…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!
In Brazilian cities it’s possible to find real “pearls” of street art. And, although wandering though yards and narrow streets can be dangerous, some pieces of art we’ve found are really worth being discovered. Especially if you are accompanied by a local friend : ) These’re pieces of the capital of the state Bahia, Salvador.
For me and my friends the concert of Geronimo is a meeting place. To get the staircase of Igreja do Passo on Tuesday night, we usually don’t take straight way through overcrowded Rua do Carmo, but reach the church through Rua do Passo that goes up to the left.
Where on Tuesday there’s no space for apple to fall, today only children are playing on steps.
To the left from the staircase there’s a cozy bar “Alkimia” (Rua do Carmo), where in evening you can meet travelers from all over the world. The place is tiny but they have Caipirihna and Caipiroska, and what else your soul can desire for relaxed chat?
Caipirinha is made from fruits and Brazilian rum Cachasa. Caipiroska – from vodka and fruits. Depends on which fruit you use, the name transforms: morangaroska – with strawberry, uvaroska – with grapes and so on. As we accidently discovered, the word Caipiroska is created according to grammar of my native language and in analogy with Portuguese Caipirinha: -shka is a diminitive suffix in Russian, -nha – in Portuguese.
I make my way further, along a huge building that now host one of the most expensive hotels in Salvador. Lovely houses, some of them on sale. Just 20 years ago you could buy them for pretty good price, tho in huge need of restoration. Today Pelo is definitely not the cheapest place, crowds of tourists that visit it every year.
Among souvenir shops that are pretty alike there’re art galleries, whose owners are artists themselves and glad to share some thoughts with curious customers sometimes.
My revelation was an antique shop that sells everything that you can imagine: from books to Tvsets, from keys to jewellry, from toys to coins. It occupies three floors of an old house on Rua do Carmo. And don’t be lazy to climb creaky staircase to the last floor: erotic Chinese pictures are situated right there : )
Hosts of the shop are not very talkative – apparently tired of unpolite touristic interest, who wander around shelves but buy nothing. So I murmur my “boa tarde” (good evening) and leave. Dusk time is close so I need to think of a place to watch the sunset – lovely tradition of Salvador and coastal Bahia.
And I know one.
I pass the square with a Saint virgin in the middle. The Jesus’s mother is accompanied by bar dwellers, who spend their evening, drinking beers under her kind protection.
I enter the restaurant on the left side of the street, but don’t stay for a drink and cross the whole place to a balcony. As in many other old houses in Pelorinho, it faces Baia dos Todos os Santos. The sun has already touched the horizont and turns burns red. Right in time!
Beginning of the journey through Pelorinho, Salvador is here:
Despite rich religious heritage, in Tuesday evening Pelorinho turns into main party place, in truly Brazilian spirit. Then streets are filled with drum bands, who march all around with loud batucada (drum playing). On squares stages are set, and crowds of people come in Pelo to dance, drink and chat.
But now it’s day, and I don’t go to my favorite bar “Cravinho” on the right side of Largo Terreiro de Jesus (the bar is named after tasteful sweet herbal liquor that is popular in Baia). Wave to capoeiristas, who make their performance near the fountain and quickly check today’s program of a small but cozy comida a kilo on the corner of Rua das portas de Carmo: sometimes they have live music in the evening.
Rua das Portas de Carmo is full of artists. They paint their pictures right on a street – on canvas, woods and T-shirts. I give a hug to a cat (there’re dozens of them, living in Memorial of Brazilian medicine of the left side of the street), a wink to an artist and a smile to Baiana woman in traditional costume, who ask me if I want a photo with her.
I don’t stop in a cafe on the left side of the street, where they serve cheap soups and sandwiches for lunch and tasty cakes for desert; and so I don’t in Casa da Nigeria – a gallery of Nigerian modern and traditional art, where they have concerts sometimes and even language lessons of Yoruba (the language of one of Nigerian tribes and candomble – widely spread in Brazil cult).
Soon I’m on Largo do Pelorinho, where on a right side the studio of precussion maestro Macambira is situated (there’s a plate above the door). I’ve been studying with him for 3 months, and he’s really a person who love drums passionately and gives inspiration to study and play.
He always welcomes new students. So here’re his coordinates:
Address: Largo do Pelorinho, 7; Salvador – Bahia – Brazil
Tel: (71) 9172 5576
A short video of his playing is here: Youtube. And here he’s only with one drum, usually he plays at least three at the same time.
The next door to Macambira’s studio is a language school, where I studied Portuguese and taught Russian for a while.
I pass Fundacao Casa de Jorge Amado and follow down the Ladeira do Carmo. On the left – huge staircase that leads to an old cathedral. This is the place that on Tuesday night is so tightly packed that you can hardly pass from the top to the bottom. Here the concert of Geronimo, whose songs everyone in Salvador knows, is held. Dancing place, meeting place, singing place.
To be continued…
Beginning of the journey through Pelorinho is here:
I’m getting out on the last bus stop and take the street to the left, pass the shop of photo equipment and comida a kilo (cafes with Swedish table, where you pay according to the weight of chosen food). Soon I’m on spacious square, with administrative buildings: one of them reminds me White house in Washington DC because of its cupola (that is beautifully lit at night), another – just ugly boring modern that looks more like a train station.
Between them – clumsy yellow building – an entrance of “o elevador Lacerda”. Despite insignificant appearance, tourists love it: this historic lift was build in order to connect upper and lower cities of Salvador: Cidade Alto e Cidade Baixo.
From old terrace of the square, that is supported by arched walls, I see almost the whole bay – Baia dos Todos os Santos, full of cardo ships on raid.
I look down, where half-destroyed district of Comercio is situated. Times, when it flourished as commercial and financial center, have come to the end after “rise” of Iguatemi. Now everything here slowly but constantly drops in decline. Even buildings are so ramshackle that from time to time fall down without help of any other outer force than time.
I’m going to Pelorinho, historical and touristic center nowadays, market of prostitution and drugs in recent past and a place, where slaves were punished and executed, originally.
I’m passing Rua da Misericordia with a college and gallery of Pierre Verger (Fundação Pierre Verger: awesome B&W photos of old Salvador and some African countries) on one side and a museum of Sacred Art – on another.
Peep into a musical shop on a corner, from where sound of samba live is often heard, and run across a narrow street, being aware that taxi drivers are potentially dangerous species in Salvador. Get offer to make a photo in a traditional costume of Baiana (woman of Baia) or rasta, if you wish, and with polite “Nao, obrigada” (No, thanks) turn to the left, to a wide balcony decorated with two huge crosses, laying on each other. Don’t remember a story of the monument, but view on sunsets from here is stunning. And also it’s “a kissing spot” 🙂
Back to the square, along rows of tents that sell cheap bijouterie, stone figures, bunches of Bonfim ribbons, acaraje (traditional dish of Baia) and cockonat sweets, cards of Salvador and ethnic bags. Answering venders with a smile, I enter a short alley – Praça da Sé. In the middle of it – a monument to a chief of a tribe. Shady benches under trees are all occupied by tourists and locals, street dogs slouch lazily unearby.
I go to the corner of Praça da Sé, ignoring numerous shops that sell “Baianos lembrancas” (souvenirs) and through a narrow pass enter the Largo Terreiro de Jesus. Several churches come into view, including huge Catedral Basilica de Salvador (that was built from stone, brought from Portugal, and has now paid entrance).
Churches is what you can find in Pelorinho in abundancy. Would love to think that white plantators somehow deep inside didn’t feel very comfortable about exploitation of other people and treating them as a thing, and built all these churches in slight hope to repent their sins and avoid fires of Gehenna. But even if so, I don’t think they succeeded in it.
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.
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)
To be in Brazil in February and not to feel Carnaval – impossible. In different ways.
How I experienced the Carnaval 2012 and what I think about it – in this post.
This is how it started…
Two weeks before the Carnaval the Civil police of Salvador claimed a strike. While policemen stayed at home, waiting for the government to claim bigger salary and additional payments, thieves and bandits went on roads, having almost unlimited possibilities to get some profit. Without claiming anything.
Salvador still had Policia Militar – Military police. But these guys, who all the time carry heavy guns in state of readiness, are not so numerous, and definitely not enough to provide safety for citizens in all parts of the city.
As long as police was absent, busses were attacted and people robbed on place. Most of districts of Salvador, not very safe in peaceful time too, became extremely dangerous. Bandits from poor areas went to the beaches, creating mass assaults. By the way, that’s not a rare thing even when the Police is present.
We heard that thieves went in groups to shopping centres and dragged everything that was under their hand.
I could hardly believe that.
Anyway, in 4 days after the strike started, we went to Shopping Barra. Suddenly people started to run and cry:
– Arrestao! (Assault!)
We ran a bit too. But near the escalator stopped and waited for action. But nothing happened. People continued to escape Shopping, others stayed, discussing vividly what happened. Or, better say, what they think, happened.
That evening we spent in a heavy traffic jam near the Shopping centre…
After that a joke was born:
– Lets go to a supermarket and shout: “Arrestao!” All people will run away and the whole store will be only for us.
Not funny unfortunately. News claimed that there were more than 130 people killed in days of strike.
These events led to cancellations of tours and flights to the Carnaval. Even locals hurried up to leave Salvador (and not only those who hate Carnaval that is big percentage).
Anyway, the strike came to the end and the Carnaval couldn’t but come too.
How it went…
The Carnaval in Salvador is more about music, as in Rio more about show. Main feature is trialeticos – huge cargo cars that carry bands through streets of the city. They are also called “blocos”. The most popular are of Timbalada, Olodum, Daniela Mercury, Ivete.
Not only artists participate in show here. People can buy tickets to get inside the block. There are two ways:
to walk behing the trialetico car. Stuff holds the rope to mark the territory of the block. Inside it is much safer and more space than in frenzy of the street.
to go on top of another trialetico that carries guests. This includes free drinks, much space and access to the bathroom.
Another variant to watch Carnaval in safer place – camarote – huge tribunes on sides of the roads. VIP-zone there also include free drinks. Moreover, they have bathrooms available.
All trialetics pass in front of camarotes that are built all around the city: Campo Grande, Barra. Ondina.
Through friends we got tickets to both: camarote and block of Chimbalada. Gathered in the evening in the house to have some beers and adjust T-shirts.
Inside block everyone wears T-shirts of the same design. This is our ticket. And the way for the stuff to define us and let us in and out the rope and the car whenever we want.
The difficulty is that all T-shirts are of the same size and pretty awful design. For me as Russian is hard to imagine that any girl could wish to show up on a party in a clumsy and ridiculous T-shirt. But it’s “must wear” and cost much money (as a ticket). So girls and guys cut them and tie them in different ways to look more fashionable.
Chimbalada had a crazy colourful T-shirt with eye-popped fish on it, Camarote Central – just green.
After all preparations were finshed we rushed out to the quay of Barra, where the party passed.
Well, that was completely different Salvador. Many people walking in the middle of streets, some of roads closed for cars, those that are not – stuck in traffic jams.
Soon we crossed with many people in T-shirts of the same colour. Our block is close! We entered the quay and passed beneath the rope that many young people carried, separating block from the street.
From the top of the car we saw a big crowd of our block that went by foot in front of trialetico. The pavements of the road were not so crowded – it was just Thursday, the first day of Carnaval and officially not a day-off as Monday and Tuesday.
On main days, Rafael told, there’re so many people on the sides of the road that it’s impossible to move. Then it’s better to choose the right position – on crossings of big streets or squares. Then there’s a space to step apart, when the block comes and squeezes the crowd on a street.
During the Carnaval you can be easily robbed. Or kissed. Both is not very pleasant. While me and Lari were passing through the crowd, got many creepy suggestions. And dirty offer is the least annoying thing that can happen.
Close to Ondina we left our block, gave our t-shirts to random pedestrians and rushed to the camarote Central. This part I already don’t remember very well : )
What can I say about carnaval – loud, messy, dirty and drunk. That’s it. Definitely not “must visit”. Don’t believe travel magazines.
So…after 2 days of recovering health we left to Chapada Diamantina, amazing national park on the west of Bahia. By the way, this time there was almost no solitude, the surroundings were full of “Carnaval refugees” like we were, mostly – locals.
To be fair, I need to say that there’re many people who love Carnaval, espesially in Bahia. For those who love parties without borders and non-stop, Salvador in the middle of February is a right place. ]
For me one day of Carnaval was more than enough. Probably, for the rest of my life : )
Some posts about magnificent Chapada are already here:
Now I feel that I do not travel but live. And this is the best way to discover the country, to understand its folk.
I continue studying Portuguese – just six five months ago I coudn’t imagine that I will study this language.
Language opens me gates to Brazilian cuture. It’s deep and so rich that life wouldn’t be enough to discover. Traditions and believes vary from state to state.
Today I’ll write you some curious facts about Baianos – people who live in state of Bahia : )
Whom will I write about first? Of course, men! Brasileiros are the only people I met who admit that they are “big children”. They say it by themselves! And no shame : ) Crisa and his friends even call each other “crianças” – “children”.
At the same time Brazilian men call each other “pai” – “father”. Funny to see how one young man say to the other youngster: “Ate amanhã, pai” – “Will see you tomorrow, pai”
Brazilian men say to each other “Abraço” – “Hug””. Imagine that in Russia? Reputation of “veado” – gay is garanteed.
Baianas have many specific impressions. This language is very vivid and typical for this state. Here’s a small part:
E ae beleza? – hey what’s up?
Não vá que é barril – Dont go , it s dangerous
Baratino – Lie
Na paleta – by walking
êa – Hi
Pega aquela parada para mim – Give that thing to me (“Parada” is a word to name anything)
Lá ele! – Not me, get out of here!
Ó! – Look over there!
My friend Olga, Ukranian – Brazilian, has a dictionary of “expressão da Bahia”, but, as long as she has more than 2.000 books at home, we haven’t found it yet : ) Wait for the next post, amigos!
Near Farol da Barra a young woman came to me. In her arms – necklesses for sale.
– I have a present for you, – she said to me. And gave me a bright strip of cloth. “Lembranca do senhor do Bonfim da Bahia”, said words on it. …Remind the Lord of Bonfim of Bahia.
The girl turned the ribbon around my wrist.
– I will make three knots. And you will make three wishes, – she told to me.
But my thoughts were far away, and my “wish list” was empty that day. She, seeing me confused, tried to help: “Saude? Amor? Felicidade?” She spoke Portuguese to me, and I hardly understood her.
I just nodded. My mind was empty.
In two days a guy stops me on the same pass, leading to the entrance of Farol da Barra.
– I have a present for you, – he says. And stretches his arm with yellow ribbon in it.
– Yellow. Color of sun. Make three wishes…
He talks to me in Portuguese, and I talk back to him. He doesn’t give me advice. This time I know what I want.
I want to be happy.
I want to warm people with my heart and smile and feel this warmth back.
And I want to know all corners of my home – planet Earth.
P.S. Those colorful ribbons people bring from Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim in Ribeiro, in the west of Salvador. Wind from the bay waves thousands of bright strips, tied on the fence around the church. Each color means something: blue – health, saude; green – happiness, felicidade…
Take a ribbon, make three knots and keep in mind three wishes. And believe in kind spirits of Salvador.
P.P.S. I apologize for publishing a photo that is not mine. Unfortunately, at this moment I don’t have a photocamera. But I do my best to solve this problem : )