– 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!
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:
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.
Chapada Diamantina is like “a kingdom behind thirty-nine lands” in Russian fairy tales. You need to cross mountain ranges, walk turbulent rivers, overcome tiredness of rocky ascends and leave behind many kilometers of plateau, burnt by ruthless sun.
The reward for that will be an oasis deep into shadowy valley that lays among centuries old giants, unreachable and severe like ancient wise men. Life streams there in tranquility and no hurry, filled with simple and natural joys: singing of birds, gentle chatter of creeks and whispering of wind in high tree tops of wise forest.
There we went one summer day, to Vale do Pati.
The dusty road brings us from a tiny town Guine (that is on the south-west border of Chapada) to the base of a mountain range. There we leave the car and start ascent.
It’s morning, and the first climb is easy. Soon we observe a huge plateau in front of us. Behind this vast space – the valley of incredible beauty. But we can only guess about it now, keeping in sight whimsical rocks far away.
Here we go for the next 1.5 hours – across shallow rivers, among low bushes and sea of grass, trying to keep our feet away from mud pools that have appeared after the rain. The water in streams doesn’t reach higher than our ancles, and it pleasantly chills our hot feet.
Finally, we reach the edge. Last steps towards the abyss – and Vale do Pati lays right under our tired feet. From the top like on a map we can see all trails that cross the valley. On the left of it there’s a church (Igrejinha) with camping nearby.
But we plan to go further – deeper to the valley, where in solemnity of wild nature lives Dona Rachel, Wilson, Dona Le and some other very few locals.
Before we get there we need to go down. Straight from a place we stand there’s a path down the grand rock. Or better say – a steep. It’s not hiking anymore, but rock climbing. We descend from stone to stone, trying to keep safe our knees. And entertain ourselves with idea that on way back we need to climb this mountain up.
The next hour we walk by a dusty road (the next day, when we’ll go back this dust will turn into thick layer of mud) into the depth of the forest that is crossed by a river. There’s plenty of waterfalls around, and, probably, this stream gives birth to some of them.
Finally, there’s a white house among trees – Casa de Dona Le. In a backyard a guy is cutting wood. A cock hisses on us, staying in fronts of his hens. Kittens stare at strangers from behind of a huge pot.
We pass Dona Le and go further, passing lazy burros – a mix of a horse with a donkeys.
These animals are slow but resistant and strong and used by locals to bring supplies from Guine. They choose long way, around the range. It takes them 3 hours to pass the route that would take a pedestrian 2 days.
There’s many people in hospitable house of Dona Rachel (almost all locals recieve guests): mostly Brazilians who have escaped frenzy of Carnaval but also Spanish travelers. Photos on walls are from gratefull guests. Some of them return here to the magnificent valley again and again. Hope, I will too – one day.
Our new friend’s name was Jilson. Common business introduced us to each other. Crisa’s been looking for a land to buy, and we got several addresses in Chapada to check.
About the fact that Julson sells his land we learnt from a fence of his house. So we stopped to have a look. After some words about business and household in Chapada, he invited us for a cup of home-made juice. And then, learning about our escape from Carnaval, offered to take us to the wild spot of Montanha Estrela (Star Mountain). Surrounded by private lands from one side and by valley of the national park – from the other, its untouched nature is disturbed only by random cows and sheperds who from time to time ascent to check their charges.
Jilson shows us his huge land full of fruit trees and palms. Two young dogs- viralatas (from portuguese: vira – turn, lata – can = dogs that turn cans on a street) Dolita and Junior happily follow us, from time to time speeding up to lead the procession.
The top of a mountain is a plataux, down – endless forest, bush and rocks. Here, on one of few meadows we set our tent. Few meters down air is ringing with song of water. Narrow mountain spring finds here the way out, creating a waterfall. Wild and virgin, it exists only for us…
Sun goes down.
Soon we discover that Junior stays with us, instead of following his host on the way down. Naive puppy mournfully cry and tries to find the trail by himself. But every time turn back to us, distrusting his intuition and memory.
We create a kitchen on rocks of the waterfall. Make fire and cook our simple meals – pasta with cheese – on it. Junior gets his share. “You become responsible forever, for what you have tamed”, – wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupery. And we agree with him.
The sunset hid behind the neighbor mountain but still gifted us several magnificent colors. In its dying light rainbow in the waterfall shines even brighter. In this bath, where the stream falls from a protruding stone. Now I with full right can say that I stepped on a rainbow.
Night falls, and the sky sparkles with miriads of stars. This mountain is called “Estrela” not by occasion. On dark canvas Milky way unroll as a parade carpet. And so many stars that my head spans.
We try to find the Southern Cross, but only several guesses are born: there’re so many stars here that hard to define borders of canstellations.
The night is filled with the sounds of concert. I make a walk along the stream to find performers. Here’s one – a little frog, sitting on a branch, he would easily fit my fist. Despise tiny size, he sings so loud, swelling the white bubble of his throut.
Near the stream there’s another frog – the size of a doll. After my surprised exclamation she jumps in water and disappear in the dark under the stone.
In the morning we discover that Junior is still with us. The whole night he tried to find the way down, but, not sure in his memory and his nose, had returned back.
– Ah you, caçador! (hunter)
We go down to bring the dog home. But this time Junior…decides to stay. He lays on the earth and all attempts to wake him up donn’t lead to anything. So we take him on hands. With the puppy like a baby in our arms we leave. I am happy:
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:
Dark… And silent. This silence is ringing in ears and compressing body. Artificial silence for a human but at the same time – the most natural one.
We’re sitting on dusty floor in the cave Torrinha, with our spotlight off. We try to feel ourselves a part of endless darkness. Imagine how we would live not knowing what is light.
And we have almost forgotten it: the sun and clear blue sky, sparkling of drops in the morning and fires of sunset. But suddenly a beam of light crosses our resting legs. It’s a touristic group with a guide. The walls of the cave are lit brightly now – they carry kerosene lamps. They wear helmets.
The guide seems confused in view of us, sitting on a wayside.
– Where is your guide?
– We don’t have one. Just decided to have a quick look around.
We all know that the exit is pretty far. Finally, the guide decides not to take responsibility for reckless visitors, and leave with his tourists in opposite direction, taking away bright light of kerosene lamps.
Again darkness swallowed us…
We enter the tiny hole in a rocky wall, from where the group came. Without them we would, probably, never find this way, so hidden it is among huge rocks filling the corridor.
We start to worry. The spotlight that we bought was charged. But how long will it last? We have no idea.
We try a lighter and photocamera that we have with us. Photocamera is almost useless. And it’s hard to imagine way back just with a fire of tiny lighter.
We enter a huge hall with figure rocks in the middle. It’s much bigger than all dimentions we have already passed. The most ineresting part starts!
But we decide to go back, not relying on our weak Chinese spotlight. Before we make decision we turn it off and try to walk in full darkness.
No, it’s not possible. We will be lost in these endless corridors…
Make “a trophy photo” of fancy rock – and go back.
Hardly found the narrow hole that just passed 15 minutes ago. Of course, in excitement of revelation noone cared to remember the spot.
But here we are – far away the spot of light appeares, and we sigh with relief. Day is beautiful after enternal darkness.
On the exit a guy from information center meets us. He said, he is on his way to search us in depths of Torrinha.