An African coast

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South America » Brazil
March 7th 2013
Published: June 21st 2017
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Geo: -12.9704, -38.5124

Salvador could have been a town on the West African coast. When the Portguese discovered Brazil at the end of the 15th century they set about growing sugar cane and needed labour which they shipped from Africa. The old town in Salvador is called Pelorinho, meaning whipping post for the slaves. Helen had found an interesting hotel, situated right on the central square, converted recently from a ruin by a Belgian, married to a Brazilian.
We watched street life from the hotel and wandered round the neigbouring streets looking at old churches, built with beautiful carvings by the slaves. Locals hassled tourists with their nick nacks and tried to persuade them into their boutiques and bars. Women were dressed colourfully with huge framed skirts from the past, some men practied their kick boxing attempting to entice a crowd and young pregnant women begged. This old city centre was completely neglected and claimed by the poor for most of the 20th centrury until UNESCO protected it in 1980s. thee are still areas deemed dangerous for visitors and buildings neglected and street sleepers, but the streets were occupied at night by resturants and live music, one night we set up tables to eat fish right across a street.
It was great to have company - Helen and Steve. They had already been in Salvador for a few days, so were able to guide us around. We found an interesting foundation of a famous Brazil writer who wrote about the poor, slavery, communism, facism, etc. We must read something by him, Jose Armardo, in translation. We swam on a town beach, watched the sun fall rapidly into the sea, watched the Afro-Bazilians at play, eat and chatted. It was hot and steamy and we planned the road trip north. The hotel helped hire a car for the next 3 days and we set off up the coast to find idyllic palm fringed beaches for which Brazil is famous.
We were pleased that all our bags ( 6 plus hand luggage)squeezed into the boot. With some support from the hotel owner and the friendly car hire agent we set off north, with some degree of trepidation, with totally inadequate maps.
Our first stop was a turtle sanctury on the beach, which was more commercialised than we'd hoped, but a fabulous beach nonetheless. And then we drove on north until we wanted to stop for a picnic lunch.
Salvador sunsetSalvador sunsetSalvador sunset

Yes it faces the wrong way but coastlines do funny things!
There were no possibilities on the road side so we set off on a sand track for 6 kilometers to the sea. This was a scary ride. The track was very rough for a hired car, locals stared at the car, we were apprehensive about who/what we'd find at the end. So finally we parked in a deserted square by empty resturants, strangely full of plastic chairs and tables. With more experience of the coast we realised that they set out this furniture on the beach in family groups, under umbrellas. The beach and river estuary was beautiful but the village was poor, deserted and unfriendly. fortunately the track back to the main road seemed to be less long than on arrival. And after a few more hours we arrived at our beach resort, Aracaju, which featured a large town with a built-up strip of hotels, restaurants and bars to the south and beach bars stretching out along the miles of beach further south still. We only had a couple of nights so we spent time at a beach bar with a fabulous beach, though the waves were too strong for swimming, just good for getting knocked over! then drove a long wayround to the ancient Colonial town of Sao Cristovao which turned out to be a bit of a non-event! The next day we headed south again to catch our flight from Salvador to Belo Horizonte but gave ourselves plenty of time to call in to a little town called Arembebe where there was said to be a decent restaurant. However on arrival we discovered a festival was about to take place and roads to the seashore were all closed. So we parked the car and set off to walk along the road in fairly brutal heat. All the people gathered for the festival seemed to be African Brazilian and the road became more and more crowded the further we went and we began to feel somewhat out of place. We passed huge trucks packed with the biggest stacks of speakers you evder saw belting out music. We never found the restaurant we were seeking, though we tried another who eventually told us they had no food except for a meager salad.
So we set off to freturn to our car along the sun baked road. In general the crowd was friiendly and amiable and several groups posed and asked Peter to take their photo but as we approached one of the huge sound trucks that was by this time coming along the road towards us the space became densley packed and in the crush Peter realised he was being deliberately pressured from all sides and he felt a hand go into his shirt pocket (which held only the lens cap for his camera), by good fortune he stumbled at this point and fell backwards suffering no injury and the aggressors dissapeared and other hands helped him up. Fortunately he hadn't lost anything from pockets or bag. Steve, following a little way behind, wasn't quite so lucky. He felt the same pressure andkept his hands firmly in his pockets to prevent them stealing his wallet etc but they managed to rip his watch off his wrist (not valuable). Feeling somewhat chastened we got back to our car and off to SAlvador airport!

Additional photos below
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A typical beachA typical beach
A typical beach

This is the normal way people use the beach here, no loungers

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