Snapshot of the Week: Bahia, Beaches, Batala and Beer

We left Ilha Grande behind with a slightly heavy heart. It’s always going to be difficult to leave behind paradise, after all, especially with the prospect of multi-faceted transport on the horizon. Ilha Grande to Salvador, door to door, is a boat-taxi-bus-bus-flight-bus affair, and with three oversized bags between us in 30-plus degree heat, it isn’t a fun one. And yes, despite our best efforts, we overpacked again.

Anyway, 12 hours after leaving we arrived at our little casa in Salvador with a sigh of relief. The neighbourhood was nice and our hosts were fantastic, plus we had our own private bathroom (the luxury!). The only downside was the lack of air conditioning – our room was on the top floor and had two large, sunset-facing windows, meaning that our room was roughly the temperature of a blast furnace. Luckily, we were able to be a little sticky-fingered with a fan from another room and catch some sleep.

Our hosts kindly invited us to join them for lunch on the first day with some of their friends. We didn’t realise that “lunch” in Salvador is pretty much an all-day affair, not that we were complaining. We took an endless bus (well actually it was about 45 minutes but it was roasting and we were still pretty transport-cranky from the day before), then a little boat to a packed family restaurant, where we didn’t even get to order, we just got what we were given. What we were given turned out to be a seafood feast – shell on prawns, whole fried fish and a prawn moqueca, the Bahian speciality, which is a spicy seafood stew made with coconut milk, coupled with seemingly limitless, ice-cold beer. Our sadness at leaving Ilha Grande was fading by the glass.

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Salvador is a very culturally, if not economically, rich city. It was historically a very significant port for the slave trade in Brazil, so after slavery was abolished (shamefully not until 1888!) the city took on a strong African influence. The old, historical centre, Pelourhino, is filled with stalls selling street food and cocktails, it bounces to the sound of drums and people dance in the streets until the early hours. It was a fantastic sight to see troupes of old and young, black and white, male and female Bahians coming together and either making or enjoying music. Salvador has quite a reputation for crime but in the party atmosphere of Pelourinho everyone’s problems seem to disappear.

The next destination was Boipeba, which is where this is being written. Only 81km from Salvador, the journey was obviously a colossal pain in the arse. Think taxi-boat-bus-taxi-bus-speedboat, where your taxi drivers don’t know where they are going and queue-impaired Brazilian women try and force you off a boat because you were in front of them in line. But honestly, Boipeba is a ridiculous paradise once again. It’s different to Ilha Grande, as it is accessed by river estuary through a mangrove forest rather than crossing the sea. It felt a bit Jurassic Park-esque getting here but the peninsula is simply beautiful. There are no cars here, just little lanes, seemingly limitless Atlantic forest, pristine white beaches and warm, friendly people. The weather is amazing, despite the usual predicted thunderstorms the sky is a canvas of blue.

We also had the good fortune to be here on February 2nd. Obviously (ahem) this is the Festival of Yemanja in Bahia (the resident sea goddess), which meant street parties, live music, public drinking and a mini festival in the town square. Some people took the festivities a little too far – we saw a couple being, erm, intimate, in the sea (not even subtly, it was the middle of the day and the water was VERY shallow) and there was a lot of underage drinking going on, but it’s all in good fun.

Our next stop is Iguzu Falls. Taller than Niagara Falls and twice as wide, they are considered one of the natural wonders of the world. Predictably they are another mammoth journey away – Brazil is huge– but we cannot wait for another bucket list moment for both of us.

Have a great weekend 🙂

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P.S While you are here: Take a look at our newly opened store! We personalise and print beautiful collages for you to remember your travels in a really unique way. Check it out 🙂 More details can be found here, including a cheeky discount code as a thank you for reading.

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