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Published: April 11th 2016
Seem to be spending most of my time since 'the incident' googling 'is it safe to go to X on Saturday/Sunday am/ pm ( perm any two)? The rest of the time I spend trying to work out what it is safe and not safe to take with me. Today I opted for the money belt and a water bottle, but no mobile phone, so no photos today, which is a great pity. As advised by the guide books, I also carefully calculated the amount of money to take with me on the basis that this would be just enough for my outing, about £20.
I decided to go to an island which is a popular day trip or holiday retreat for Salvadorians - it's called Itaparica. I picked up a taxi to take me to the boat terminal and asked the same taxi driver to pick me up the following morning at 6 am to take me to the bus station, where I was catching a bus to Lençois for Parque Nacional Chapada Diamantina. .Not sure whether this was a good idea or not as he took me to the wrong terminal initially, although it was just round the corner from the right one, and I thought his fare was a bit high. In fact it was sufficiently high to upset my budget. But since he did manage to work out where I was staying without my address, which I had forgotten to bring with me again, he seemed worth a try. Phoning a Brazilian number via the Internet on Viber, for example, is not straightforward, so this method of arranging a taxi seemed worth a try. We shall see.
Got on the boat OK but was disappointed that there weren't really any other islands to be seen during the 40 minute journey. Just lots of tankers and big ships although Salvador's coastline does look quite impressive with its many skyscrapers. Once on the island, realised it was far too hot to walk around and the place, which was called Mar Grande, was a bit tatty. Was just wondering what to do when a bus driver stopped and asked where I was going. I don't know, I said. Where are you going? He told me a place name, which meant nothing to me, but since the fare was less than £1 I decided to risk it, once I had established that there would be buses returning to the terminal regularly. It turned out to be a long bus ride but also quite an interesting one - the last third or so was on what I initially thought to be unpaved road, but in fact was on roads whose surface had been completely worn away in parts, and which was full of potholes and ramps. We drove to the other end of the island through a few settlements and bits of industry and an almost continuous string on the seaward side of condominiums, gated communities with separate low rise houses. These had extensive grounds which stretched to the beach and were clearly the holiday homes of affluent Brazilians. Apart from these, the place looked pretty poor, and so did the people getting on and off the bus. I had made up my mind that if the place at the end of the route looked equally tatty I would just stay on the bus. However, I asked the bus driver if it was safe for me to walk around and he said it was a a very quiet place and I would be fine. I was so focused on getting advice from him that I almost forgot to pay and he had to call me back!,
This village or resort turned out to be much nicer than the one that my boat had docked at. Apart from a few beachside cafes, and the obligatory litter of, course, it was just sand, a few boats in the water and a very calm sea. I wished I had brought my swimming costume but then I could hardly have planned ahead for this as I had got on the bus on a whim. I sat at a cafe overlooking the beach for a while and had a walk around. There were signs that this had been a fishing community, some of whose houses had recently been restored. There were a few families in the water but otherwise it was deserted - a real island paradise, especially as, from this side of the island, you could see other islands also fringed by golden sands. I would have loved to have eaten lunch there but unfortunately I had left myself such a tight budget for the day that the return bus trip had effectively eliminated the possibility of lunch unless I was going to catch a bus rather than a taxi back to my lodgings! The ride back to the terminal was somewhat more hair raising than the outward journey as the driver seemed to get tired of weaving in and around the potholes and apparently just decided to drive straight over some of them. Can't think that the buses last very long here.
When I got back into Salvador i decided that if there were plenty of people around I would take the lift up to the 'pelourinho' (the historic centre) after all. I realised that on the bus trip I had mainly seen the 'cidade baixa', which has a few colonial buildings scattered amongst modern or less modern decaying ones. The whole of the 'pelourinho', on the other hand has been conserved so it is like a colonial enclave. It seemed too ridiculous to leave Salvador without seeing its main attraction.
I was glad that I had decided to take the risk - in fact it turned out not to be a risk at all. There were so many policemen about at almost every street corner that I felt quite safe. The Pelourinho is indeed stunning (sorry again about the lack of photos but there are plenty available on the web) and seems much more authentic than Cartagena de las Indias, which has flowers on every balcony and every building in freshly painted condition. Some of these, on the other hand, were definitely looking a bit dilapidated. No beggars or threatening youths to be seen, though, thank goodness.
On the boat I had counted my money and realised that I had about 30 Reais left, whereas had paid 35 for the fare into the terminal - wasn't sure whether the fare from the Pelourinho would be more expensive or not but certainly wouldn't be cheaper. For about the only time in my life I decided to haggle over a taxi fare - I know they sometimes do 'off meter' trips here. So I went up to the nearest taxi-driver and explained the situation, saying that 30 Reais was all that I had (he thought I said 20 initially which certainly wasn't enough.) This did the trick and I was saved from having to find out where to get a bus, although I could have always asked a policeman! I hate being without a credit card and carrying only a limited amount of cash!
Got back starving but had to make family calls first and then shot off to Barra shopping for food. Had quite good Thai meal with sushi. Not too typically Brazilian but then the rest of Salvador seemed to be opting for Burger King or Pizza Hut. I should say that this is what 'mainly middle-class or white Salvador' was eating because that was who was in the shopping centre. In contrast, the people in the boat and on the island bus were mainly black or mixed race. My hunch is that the white Brazilians (people of European ethnic origin) were on the car ferry with their cars. Of course, we live in a multiracial country here in the UK too but Chesterfield is predominantly white so for me the racial aspects of Brazilian society are quite interesting.
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