A lifting experience in Salvador de Bahia

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South America » Brazil » Bahia » Salvador
March 18th 2015
Published: June 26th 2017
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Rio de Janeiro to Salvador de Bahia

Total distance from Santos: 941 nautical miles.

The day after Rio was a sea day or navigation day. This was a chance to relax, take in some sun, sign up for the World Champions' Quiz (coming to a blog near you, soon!!) and make ourselves presentable for the first formal or gala night. We have 7 ‘navigation' during this trip. I don't intend to take you through our daily routine during each of these days at sea as this would make for a very short blog. This will, however, be an opportunity for me to explain a little about life on board and something about the MSC Preziosa.

Back to the Gala night. Each day, the suggested evening attire is advertised in the daily programme, which is left in your stateroom the night before. MSC are not rigid about dinner jacket and tie as many guests, although semi-smart arrived at the main dining hall in open neck shirts and no jacket. Very few men wore a bow tie and even fewer (myself included) wore a tuxedo.

Everyone seems to be getting on well with each other at dinner and although this is only our third dinner together, we always seem to be the last ones out of the restaurant! There are 2 main restaurants on board, The Golden Lobster (has more of a High Street takeaway sound to it!) and the classier sounding L'Arabesque. The restaurant and table number is allocated to each guest on check in and is stated on your cruise card. The dinner is split in to two sittings. First sitting starts at 18:45 and the second sitting starts at 21:15. Many cruise lines operate a freedom dining policy. This means you can attend dinner in the main restaurant whenever you want. MSC adhere strictly to the fixed dining. If you need flexibility in your eating pattern then the buffet on deck 14 is open for that purpose.

Being the first formal evening, the captain always introduces his senior officers. Not to me personally but prior to this evenings entertainment, in this case, in the aptly named Platinum Theatre (in keeping with the precious gems/metals theme), Commendante Rafaele Pontecorvo was there to personally welcome all guests, shake their hands, Say ‘welcome, how are you?' in the language he was prompted by his assistant depending on the origin of the guests, and finally have a photo taken. Having seen the result of our photo, the Captain looks like a rabbit caught in the headlights!! This was one of the better receptions as some of the captains won't even shake you by the hand and firmly have their hands clasped behind their back to let you know who's boss!

The show, the first to be held in the theatre during this voyage was called ‘Wonderland'. It was a rather dark rendition based on the writings of Lewis Carroll. Some of the costumes and make up were straight out of the Tim Burton ‘I'm married to Helena but secretly in love with Johnny' school of drama! Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum had a Matt Lucas look about them and the Mad Hatter was definitely trying to imitate Johnny Depp (although from his Edward Scissorhands role!!) The show, however was a mix of atmospheric music, Singers and dancers, Chinese bendy people, Ukrainian ‘I can balance with one hand on your head' acrobats and a couple of high wire trapeze artists. The only difference being is that you could see the wire!!! The lady had a safety harness and was being thrown around whilst the male half of the act swung on the trapeze. Either it is a routine that they hadn't practiced too often and still had no confidence in each other's ability or it was a man and wife team who had probably just had an argument before their performance and only one of them was taking no chances (confidence in ability or not!!!)

We arrive in Salvador at 8:30am. By the time we strolled in for breakfast, most of the tours had already left for the day so the buffet was relatively quiet.

Salvador is on a peninsula on the northeast coast of Brazil which shields the large Baía de Todos os Santos ("All Saints Bay") from the Atlantic Ocean. The city is the third largest in Brazil, sprawling for dozens of kilometres inland from the coast. Founded in 1549, Salvador was the capital in the heyday of the slave trade. This was noticeable almost straight away with the high proportion of ‘black' population. Amelia, our Brazilian friend who shares our dinner table explained that Brazil is more or less 50/50 white/black population. However, the further north you travel, the percentage changes drastically to, in some areas, 30/70 in favour of black population. Although there is no distinct evidence of discrimination in Brazil, most of the important jobs in government and commerce are held by the white population.

Today was going to be another ‘hot' one; 36 degrees and fluffy clouds (to use the non-meteorological term!)

It was a short walk along the quay and out through the terminal building. We ran (or I should say walked – it was getting too hot to run!!) the usual gauntlet of taxi drivers and tour guides. It was a short walk across a busy road past the indoor market. It can be a long and arduous walk to the old town due to a bloody great big 100m cliff running along the entire Bay Shore. This divides the city into Cidade Alta, up on the cliff, and the Cidade Baixa down by the bay. The walk up the cliff is not recommended in this heat. People haven't consistently walked up the cliff since the early 17th century when the slaves often did this trip, usually with a Jesuit priest or two on their back!! The Jesuits then designed the first elevator, a simple rope and pulley system to make it simpler to transport goods and people between the port and the settlement (to the relief of the slaves!!) In 1868, in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, an iron structure with clanking steam elevators was inaugurated and this was finally replaced by an electric system in 1928 to what we see today. It beats walking and is ridiculously cheap. It cost R$0.15 for a single journey. There are R$4.3 to the £1. You do the math but any cheaper and it would be free (OK it was 3p.) I gave R$0.35 to cover both Roisin and I, and still got R$0.05 change (less than 1p.) There are even concessions for pensioners!! Who thought that one up??

On exiting the elevator at the top we found ourselves standing in a square, the entrance to the Pelourinho. This is the 'old town' of Salvador. Pelourinho means pillory or whipping post. Outside the Palacio Rio Branco, slaves were brought for punishment — flogging in public added humiliation to pain and serving as a warning to other slaves. Salvador has the largest concentration of colonial-era buildings in the New World. Among them are several magnificent cathedrals of which we would soon find out.

In this square, we were greeted by some rather colourful ladies. I didn't stop to ask them for their story but they are on most pictures and maps so must be part of the tourist trap. One lady did approach us and said something about free photo but visit my shop. We declined on both accounts preferring to snap a photo from afar so are we didn't have to visit her shop!! (although I'm sure it was a very nice shop!!)

We followed most of the crowd by turning left on to Rua José Conçalves, passing a statue of Zumbi dos Palmares. He was the last of the leaders of the Quilombo dos Palmares, a fugitive tribe of the 17th century and almost the inventor of a complete ‘keep fit' regime. However, it never really took off but for his neighbour, the industrious Zumba once Zumbi was out of the picture, the rest, as they say, is history (**NB **maybe a slight poetic licence used in the telling of this story!!) Walking across Praça de Sé, the narrow thoroughfare soon opened out to the main town square known as the Terreiro de Jesus. At the near end stands one of the must-see sights of Pelorinho – Catedral Basilica de Salvador. It was built by Jesuits in 1672 (at the time it was the biggest Jesuit institution outside Rome.) The impressive façade is built of a pale stone brought from Portugal and flanked by two short bell towers.

The heat was quite stifling by now so as we walked down Largo Terreiro de Jesus noting the inviting row of cafes where we would stop for a well-earned drink on the way back. We stopped at the Church of the 3rd order of St. Francisco to admire the ornate carvings that made up the unusual façade of this building. Hoping for much the same inside we paid our R$5 each and entered this air conditioned paradise. The main room had a number of alcoves with lifelike models in various stances from the bible and others with religious significance. It would have been more entertaining to fit these models with animatronics although that would make this holy place more like a Christmas grotto and less like a refuge for a holy order of monks!!

After our respite from the sun, we walked some more, we followed the sound of the drums until we came to a small terraced building. As we peered in, we saw a bare table with six to eight young musicians sat around beating varying sizes of drums and striking up quite a repetitive, if not mesmerising, rhythm. Outside some bare chested youths wearing long white trousers were moving in time to the beat with the occasional kick aimed at their opponents head or block with an arm to prevent further, what looked like possible painful contact. It suddenly dawned on me that this must be part of the capoeira academies I have heard so much about - these are music and Dance schools. Capoeira is a Brazilian art form that can only be described as a cross between hip hop and kung fu!!! Not stopping in case their next dance was a ‘passers-by invitation', we eventually came to a junction known as Largo Pelourinho. Now the map that was provided to me prior to this trip does not show contours. The next part of the trial would have taken us down a reasonably steep incline. This wasn't the issue. Walking down meant that at some stage we would need to walk back up so we decided to call it a day and head back toward the café that seemed more inviting with every passing minute. Having walked around the ‘old town' in somewhat of a circle we unfortunately overshot our café and before we knew it, we were back in front to the elevator.

At the bottom of the elevator across the main road is an indoor market (Mercado Modelo) This was full of the usual trinkets associated with tourism from weird looking musical instruments to foodstuff that to look at you wouldn't even feed to you goldfish or pet hamster!! I was a man on a mission. I had a shopping list. The first item I needed was a Gourd. This is a wooden shell used for drinking a high caffeine substance in similar texture to tea known as Yer Maté. I had looked in Santos and Rio without much success. Amelia said that although this is mainly used in Argentina, Uruguay and the South of Brazil, I should be able to find something in this market. At the expense of being dragged inside many stalls I scoured the various counters and walls but to no avail. Still, there is always Forteleza…

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