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.
– I’m so jealous of losing you to this world you want so badly.
To possess and not be able to embrace, to admire from a distance, being a part of it. Perfect harmony and painful craving hand in hand. Isn’t that what happiness is: to desire the most what we do possess…
– Each time I cross the border, I lose illusions. And I move further and further in search of home.
Leaving pieces of my heart on my way, one day I won’t have any for myself. And then I will repeat my journey to collect them back…
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.
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:
– new life of an old execution place:
– Afro-Brazilian spirit:
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:
The bus is taking me in direction of Praça da Sé.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.