeze and stored our luggage in the same hostel we stayed two nights before and looked for a good place to have dinner. After dinner, we had allowed ourselves a nice bottle of wine and then we went to check out a capoeira training session. We were offered chairs and just sat there throughout the 90 minutes and watched. The Capoeira master was an animal. No where have we seen a man so well defined and muscle toned. His dark skin just added to his aura and his dark eyes made you think you would not want to meet this person in a dark alley at night in Salvador. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to see the students practice with their master.
We had heard about a party going down close by and it was easy to find as the music was loud. Sitting down at a table with good viewpoints we were able to observe the local gentry go dance to local tunes. Yes, we had a very late night flight - departure time after midnight. This was a normal thing in Brazil because these flights were much cheaper. Soon it was time for us to go, so we grabbed our bags, took a cab to the airport, checked in and got really excited to go see Rogerio in Natal.