Salvador!

Arriving at Nega Maluka by midday and finding a hammock and a beer pronto, we were happy to stop and soak up the laid back vibe of Salvador. The hostel is friendly and all the guests are sociable. Almost immediately we meet Itamal, a young Israeli guy, who has spent the last 3 months falling in love with Sao Paulo and it´s amazing samba scene. He was in Salvador to catch a flight as he was told to get out of the country by immigration because he had over stayed his 3 month visa by a few days. We both felt a really nice energy from him and got on well from the start. Before long we had all agreed that a rodizio (all you can eat) Churascaria (BBQ) needed to be done. With it being Als birthday the following day, and one of Itamals last days in the country we concluded that it was apt. The owner of the hostel, Inbal; a well travelled Israeli who had finally stopped in South America with a hostel in Columbia too, was a meat fanatic- he would try anything once. Even his cats balls apparently. Anyway, he knew the best rodizio in town and agreed to meet us at the restaurant that evening. All this was arranged by early afternoon, and it suddenly felt like we had been in Salvador much longer than a few hours!

For the rest of the afternoon we enjoyed our time by relaxing and recovering from a sleepless night of airports and travelling. On the hammock next to Als we met a comic personality from Wimbledon. He was swinging really high on his hammock quite hyperactively and ape-like. For a split second he reminded me of my mate Dave. A little later his girlfriend appeared, a nice girl from Scotland, clearly the brains of the opperation. We headed out with Itamal for our rodizio and agreed to see wimbledon-scotts duo later on for a beer.

It just happened to be Tuesday, and every Tuesday in Salvador they have a mini carnival on the Praça de Se (main square) and the surrounding streets. I had heard about this before and was keen to check it out. Especially as we would be in Salvador for less than a week it our only oppertunity to experience this. Itamal was equally keen, so we agreed to aim to finish our rodizio and be back in Praca de Se before 10pm. With some instructions on which bus to catch along with the name of the restaurant we embarked on our first Salvador adventure. With hardly any portugese and not much of a clue of the geography at this point we allowed Itamal to lead the way. Standing on the side of an extremely busy motorway we waited at the bus stop. Chaoticly busses were swerving into the bus stop and big numbers of people would flow on and off. We knew the name of the bus we needed and before long it turned up. Itamal asked the bus driver to let us off at Villas Rodizio bus the bus driver hadnñt heard of it. Strange, as it is a really well know place apparently, so I double checked, this time the driver nodding and beckoning us on. Shrugging our shoulders we pile on. The bus zoomed down the highway, with high rise and out of town stores flashing past us. At the speed we we were going it was hard to imagine if we were close to our destination. We were told 40mins drive, but I was beginning to feel after 40mins were were miles away from our destination. Itamal checked a couple of times with the driver, and he continued to assure us that we were not there yet. Eventually a local on the bus asked us where we were heading…he smiled and told us we were way past it and it would take another 30min back down the motorway. Itamal had just been explaining to me that people in Brazil are so desperate to be helpful, that they would more often than not give you worng advice rather than just tell you than they don´t know. Unfortunately, the transpried to be the case with out bus driver, who was aiming to take us to a place called Villas that has a rodizio. We were almost back at the airport for goodness sake!

Disembarking, rembarking, high rises flashing, traffic zooming, 30 minutes later and our new new screached to a stop. It looked more promising this time with a beach in sight. A few more local directions later, and about and hour late we finally located the ´best rodizio´in town. Inbal, sat at the table waiting for us laughed at our story and said to Itamal, ¨I did tell you there are 2 busses, one that takes the beach road, the other that takes the motorway¨. It was a diversion well worth it though. The rodizio was by far the best we had ever experienced. The salad bar had sushi, carpaccio, fresh shrimps, cheese board and many more delights. Of course we were in heaven, and to top it all off Inbal was a regular so got free Caiprhinas. Kiwi, we found was particularly good. After a lot of meat and good company, we rolled out and into a taxi to catch the end of the mini carnival party.

Praça de Se was buzzing. With a large afro population the music, dancing and energy was vibrant. Some great traditional  capoeira instruments, all percussion based were played to an addictive rhythm. Impossible not to wiggle our gringo hips. Watching the locals thrust and grind, I knew I would never get to this level, but enjoyed my samba moves that I know. We soon learnt the local football song too, as they had recently been doing well…it went like this…BAHIIIIAAA BAHIIIIAAA! Some lattas (cans) of cerveza (beer) later, Itamal, Al and I staggered with bellies full of meat topped off with beer down the road towards our hostel stopping off en route for a few more, where the party was continuing much later than the last stage performance on Praça de Se.For me, it was everything that I had invisaged about South America and until this night my preconceptions can been massivly wrong as Peru and Bolivia are a much more timid race and enjoy a drink behind closed doors, certainly not a Tuesday night street party bumping and grinding. The vibe was so electric and it was the perfect lead up to Als bithday. Back at the hostel we found the wimbledon-scotts duo plastered. They had been waiting for us and had meanwhile drowned in the caiprhina happy hour. I was entertaining and we saw in Als birthday with some more caiprhinas that the hostel guy who had the night shift made for us.

With a dark double room plus air conditioning plus a hang over, Al briefly emerged for breakfast but then went back to bed util 1pm. Something I am incapable of hung over or not. Instead I walked around the Pelrhino region with Itamal. It was his last day, and with his new found love for Brazillian music, he wanted to buy some traditional intruments. It was fun to wonder around this old colonial area and take it all in, also to attempt to play the weird and wonderful traditional instruments a shop was dedicated to. The graffiti adds a wonderful urban twist on this old city. Itamal tells me that Brazil in general has a lot of great street art and I was more than happy to have my first introduction to this in Salvador. After this we embraked on finding a fish market and a list of ingredients that a lady that worked at the hostel had given us. She had agreed to teach us how to cook Moqueca, a traditional Bahian dish. Hot an tired, but with all the ingredients back at the hostel, I wake up Al and the lesson begins. See our recipe section for this delicious dish. We enjoyed our creation on the veranda with Itamal and the ladies who work at the hostel. A prefect birthday lunch for Al and last meal before Itamal leaves for the airport. We were sad to say goodbye so soon after meeting Itamal, we had had fun times and certainly seemed much longer that we had known him than was actually the case. We jammed a fair bit into the 30hours that we had spent in Salvador so far! With the afternoon sun and blue sky, Al and I went for a walk to the fort very close to the hostel. It provided a view of the lower city and port area. Found a place to enjoy the view with a beer and talked about the merits of moving to Salvador. We were both taken with the place and with the huge amount of beautiful colonial terrace buildings with ´Se Vende´ (For Sale) in the window, it had definately sparked the thought of living here.

That evening my hang over and lack of sleep in the last couple of days had finally caught up with me. Whilst I cooked dinner, Al enjoyed some caiprhinas with some of the hostel residents. We enjoyed our meal with a bottle of red Bolivian wine that we had been carrying around especially for his birthday on the roof of the hostel. Food plus wine plus hammock equalled good night Laura. I just could not keep my eyes open a minute longer. Feeling bad for flaking out on the night of his birthday, Al assured me it was ok, so I went to bed and he stayed up and chatted with Inbal and some new Irish people at the hostel.

Day 3 in Salvador, we were determined to get in some beach action. One of the ladies at the hostel reccomended us to go to a beach called Bonfim. With instructions of which bus to catch, we began with getting the cable car to the lower town. Salvador is built of two levels, upper and lower, so to access these areas it is neccessary to catcha cable car or use a big elevator, both located in the Pelrhino area at the upper level and at major bus stops at the lower. Before long we were in a sweaty bus and dropped off near Bonfim church. This was the elongated route as the bus we had caught did not take the beach route. Becoming a trend in Salvador! No matter though as the walk through this area to the beach was beatiful. Old colonial streets winding through and spitting us out on the waters edge of a little fishing harbour. Kids swimming around the boats, men drinking Skol beer and reggae tunes blaring from windows of the suprisingly residential area. We followed the path along walking past small restaurants selling Moqueca and fresh crab. I was loving this laid back pocket in a massive city. Eventually we the path led to the beach. It was hard to believe it was Wednesday. We were quickly learning that everyday is a party day in Brazil. The beach was full of people drinking beers and eating barbeque. Music was blasting from a huge speaker and people would jump up from their plastic chair to have an impromtu dance, or shall we say bump shake, hip grind, crotch thrust. The only race of people at the beach were afro-Brazillian, this is the major percentage of the population of Bahia after all. We were the only gringos in sight which was nice. I was surprised how easy it was to escape the tourist trap area of Pelrhino, where, no kidding, there were coaches full of german, dutch, engligh middle aged well to do tourists milling around the Praça de Se in the daytime. We loved it at Bonfim beach, great energy, great people. The water didn´t look feel too dirty considoring it is a city beach, although I am sure it was. We had to drag ourselves away from the beach late afternoon to catch the last cable car back to upper town, and also because we had a skype date with Justin, our friend we were planning to meet in Rio for Christmas and New Years. Whizz down the road up the elevator…and home!

Great to speak to Justin and he confirms that Rio is definately on. Whish means we now feel that we do not have to leave the cacau farm (our next destination) to check emails once we arrive there. That evening we cannot resist another rodizio, and with it being Als brithday weekend, we have good reason. This time on our own, we head out after a few cheap happy hour caiprhinas. Hmmm, we definately can get used to these cocktails! Again the rodizio is great and we have a really nice evening. Unfortunately we miss the last bus back to Pelrhino and have a bit of difficulty locating a cheap taxi. It is evident that it really isn´t cheap in Salvador, or Brazil for that matter. As much as we like this vibrant city, it is not feasible to be here much longer, especially with rodizios to tempt us!

The following and last day we head back to Bonfim as we had really enjoyed our time there. Also we had unfinished business with a crab lunch. More swimming with a few beers, a little dancing and in hysterics watching this little boy dancing with snake hips. He was going to be quite the player when he was older we decided.Late afternoon we found the little fishing harbour that we had stumbled upon when first arriving in Bonfim. We located ourselves on the roof terrace of a restaurant and had 2 beautiful crabs watching the sunset. Delicious! Our location was also perfect for people watching. The locals hanging out on the street listening to loud reggae beats drinking Skol beer…we agreed we could have watched this for hours.

Once we are back at the hostel we enjoy one last night on the veranda with Inbal, the Irish couple and a few more…plus many more caiprhinas. It is really interesting to listen to Inbal´s hostel ethics and his ideas of what it takes to be a good hostel. We have a lot of time for him as he really has travelled a lot and has a good perspective on what it is that travellers want and need. In a nutshell, a place to stay that feels like home. His moto, For Travellers By Travellers. Many drinks later, the evening is not coming to an end and I have to force myself to bed aware that we have a long journey into Bahia to go to Pura Vida, where we plan to volunteer for a month. I leave Al and Inbal chatting and listening to travel stories knowing the following day is going to be a struggle in the humid heat of Bahia.

Of course, the next morning was a difficult and sods law, for once I could have slept on my hangover. Up and out of the hostel, we said our goodbyes. It was hard to leave as we had so much fun in Salvador and we both felt we could have spent more time in this culturally rich, vibrant, urban colonial beach city. But as it always is with travel, we had much to look forward to. A sweaty hike to a ferry and a crossing to Bom Despacho where we caught a 6hour bus ride into the thick of Bahia. It was an incredible way to leave the city, as we were presented with a panoramic view of the city by boat as we departed.

Once on the air conditioned bus we had a long 6 hours to Ubaitaba. The view was brilliant though. Driving through mangrove forest, over beautiful rivers with children playing and swimming, and gradually feeling more tropical and jungle thick on each sides of the road at times. On our arrival we discovered the last bus to Aguas Frias had gone and there were no trucks at this time of the day to hike a lift. So a prolonged agony, as I was desperate to get to the chocolate farm now that Salvador was behind us. Saturday night in Ubaitaba wasn´t the nicest of places with a lot of drinking on the streets. Not a tourist destination at all, so we were happy to witness this normal Saturday night unfold. However, we hit the sack early expecting an early rise for our last leg to the farm.

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