Salvador is the capital and largest city of Bahia state, Brazil. Salvador was Brazil’s first capital and a major historic destination for slaves, particularly from the region now encompassing present day Nigeria. These influences are reflected in the city’s historic Pelourinho district, named after colonial pillories used for slaves. I have previously blogged about a Salvadorian festival and the city’s golden Sao Francisco Church and Convent.
Seated next to me on the two hour flight from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador was an interesting French-Colombian woman. She had lived in three South American countries and recommended a diving school in Colombia, Peruvian cuisine and to take the bus from the Salvador airport.
Salvador’s towers and favelas from the aeroplane
Salvador’s airport is almost 30km from the city. As I was not familiar with the city but had heard of its reputation, I decided to take the expensive (R$114.53) pre-booked taxi instead of the recommended bus.
Perth based friend Arnina was already at Hostel F Design, an ‘upmarket’ hostel located on a hilly street in Salvador’s Rio Vermelho district.
With Arnina at a restaurant a short walk from the hostel. The dish on the table was delicious but rich and largely consisted of rice and prawns topped with cheese
After dinner at a local restaurant, it was time to hit F Design’s rooftop pool. From the pool we watched a coastal fire briefly appear to burn out of control. Thankfully it died down.
Most of the next day I spent in the hostel room attempting to fix my Samsung S3 mobile phone. Previously my phone had heated up and crashed after only moderate use. While fixing the S3 I deleted my contacts after resetting factory settings even though I thought the contacts were backed up. The phone did end up fixed and I have a sneaky suspicion that decoupling the micro SD card solved the issue. In the afternoon Arnina finally extracted me from my phone and we caught a bus to Pelourinho for a delicious ice cream next to the Lacerda Elevator.
During dinner and caipirinhas at a local square (for which we paid the tourist price) we were bothered by various beggars, some of whom were highly experienced. As it was Tuesday night, different drumming groups started performing in the Pelourinho side streets. Behind the drummers people danced and enjoyed the West African-inspired rhythms. The narrow streets funnelled the sound and I found the drumming too loud to fully appreciate. For security reasons I didn’t take my camera so do not have photos of the evening although Arnina took some with her phone.
On Wednesday Arnina departed for Morro de Sao Paulo, an island off Salvador. I loved seeing her again and hearing her travel stories of Cuba and other destinations I’m yet to visit. Later, I took a local bus to a shopping centre in Barra district to buy a Brazilian Portuguese phrasebook. “Black Friday” specials were being promoted everywhere. At one point I was accosted by a Jehovah’s Witness who spoke perfect English and even had an English language brochure at her ready. I did not fall into her spell. At the full-sized supermarket next to the shopping centre the lack of hot chillies in any form surprised me.
The bus back to the hostel took forever in the peak hour traffic. After eating my first self-cooked meal in Brazil I walked up the stairs to the hostel’s rooftop pool. There I met two Brazilians and ended up chatting and and drinking beers with them for three hours. One was a fellow Pearl Jam fan studying public relations in Rio de Janeiro and the other a mining engineer in Goias state.
Hostel F Design’s rooftop pool. The fire Monday night occurred on the coast near the tall building in the distance
I enjoyed my stay at F Design but wanted to be closer to the historic centre so checked out and caught a taxi to Hostel Oh Meu Rei, located on a hilly cobblestone street in Pelourinho. Hostel manager Lidia gave me a good tour of the hostel and from the balcony pointed out which side streets were safe and which weren’t.
The Lacerda Elevator at sunset, Pelourinho, Salvador. This was the first lift installed in Brazil and takes people from the down Salvador’s escarpment
Pysco restaurant is a short walk from Hostel Oh Meu Rei and I ate there three times
View from Hostel Oh Meu Rei’s balcony
Drumming group performing on Pelourinho street, Salvador
Video I recorded of a drumming group
Salvador has a culture of music and performance. On seemingly random occasions drumming groups would start performing in the street. In return for the entertainment, a group member sought donations or sold CDs. Salvador is also where Michael Jackson recorded his video for They Don’t Care About Us.
There is a heavy police presence in Pelourinho
Mates, your hats aren’t fully on your heads
I loved the afro hair in Salvador and think this style should come back into fashion
Some of Pelourinho’s old and colourful buildings
In Pelourinho I replaced my hat lost in Minas Gerais. In a square I also bumped into a fellow Australian Pearl Jam fan (and his girlfriend) I met at the Brazilian concerts.
Stay tuned for more Salvador photos and words in part two.