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Published: January 28th 2016
After Rio, we were slightly disappointed by Salvador. The original reason for going there was to visit Pelourinho, the historic center of the city and a UNESCO heritage site. It's an important Portuguese colonial site that was refurbished very nicely. It's also the birthplace of Olodum, a drum band that became world famous by their performances with artists like Paul Simon (The Obvious Child) and Michael Jackson (They don't care about us). Other bands perform on the streets as well, which is a great spectacle and the drumming is absolutely amazing. The historic center certainly is pretty with it's colonial houses painted in pastel colours, but it has also become very touristy and overly crowded. The rest of Salvador is quite shabby - there are many very poor people and you see favelas as far as the eyes can see. Coming from Rio, the vibe wasn't as pleasant.
Luckily, we had some positive experiences in Salvador as well. In the historic center lies the Sao Francisco church and convent, which is beautiful. The convent probably has the biggest collection of Delft Blue tiles against the walls outside of he Netherlands. Very unexpected and stunning! The second day we visited Flamengo
Beach, slightly North of Salvador, which was great too. It was a Sunday and apparently this is where people from Salvador go on Sundays. If this is a taste for the beaches yet to come further up north, we can't wait.
Luckily, we decided a few weeks ago that we wanted to visit National Park Chapada Diamantina, which is a few hundred kilometers east of Salvador and totally unknown to us, but seemingly very beautiful.
After 2 days in Salvador, we took a bus to Lencois, which is the gateway to the park. Lencois is a rather quiet little village, where many dreadlocked (and judging by the smell, unwashed) young people flock to hang out and sell self-made bracelets, leather belts, earrings, and the likes. Almost every local has turned their home into a small restaurant (the local food is great - quite rich, but great!) and everyone is totally laid back. The whole atmosphere in the place is completely different from Salvador and it was great to spend a few days there.
Unfortunately, it rained for 4 days - almost non-stop! Luckily, we were staying at a very nice pousada and it wasn't bad at all
to relax a few days, but obviously we would've preferred to explore the National Park. One of the things you can do with rain, is visit a cave (caving is one of the many things to do in Diamantina - with underwater lakes, rare cristals and clear waters) - an underground network of 14 kilometers (we didn't explore all) with, apparently, some of the rarest crystal constellations in the world. It was beautiful! No place for claustrobics though! We also visited a waterfall and some more open caves close to the village, which were also stunning. All in all we had wanted to see much more from Diamantina, but the whole experience was a very pleasant one. On to Brazil's other main attraction - beaches! Time for a little road trip along the Northeast coast from Recife to Natal...
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