Salvador – Last Days in Brazil Nov.20-24
True confessions – the only reason we came to Salvador is because our travel agent has a pousada (inn) here. Is this like going to the pharmacy your doctor owns? Salvador has a population of 3 million although this is hard to believe when you are on the “Coconut Coast,” a primary beach destination. The high downtown buildings are visible on a distant bluff which we can see but never venture into.
Portuguese explorers landed here 100 years before Columbus came to the new world. Salvador was the first capitol of Brazil and the major port of entry for African slaves─ the percentage of blacks is higher here than anywhere else in the country.
We arrive on a noisy Saturday night. Our pousada is just off the beach road where the sidewalk is packed with people walking, cooking, buying, and selling. Music cascades out of restaurants, shops, and vehicles with boom boxes. There’s a Caribbean beat with lots of reggae so Bob Marley is alive and well. As the beach closes for the evening young men carry away massive amounts of chairs and umbrellas ─ all on their heads.
Marcello, the pousada day manager speaks fine English and becomes our personal tour director. On Sunday morning he arranges for a Spanish-speaking taxi driver to show us around. Mark’s Spanish allows us to understand much of what our driver describes.
We stop at a lake which holds enormous 15 foot statues of African deities in the middle of the water. Catholic priests attempted to convert the African slaves to Catholicism with limited success. As a result, there is a mix of voodoo practices and Catholic ideology that continues today.
At a park, a band of guitars, saxophones and percussion instruments are entertaining the assembled locals. As they sing and play, the oldest man of the group dances around with maracas; a Brazilian version of the Buena Vista Social Club. We join the laughing and clapping crowd in their joy.
An old fort, high on a cliff brings us a long view of the beaches. This is Sunday and every Salvadoran is at the beach as judged by the numerous umbrellas that literally touch each other.
When the sun goes down, we are surprised by the constant stream of runners along the beach sidewalk. Our informal survey shows that about 30% are female. Perhaps all this running is an attempt to mitigate the enormous beer consumption.
As the sun sets on our last night in Salvador, we dine at an elegant beach restaurant. The local fish is prepared in the moqueca style, a stew in which the fish is cooked in a sauce of coconut milk and unique spices. This is served over rice and toasted manioc flour. Our evening concludes with a walk to the local ice cream shop and my espresso at the internet café.
We arrived home on Thanksgiving morning, thankful that neither one of us ever got sick and that our luggage never went on vacation elsewhere. ______________________
“If you want a happy ending, that depends of course on where you stop your story.” ….Orson Welles