Published: May 25th 2012November 20th 2011
I need to write this down before I forget. Because even as I get these words down I can feel the cool breezes of Ilha da Santa Catarina blowing the humidity and earthiness of Salvador right off my body.
I left Salvador battered and broken down and loving it. First, there was my skin now much darker and redder then when I arrived. Second, there was my possibly broken foot. The foot cracked against a submerged rock while body surfing at Praia da Foral and then pounded into submission night after night during insane Brazilian dancing sessions was left noticebly swollen. And finally there was my being, which had been moulded and formed by the people and spirit of Bahia.
Salvador is one of those places that the longer you stay the more you come to love it and feel at home in it. My first realization that this was happening came during a rare moment of sun during that first rainy week. A group of friends and I were sitting on the cramped city beach, when all of a suden music just burst forth over the beach. I looked to my left and down the beach were a
Not a great photo, but you get the idea.
group of Afro-Brazilian youths sitting there singing and drumming in a moment of pure sponteneity. I made a mental note of it and then the rains came flooding in and all the vitality of Bahian life went indoors away from prying eyes.
Once the sun came back in full force Salvador did indeed burst into life. I took advantage of the sunshine to find myself a new beach. I had grown tired of the Porto do Barra with its crowded sand and lack of waves. I decided to set out for the so called "Surf Beach" under the watchful gaze of the Christ Statue on the left and the old colonial light house on the right. There I found exactly what my heart desired. Waves that any body surfer would kill for and a loads of space to lay down my things. It was just me, some local youths playing soccer, and the surfers. The fact that there was no life guard made it even more authentic. After that I went there faithfully every subsequent day. I caught all these great waves all the way into the beach. It was funny because whenever I would catch a wave for
Market on my street
the first time, the beach kids would get all excited because they saw how far someone could go even without a board. Unfortunately, they would think it was the spot of ocean and not the man. And they would flock all around me trying to get waves of their own thus leaving me without room to get waves of my own. Eventually I would move down the beach and begin again. I would spend my last afternoon in Salvador bodysurfing until the sun set behind the lighthouse. Quite a peaceful moment.
Of course it wasn't the bodysurfing that showd me true Bahia, it was the people and the street life that did that. The people in Bahia seem to be both lively and relaxed at the same time. They are fiercely proud of their home state, and that extends to their football team. Their team, Bahia, was in a relegation battle and had this epic match complete with a couple of late goals. Each time they scored the crowd that had gathered to watch the match, which seemed like everyone in town, yelled and sang. After the game, which they won, there were firecracker pops, car honking, and singing
View of the city from the harbor.
late into the night. The next day everyone was in the blue and red of Bahia and had even decorated their cars in the local colors.
By my last week there I was ready to let loose. The sun had come out, the hostel had suddenly become packed with people, and perhaps most importantly I had gotten to know the scene and knew where to go. I had been there longer than most other guests so I became the go to guy for what to do. 7pm meant it was beer time, where I would crack open cold ones out front and get the party going. All over Salvador we would go, drinking and dancing. The Brazilian beat is infectious. It just moves your feet and won't let you go, which is tough because the songs just seem to keep going and going. Alcohol fueled memories of those nights still linger, the hot focused eye contact of a beautiful brasileira, a street party disapearing under the surge of a brawl, a crazy backwards taxi ride, the sight of night turning to dawn over the colonial buildings of the old town, bottles upon bottles of Skol, and an afternoon beer
session at a local outdoor cafe blending one night into the next.
On one of my last days there I finally made it out on to the open water. A boat tour took me to three different islands. It was great to see the city for how it was originally meant. A great port city jutting out into the Atlantic, an early foothold into the New World. My time there however was up. It was time to journey on.