Salvador and the Beach

Salvador in the state of Bahia is very different from much of Brazil, even within Brazil’s great diversity. As it was Brazil’s main slave trading port there is a big African influence in the culture.

Several times while visiting big cities, like Mexico City, for the day we’ve wished we’d packed a bag and stayed in a hotel for the night in the centre. Salvador was the first place we’ve actually done it. The main historic centre is a maze of winding narrow streets up on a hill, overlooking the port. To make access more difficult the areas around it have a reputation for being rather dodgy, so driving the truck even partly in wasn’t an option. We left the truck in the campsite in Stella Mares about 25 km along the coast and jumped on a bus into town with a couple of small backpacks. We’d booked a very lovely but very reasonable boutique hotel right in the centre of the historic Pelourinho area.

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We spent a couple of days wandering the small cobbled streets admiring the colonial architecture and ornate churches.

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In the late afternoon we heard the sounds of drumming from the open windows of music schools and saw capoeira dancers in the street amazing audiences with their athletic prowess. Capoeira is mixture of a martial art and dancing, evolved by the slaves for self defence. As fighting was outlawed by the slave masters, the slaves developed this mix between the two. It is so beautifully coordinated that even though it looks really close there is never any physical contact between the two dancers/combatants.

Salvador is also the centre of the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. Worshiping African gods and goddesses was also outlawed during Portuguese slaving times, so believers mixed their gods with the Catholic saints to avoid detection. They mostly have ceremonies in terreiros (richly decorated halls) where worshipers dance themselves into a trance and summon the spirits of the gods and goddesses. However as there is a crossover with the Catholic Church, we also saw many Candomblé followers at one of the most famous churches in the city, Igreja Nosso Senhor do Bomfim. Worshipers wear white and we saw several of their leaders outside giving blessings with leaves and water as it was Friday, their main religious day.

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DSC00586.JPGBeautiful wooden panels in the Afro-Brazilian museum depicting the different deities.

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On our second night we went to a dance performance showing some of the unique cultural aspects of Bahia. With 6 drummers and a couple of ladies singing in Yoruba, an African language still used for Candomblé rituals the sound was intense. The dancing, from those showing Candomblé rituals to the jaw dropping graceful but athletic displays of capoeira, was impressive. I can see why the company often tours nationally and internationally.

We had a great couple of days in Salvador, as much as we love living in the truck it was also nice to have a break from it, especially as the hotel gave us a couple of rooms linked by a short corridor so we got a bit more space from each other, something we all enjoyed.

It was Halloween while we were in Salvador, the girls loved it in Mexico last year, so we carved a pumpkin and trick or treated round the truck when we got “home”. Each time Steve or I would have to come up with a different persona to answer the door.

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The state of Bahia doesn’t change its clocks in sync with Rio, which is almost on the same longitude. So at this time of the year it gets light just before 5am but dark before 6, so Steve as an early bird gets his way with very early morning starts. Back on the road it was a whole day’s drive to Barra Grande, a series of beautiful beaches on a small peninsula. The last 50km were on a red muddy road, giving the truck a new colour scheme.

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Arriving at the small beach of Taipús de Fora we took a walk along the gorgeous beach to try and somewhere to park up for a few days. We had hoped to find a spot right on the beach but the parts that were accessible by road had small posadas or houses on them. There was even camping but everywhere had tiny entrances and the lanes were very narrow. In the growing dark we headed to the more touristy village of Barra Grande, but yet again our search was thwarted by the lack of access to the beach. We could have stayed in a small parking area on the beach but there was a beach party just starting. They had the usual South American arrangement of speakers taking up the whole boot of the car with bass thumping music being blasted out at full volume, so we moved on. In the end we bumped back along the terrible road in the pitch black to where we had started at Taipús de Fora, knowing at least that beach road was wide enough to park on for the night. The small beach bars and restaurants were closed and no one was around, so we had a quiet night listening to the sounds of the waves.

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While the girls did school, Steve set out on foot to see what our options were. We’d been looking forward to a few days on the beach and didn’t want to move on just because we couldn’t find a good place to park up. Steve returned with a cheeky glint in his eye and the suggestion he’d found the perfect place for us to stay…..a hotel. I couldn’t believe him, this is the same man who has parked us up in rubbish dumps up and down two continents and poo-pooed the idea when I suggested a month ago in the unbelievable heat that if it got too much that we should book into a place with aircon. Now, he was suggesting we give up the the overlanding life for a few nights of comfort. The girls jumped at the chance and after teasing him about how soft he was going, I agreed to go for a look.

Posada Taipú de Fora was certainly beautiful on a postcard perfect, palm fringed sandy beach, beautiful grounds and boutique hotel style rooms….mmm, I could get used to this. We booked in for 3 night, sod the overlanding lifestyle for a few nights, this was heaven. Heaven got even more impressive the second night when Steve encountered the owner in the bar where he’d gone for a quick beer. The owner swiftly offered us 2 more free nights just because he was impressed with what we were doing! Wow. It was such a kind offer which we gladly accepted as we were really enjoying our time taking it easy and relaxing. We spent the days swimming, walking along the beach, reading and catching up on things.

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Just 5 minutes along the beach was a perfect blue pool fringed with coral at low tide, full of curious fish and great for snorkeling.

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It was really nice to have a break and the Pousada was the perfect place for this. A beautiful spot on a wonderful beach with really friendly staff.

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