– I love nature. It doesn’t bore me. It surprises. Always
– Here’s nature, right in front of you (with a wide gesture pointing to the Atlantic swell, dotted with popping heads of people in a wave foam and a dark-skinned “gondolier”, without rush rowing on his surf board in direction of Barra da Tijuca…)
Reminded me… “They say there’s nature on the Brighton beach!” (“Madagascar”)
That was yesterday, when right after arrival me and my new acquaintances were killing time on the Ipanema beach.
– What do people do on a beach? I have no idea…
– There’re lot’s of things… like digging neighbor’s feet in sand, for example…
– That I see… what else?
…I don’t know…
That’s why today I head to Jardin Botanico (Botanic Garden). There’s nature there and there’s definitely something to do.
Dry leaves are gliding on me from above, scratching my skin. Here they die not because of luck of sun, but of its abundance. It ruthlessly dries me out too. Because I’m also here, in Brazil.
To the right of me – completely naked giant. Unfortunately, he’s not a man. He’s a tree. Perhaps, it feels hot too, that’s why undressed.
Green birds, looking like parrots, are fighting on flight and crying loudly. Louder than parrots are only school boys, who came here with a tour.
…And the fog swallowed us. I felt like a hedgehog in the mist (google Soviet cartoons).
That fog was my welcome back to Rio de Janeiro, the first thing I saw landing in its national airport this morning.
This time I came not only for Brazil but for other five or six South American countries. In two days my friend arrives, and we set about several hitch-hiking journey around the continent. Yes, that’s what I promised you before my previous trip. And I keep my word : )
All in all, there’s no certain plan. There’s road. There’s hot sun. There’s song. And wind (hopefully!). And we follow them. Where we will end up – let’s see all together.
And as aperitif… no, not the Christ Redeemer statue on Corcovado hill… Copacabana is also a wrong guess… well, for the starter – a portion of Brazilian street art. This time – from RIo-de-Janeiro!
On the most southern-east point of Baia dos Todos os Santos (the Bay of All Saints) there’s a lighthouse. 40-meters-high tower perks on a steep hill – not the biggest on an island but the utmost. I take a trail to the left and soon from above I can see an ancient walls – it’s an old Portuguese fort, “welcome” for those, who come to Morro de São Paulo from the north.
More modern picture opens to my eyes as I follow a trail to the right. From there I can see famous beaches on the ocean side: the First, the Second, the Third… They have names but no one remembers them, just numbers.
There’s a quick way from a hill down to the beach – rapel. 30 reals for fast and safe “delivery” of your precious self. For experienced extremals like ourselves – of no big interest, so we save money for famous pastel.
Little tents that sell famous baiano dish pastel have occupied the right side of the Second beach. Pastel is bakery with various fillings inside: from palm hears to carne-do-sol (kind of meat). We choose a table on the corner and watch vacationers.
In summer (from December to March) Morro de Sao Paolo is overcrowded. People come to spend time on a beach, spend money (Morro is expensive!) and party. Parties start after darkness, when children are taken to numerous pousadas (any kinds of hotels/hostels), lined up along the coast, and clubs open their doors. When tide goes down, beach becomes a place for fun too.
Young people love Morro, where DJs play electronic music that can’t be found in Salvador “at daytime with a light” and that is conservatively dedicated to traditional dancing style axe.
But that’s at night. And now sun is shining brightly and time to chill myself. As long as we have come by yacht, we don’t spend time with a crowd but go to a tiny island – reef that is almost covered with water at high tide. Waves are turbulent here, and we can anchor just for a short time, just enough to have a look at local inhabitants.
I put a snorkling mask on – and meet many eyes. Eyes of tropical fishes that scurry all around. Together we are swinging in waves – right-left, roooouuund, right-left. It is so pleasant that in my next life I decide to be a fish near Morro de Sao Paolo.
During my journeys I always tend to search for places more deserted. I love to have solitude or, better to say, – companionship of nature. And that’s why the best part for me wasn’t Morro, tho in southern parts of it and on other islands of the archipelago we could find untouched pieces of nature.
Anchorages around the southern part of Morro de Sao Paolo don’t provide hope for calm sleep. All nights from our week-long stay on Morro we spent on a continent that is in 15 minutes by boat from an island.
Long sand stripe of Curral separates Southern Atlantic ocean from the river. Anchoring on a calm side, in less than 5 minutes walk across the narrow land we admired ocean tide. The only company for us there were… little crabs, with whom side by side we used to farewell the last beams of evening sun.
Curral S13 22.922 W38 57.574
Tip for sailors: going inside the straight to the right from Morro de Sao Paolo (if to arrive from Salvador), keep closer to the island and go all along till the small town with a beach, where many boats are anchoring. There’s a big sand bank on the right that is seen in low tide, but disappears under the water in high. Turn to the right after you will see a long peer on the island and head to a sand strip on the continent.
Tip for travelers: Boats from Salvador to Morro de Sao Paolo are pretty expensive. If you travel not on board a yacht, much cheaper way is:
To take a bus from Salvador to Valença:
Take a bus (or taxi-bus) from Valença‘s bus station (rodoviaria) to Ancoradoro – 20 minutes ride.
Take a boat from Ancoradoro to Morro de Sao Paolo.
They say: “There’re more than 300 islands in Baia dos Todos os Santos (the bay of Salvador, Bahia)”. Well, if to count all minor rocks and reefs that almost disappear under water durinhigh tide, probably, there’re.
Anyway, the bay of Bahia is the second biggest in Brazil after Guanabara in Rio de Janeiro.
The biggest island is Ilha da Itaparica. It is well-populated and lays on the south-west of the bay. Its beaches on side of Itaparica are famous among tourists and vacationers. But we go to less crowded and more virgin places – inside the Canal da Itaparica.
From Marina Bahia in Salvador we first go in northern direction. A bit later turn to the north-west and make around the northern cape of the island. On the other side we enter a narrow straight (between Itaparica and the continent), where there’re no touristic boats with drunk youth and hysterically shouting music. Either very few motor boats, who hurry somewhere on the full speed, rising 1.5 meter wave.
We reach shallow part, and depth indicator turned on an alarm. Now depth won’t drop more than 3 meters.
Many of beaches and even islands here are private. People slowly occupy every piece of wild nature, making it serve for their comfort.
The nearest point to stop after the shallow part is Itororo – deserted place with a waterfall right on a beach. The only inhabitants of this piece of earth are crabs, and there’s many of them! We scared the hell of them, going after dawn to take a shower under the waterfall.
Our previous attempt to pass till Itororo was unsuccessful. The straight is very shallow, and with a boat of 1.8 meters draft you need to know the way for sure.
For this time from dusty depths of the boat we digged out old maps of Bahia dos Todos os Santos.
They contain exact coordinates that, if being uploaded to MaxSea or other navigation program, show exact way. Here I share them with you, friends. Hope it will make someones life easier. Our previous attempts to find them in the internet didn’t lead to any significant results.
First – way from the town da Itaparica (on the northern cape) to Itororo. Coordinates are taken from the book “Roteiro Nautico do Litoral da Bahia”.
Nome do waypoint (name of the waypoint)
S12 53.249 W38 41.231
S12 52.998 W38 41.446
S12 55.312 W38 42.530
S12 56.496 W38 42.951
S12 57.069 W38 43.340
S12 58.038 W38 44.737
S12 59.570 W38 46.066
S13 00.741 W38 46.965
S13 01.318 W38 47.015
To pass from Itororo to Caixa Prego we need to wait for low tide. Otherwise, it’s not possible to cross under the lines of electric wires and the bridge that contact the continent and the island. In maps this route marked “red” and has caution note that warns to watch out shifts of the tide and – even then – if the height of the mast allow to pass under the lines (ours is around 11m high).
For one week my life had become implementation of ideals from “Emile” by Jean-Jaques Rousseau.
On Sunday we left the marina for search of pink dolphins that Amazon is also famous for. Here the place of their habitat is the estuary of the river Paraguaçu.
Around 1.5 hours took us to cross from Marina Bahia to the island Itaparica. The bay is not a sea and definitely not an ocean but even here there’s some wind. Weather forecasts claim winds up to 20 knots. But even 10 is enough for good sailing.
From Ilha da Itaparica is close to the entrance to the river. By the way, Paraguaçu crosses the whole state Bahia, taking its origins in heights of the national park Chapada Diamantina.
The first night we spent in the estuary. The place carries the nameTubarão, which in portuguese means “a shark”. Probably, they inhabited this bay millions of years ago.
No sharks today tho, and the place is just charming: wrinkled brown rocks come close to the water of the river and are separated from it by narrow white ribbon of sand. The beach ends on one side with little village on the tip of a peninsula – just several houses. At early evening we didn’t meet anyone there.
The sunset reminded me of evenings in Atlantic, when the sky was overwhelmed by invisible battles, pouring clouds with scarlet fire. Idyllic picture was ruined by oil platform in the depth of the river.
“ If we build too much, we destroy”, – says the slogan of Greenpeace. Here’s an obvious example.
The next day we go deeper to the river, in direction of a town of Maragojipe. The regata Aratu – Maragojipe is well-known in Salvador. Then more than 300 boats in some years fill narrow river of Paraguaçu.
The town lives in its own pace, much different from its big neighbor. Along the pier went a horse carriage – it brought wood for a barge. On the square there’s old building titled Mercado. There was a meeting inside, lecturer reading something loudly, people holding paper booklets. Our first thought was that the old market was transformed in a church. Later we changed our minds to some professional meeting.
Brazil is very religious country. You can see the name of God mentioned everywhere: on shops, numerous churches that look more than ordinary houses, on walls and T-shirs. Even cargo cars carry banners, claiming “Deus e Fiel”.
Citizens of Maragojipe are not in a hurry. Everyone leaves his house in the evening to spend last hours before the sunset in relaxed and themeless chat with neighbors. Fishermen’ boats swing silently near the shore. In dawn turn to go home late saveiros – traditional boats of Bahia, used for sailing inside the bay.
Unfortunately, we haven’t seen pink dolphins – the main reason I wanted to make this trip. But, well, Amazon is waiting for me ; )
For sailors here’s the information how to get safe to Maragaoipe. Coordinates are taken from the book “Roteiro Nautico do Litoral da Bahia”. Can be uploaded to any electronic navigation program a la MaxSea.
The bay of Paraguaçu (Barra do Paraguaçu – BRAPAG)to the town of Maragojipe (MJIPE)
Brazilian coast, without doubts, is one of the most beautiful coasts in the world.
Last weekend we went to Mangue Seco – tiny beach village with only 300 inhabitants. Idyllic piece of Earth, covered with white sandy dunes, is separated from “other world” by two rivers. One of them – Rio Real (Real river) – creates the natural border of two Brazilian states – Sergipe and Bahia.
Despite its distant location and small size, Mangue Seco is well-known all over Brazil. Here the soap-opera – adaptation of the novel “Tieta do Agreste”, by the Brazilian writer Jorge Amado, was shot in 1996.
We spent four hours, driving from Salvador to the border of Sergipe. But this long way is definitely not a waste of time. From Salvador to the small town of Praia do Forte (I wrote about it here) runs Estrada do Coco (BA-099), or Cockonut Road. It deserves its name – there’re so many palms, surrounding the road that we hardly could see the coast of Atlantic ocean.
After Praia do Forte the famous road Linha Verde (Green line) starts. It goes north through the state of Bahia till the border with Sergipe. And was improved much for the last 10 years, my friend told me.
We passed several “views” – “miradors”, which Linha Verde is famous for. On one of them we found sacrifices of candomble followers.
Candomble is a religion, mixed with black magic. It’s widely-spread and passionately practiced all over Bahia. These beliefs and rituals were brought by African priests, who were transported to Brazil as slaves in 19th century. I will definitely write about it later in this blog.
One of most typical features of candomble is sacrification. Usually every ritual is followed by assasination of an animal: hen, cat …
Despite all the interest to candomble, this aspect nor me, neither my Brazilian friends approve.
As you already know, I prefer to use animals as photo models : ) And this I successfully had done in this trip too.
To get to Mangue Seco we needed to pass the river. In a small village was almost noone. A man on a peer, two boys playing in the water and a fisherman.
The owner of the motorboat asked 50 reals for transportation to the idyllic piece of Earth. We waited for a while in hope someone else will arrive – to share expenses. But noone came…
Mangue Seco hid behind the white sandy dune. There’s a pousada (hostel) right after the restaurant on the shore. Several boats hung on water during high tide, laying down on a sand during low tide.
After 20-minutes-long ride we were finally on desirable shore. We took our a bit wet stuff out and started out lively walk to the ocean. Some tourists prefer to hire a boogy – light car that is used to drive on dunes. But we decided that 10 minutes ride is not worth 25 reals.
It was Saturday, and the beach of Mangue Seco was lively. People rolled in ocean waves, fierce and wonderful as any ocean wave is. Others relaxed in hammocks – such a lovely invention of humankind.
Cris remembered that 20 years ago there was a camping on the beach of Mangue Seco.
– There’s no camping anymore, – told us a woman, who lives in a house near the beach. – But you can camp right here, on the sand. This is what three couples did who stayed on New Year.
And this is what we did : ) Another news – and this time good ones – were that till 18-00 the beach would be only for us. Everyone leaves the coast of Mangue Seco till evening. Except us.
I needn’t say that the sunset was gorgeous that day! By the way, don’t believe pictures in souvenir shops on main (and the only) square of village Mangue Seco. They show sunset about waters of the ocean – that never happens, ‘coz West is the other side, behind the shore))
One of the main entertainments of Mangue Seco – boogy drive through picturesque white dunes. Staying on a beach, we heard excited cries of passengers, when boogy climbed up the dune or rushed down it.
We didn’t even try to resist temptation – and hired a boogy by ourselves.
The driver brought us to the point, where inicial shots of the novela were shot. Those dunes and palms are well- known by the whole generation of Brazilians.
Bad news are that sand slowly invades the neighbor territory – approximately 5 cm each year. So, who knows, maybe, in several dozens of years little village of Mangue Seco won’t exist…
We decided to start preparations for “total desertification” now, and learned sandboarding. Sincerely – after snowboarding and surfing it’s slow and boring.
At the end of the second day of our stay rainy clouds started to gather on the sky. Wind got stronger, and sand rose around our tent. We couldn’t open the hatch not having in minutes a pile of sand inside.
Ocean roared and came close to wooden tents on the shore. It was getting darker and darker, clouds veiled the sun that was still high.
And we decided to leave. I still shake out of all my things sand of Mangue Seco.
Closed eyes. Touch of silky sand. Mind sinks in music of the mighty Atlantic ocean.
Open eyes. Endless golden beach. Waves attack it, fiercely, desperately. Rocky range on the edge of the land. Brown slopes are covered with the voile of green bushes. They gave these islands their name – Islands of Green Cape, Cabo Verde.
One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Idyllic piece of Earth – Playa Grande on the island Sao Vincente. Rocks and ocean coexist in wild harmony here. Sand climbs steep slopes but gives up on the first 10 meters. Rocks invaded the coast but were stopped, polished and rubbed by powerful tide.
In this fantasy place the first time in my life I tried surfing. Wave was pretty messy, frequent and uncertain in direction. Anyway, I decided to go.
On the shore Chris briefly read me a course of basics. First we were laying on the board and pretended we are swimming towards the wave, puddling madly. Then near the board we made a jump. It was nice before I entered water.
After several fruitless attempts to hold the board under my body, I learned how to duck-dive, let the wave pass me. But after I turned in direction of the shore fun ended. That jump, brilliantly performed on the sand, didn’t happen. So I rolled, and swallowed salt water, and rolled again. Still I feel that the first experience wasn’t that bad.
Mindelo is a biggest city on a small island of Sao Vincente. And the only city in Cape Verde that has a marina. The bay is big and shelter: there’s enough space for marina, mooring and boats anchoring. Still on the anchorage better to stay alerted: thefts are rare in Mindelo but can happen. Praia – the capital of Cape Verde that is situated on Sao Tiago – is more famous for its crime. Our friend Admir told us the story how two young guys stole a boat and sailed to Brazil. Significant that guys were europeans… But that’s a story, reality is that Praia is not the safest place to stay in Cape Verde. This is what we were told.
Mindelo is small and lively town. Houses in the center are painted in bright colors – incredible colors: deep blue, grass green, lemon yellow, glamor pink. Some houses combine in their appearance several colors in pretty weird combinations. Looks like no one here cares about city plan and free to choose any color of the rainbow. I asked myself which one I would paint my walls to. Still thinking.
– Which one would you pick up? – I asked Chris.
– I like white. And blue – like Vagabond hull.
On local square we connected free Wi-Fi – and signal was perfect. On the corner I found a boutique that sold amazing red shoes. There was a price – 6500 escudos.
– Cuanto custo? En euros, – my curiosity was in excitement.
– SIxty five, – was the answer.
– Ok… Nice shoes, – I left the shop.
A week ago I ran out of money. You always feel that this moment is somewhere in hazy future. So when it happens, it’s always completely unexpected.
So I look for a job – in Russia distantly, or in Brazil. On a boat, in journalism or tourism. Whatever.
I go along the street, pass beautiful square, where local venders sell their simple goods, turn around the corner and stop in front of a huge green tree. I listen – this giant sings to me in thousand of voices. These’re sparrows, who in bunches hang on every branch. Under a thick shelter of leaves they loudly praise sun and rain of Cape Verde.
I just passed a hundred meters but already shabby houses surround me. Behind narrow doors – dirty pubs. Men, smoking outside, look drunk and ready for street fight. Some old people sit on the staircase. Street dogs, hungry and miserable, wander around, searching for food. Girls return from the market, carrying on their heads heavy plastic bowls (local variant of a busket). The secret of this useful exercise is in a round small hat that they wear and on which they “install” the busket. Still I’m sure it’s not that easy as it looks like.
Through this mess I get to the local market on Placa Estrela. Here Admir, local policemen and now my friend, picks me up. His education impresses: he fluently speaks French, Engllish, Arabic, local Portuguese and Creoli and other 7 local languages. He is professional musician but works as a policemen for 11 years.
With my private guard side by side I feel safe to stare around, on women, drunk men, vegetable venders, wander around rows that sell clothes, mobile phones, African art. Admir knows every second person here and stops to greet them. I smile happily, repeat endlessly “Bon dia” and feel myself almost a part of local community.
Suburbs are not so cheerful. Houses are old, dirty, very often badly damaged. Locals chat on a street and stare curiously on our car. Pupils, returning from their school studies, wave to us and laugh. There’s not much to see here.
Street dogs here too. There are so many of them on Sao Vincente but they look very peaceful. They do not even fight for food between each other. People here coexist nicely with these poor creatures. They can’t help but do not mind to live side by side with them.
Outside Mindelo houses shrink and remind me more than a box than a house. And how would you call a cube 8×3 meters? Still, life here goes in its slow and peaceful order: children are playing, chicken and goats wandering around, sheets are drying on a rope.
Before arrival to Cabo Verdes I read in the internet that this is dry country,which population has problems with water supplies. The islands greeted us with 3 days of heavy rains…
Even now the top of the Mount Verde is covered with thunderstorm cloud. It is just 600 m high. Can’t be compared to 2000 m peaks of Sao Antao or volcano of Fogo. But it reminds me Table Mountain much. That I also didn’t climb due to bad weather by the way.
Today we leave beautiful Cabo Verde and head for our last crossing to Brazil. But I hope once I will reach these hospitable shores again.
– They should have call it “Las Buildings”, – dropped Crisa while arriving to Las Palmas.
Really, it didn’t look like the capital of famous resort islands. Blocks of flats along the coast and some “significant” pieces of somewhat called “modern architecture”.
As I wrote before, we stopped in the marina Las Palmas that’s now a record-holder as the cheapest price in the whole Crisa’s trip around-the-world (if to stay a week – 7 euros per day). We made spare parts in industrial zone of La Isleta – ugly district of plants, services, autodealer’s boutiques. But this is not why I will remember Las Palmas. I love to run. For me running is not just a physical excercise but perception of the world. And way to talk to myself. Hear my heart beating, feeling muscles moving under the skin, I skip fake thoughts, dust of everyday routine. And then I start to listen to the voice inside, one that knows answers to almost all questions.
For the first time of my more than 4 months’ journey I was “back to track” again. Endless quay of Las Palmas looked perfect for that.
It was already full of runners. I climbed narrow high edge of the promenade that goes above the wavecrush stones. While running on it I could feel the fresh breeze from Atlantic. It helped to forget about the busy road along the coastline, and keep away from me the smell of dead crabs on stones down near water.
I ran till the sculpture that, probably, simbolizes the yacht – a kind of tribute to free dwellers of seas. There I sat watching ships raiding near Gran Canaria.
On the wavecrash line a small bird was searching for food. She was so close to water that waves rolled over her feet, covering them till knees. Waves, fiercly trying to climb the shore, were 5 times bigger than a feathery hunter. But the bird didn’t fly away. Just feeling that the wave is big enough to capture her, she jumped to the higher stone – and in a moment went back. What a small creature and what a great courage she posseses!
– Don’t judge on appearence, told I to myself.
Before visiting Las Palmas I was sure that Rome is a city of cats. But the ancient Italian capital can’t be compared in that with the capital of Spanish islands! Cats are everywhere here, sitting on beances and resting in shadow of parked cars. Playing with their kittens on the promenade and hunting in coastal stones. Sleeping under bar tables and sunbathing on benches.
City that hosts so many wise creatures can’t be just a set of buildings. It has soul. Free spirit.
In my journeys I like to take photos. They do not pretend to be exclusive, and I do not pretend to be a Photographer tho.
With the time I’ve been pleased to discover that some of natural views… can’t be fixed by camera. It’s excessive to mention that nature can never be “copied” by technologies: it’s always a moment, stuck in eternity, while life is always changing, and transforming, and moving forward.
This is what I felt in Timanfaya National park on Lanzarote, Canaries.
Lava fields cover one quarter of the island. Numerous volcanos tower above the gloomy landscape. They formed in 18-19th centuries and from the last explosion in 1824 keep silence.
Now Mountains of Fire (how Timanfaya is also called) is a territory of the national park. Visitors are welcome there but only by touristic bus (8 euros) or by camel caravan. I’ve made a 40-minutes ride around.
It was experience one of a kind, and even tourists, trying to fell out of windows in obsession to make a photo, couldn’t spoil my impressions.
This inhospitable land look lifeless on the first glance. And it’s true, not so many creatures can survive in endless fields of black sponge stones. But if to have a more thorough look… between rocks that are covered with thick layer of linens green bushes make their way to sun beams. Rabbits and shrews, lizards and gekkons inhabit narrow passes between stones.
This inhospitable land possesses unexpected charm and beauty. Dark slopes reflect the sun, host the shadows of clouds – and change their color. This painting is not bright and racy but noble, full of hints.
This earth still preserves power of volcano: the local restaurant “El Diablo” cooks its dishes on the natural heat, placing them above a deep bell.
Neither on exhibition, nor in card shops we couldn’t find decent photos of Timanfaya, that would be able to transmit a certain percent of its beauty. That couldn’t make me sad – my memory will preserve these landscapes better than any paper.
We made a tour around Lanzarote. Suddenly a place that I expected nothing from turned to be one of the most stunning impressions of the journey.
The journey started in Arrecife. The anchorage there was really great, with lovely neighbors from all over the world – couple who live on board for 15-30 years.
Anchorage in Arrecife
28°57.2051 N, 013°42.5172 W
Another point that made my heart sing is a view on the Isla Graciosa – Mirador del Rio. This small island lays to the north-west of Lanzarote. It’s a national park but it has a marina, burdened with formalities like registration tho.
Unfortunately, Canaries are so touristic that every lovely view is charged. To climb the top of the mountain in Mirador del Rio cost 4.5 euros. We’re budget travelers so simply climbed a fence. We didn’t get all the splendid view but it’s biggest part for sure : )
After leaving Arrecife – the capital of Lanzarote we passed endless fields… of cactus. Guessing about use of this plants, our suggestions didn’t go further than alcohol.
Aloe Vera museum let us into the secret: cactus is used perfumes, cosmetics, medicine, liquids and many other useful things.
We were almost to visit Jardin de Cactus – a park, where flowerbeds can be undoubtfully called “cactusbeds”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for free again… I suppose, this place would be more interesting for families than to vagabond travelers like us.
Another coast – western – another stunning. From main salt mines of Lanzarote – Salinas del Janubio – through amazing underwater caves Los Hervidros – to volcano ash beaches of El Golfo.
Lanzarote has some surfing spots. We checked one on the northern coast, several steps from Orzola. Cris approved it as a spot for those who just start. Another spot is on Playa de Famara, also on the northern side of the island.