Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Good Day In Salvador

Salvador, Brazil

Karen? Yes. Karen.

Jason met a pair of Belgian girls (Anna and Joanna) at capoeira class and sweet-talked them into joining us at the beach. They were also traveling around the world, but in something of a different style than ourselves. Where we budgeted some 60+ thousand dollars for our journey, they were looking to spend a comparatively paltry 9k euros (about $11,000). I was not surprised when they suggested that we take the bus rather than fork our 20 reais (less than $10 US) for a cab. You gotta be thrifty to get around the globe on their kind of money.

The OC's relative largesse at first made me feel old and lazy, but ultimately I decided that there is no need to suffer in order to travel. I earned my money fair and square and if I want to spend it on 2nd class over 3rd and the occasional fancy hotel tea, then so be it. No backpacker is going to make me feel bad about being a white collar wanderer. I had plenty of time to work this out on the bus. It took the better part of an hour to reach the playa.

All Saints Bay and the Atlantic ocean border Salvador at a place called Barra. It was not far from here that we laid our towels on a rocky little point with easy access to beer, sand, clear water, and warm tidal pools. I get bored quickly just laying about in the sand, so it was not long before I was at the water's edge starting on the first of a few sand castles. There was a ready supply of rocks small and large that provided a welcome variety of material both for structure and decor. I was very pleased that some local kids helped out. Even though we could not communicate very well, our efforts were well-coordinated. One notable little man would wander over and utter a few words of English, then run off, evidently quite pleased with himself, only to return five minutes later to try out another phrase.

A neighborhood of castles completed, attention turned to tailoring. My Carnival costume (more on this later) required an orange cape. I was unable to locate a shop that sold cloth, but I did get my hands on one of those elasticated undersheets in the right shade. There was not enough room at the pousada to work comfortably, so I brought my materials along to the beach to serve first as sitting platform and second as grist for the cape-forging mill. I used four rocks to hold the corners in place, Jason's towel as a straight edge, our DVD pen for marking, and borrowed scissors to make the necessary incisions. Three quick cuts and I had myself a crude but functional cape with which to amuse the onlooking locals. A few runs across the sand resulted in a satisfactory level of cape flapping and smiling from nearby bikini girls.

I rewarded my success with a meaty kebab direct from the grill and a cold beer straight from the cooler. Then it was time for a swim. The water was clear and warm and only a little wavy. I got a bit spooked by the amount of plastic trash floating around, so I moved over to the shallow bit over the rocks. It filtered the refuse and housed some pretty blue fish to chase around. When tired of watching sea life, I had myself a good float and tried not to be too obvious about watching the smooching couples around. Brazilians are champion snoggers. One couple stayed in continuous and aggressive lip lock for no less than 7 minutes. They must have gills or something.

About the time I got out of the sea was also about the time to go. Jason used the old "we are going to be late for flippy dance school" line in combination with the "it will be my treat" tactic to get the Belgians into a cab. It was a quick hop back to the old town where we parted company. I had a refreshing shower and spent a few hours drinking beer and hanging out in the doorway of the pousada. The place is located on a busy cobblestone road and could hardly offer better scenery and people watching. Some time later, a band kicked off on the church steps next door and the pousada staff opened up their caiparhina stand. As it turns out, kiwi-based drinks agree quite well with my palette. I blew away a another hour drinking and chatting with an Italian guy with a shared interest in The Pixies and Sonic Youth. It was time pleasantly passed.

The OC rejoined forces with the Belgians around 21:30 to get some eats. We ended up dining al fresco at a grimy (but characteristically Brazilian) joint at a fork in the road. Service was slow and we were constantly harassed by vendors, begging kids, and parading bands. We fought back with high-volume conversation, numerous thumb wrestling battles, and a continuous stream of super-sized bottles of beer. The street was all full of heat and noise and life and I was abuzz with the effects of drink and good company.

Next up, we dove into a reggae club and took over the dance floor. I challenged the local boogie champ to a break-dance style battle. He was very friendly about making me look stupid. I licked my wounds while shaking it down with a series of heavy-sweaty African ladies. The club closed up around 01:00. Outside, a wrestling match broke out and Anna and I ended up both soaked in cheap beer. Stinking like 'ell, we moved a little down the road to a crumbling shack of a place replete with billiards, dodgy geezers, and even more heavy-sweaty African ladies. I reckon that big mamas are not really my type, but they can move like nobody's business. Sex partners and dance partners do not have to be overlapping sets. All of a sudden, the decision was made to leave. I learned outside that Jason's camera had been stolen. I will leave the details for him to tell, but suffice to say it was a fairly brazen theft.

About this time, we started to lose steam. Joanna decided to hit the sack, so Jason was dispatched along as escort. Anna and I hung out on a street corner like eurotrash hobos sipping beer and smoking terrible cigarettes. Jason returned a bit later, but himself retired after only a short time. This left Anna and I sitting in a doorway like vagrants laughing and generally doing not much of anything. The allure of homelessness is only slight, so it wasn't long before I was walking Anna uphill to her happy Salvador home.

The road to Anna's hostel was long and dark, so we had to stop here and there to rest in a doorway, chat, have a cigarette, or wrestle. We arrived without incident and spent another fair bit of time talking. Only the arrival of the sun broke up the party and I sadly bid farewell to my Flemish comrade. I like people that like to play, and she was a fine playmate. I set out for the OC's Salvador HQ at a speed somewhere between "stagger" and "stumble". I am not completely sure, but I may have fallen asleep in a doorway for a bit. I did not get robbed or murdered or accosted in any way. I believe the odor of stale beer must have kept the banditos at bay.

The next day I woke up safe and sound with only a mild hangover. It had been awhile since I had such a complete and enjoyable day. The loss of the camera is a bummer, but somehow seems like part of the place. Even the best experiences in Salvador are colored by crime or the fear of it, so am not letting a little bit of theft get me down. The only lasting negative from the evening is that we will likely not see the Belgians again. They are spending Carnaval in Salvador, while we are presently waiting for our plane to Rio. I left an open invitation to come visit in London and I hope that it is taken up. One of the hardest parts of this kind of travel is the number of times you have to say goodbye before you really finished saying hello.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh King Mikey!!! you didn't forget about me!!! ;)

Yes, thats right! have those tea and crumpets.....I'll join you someday in London when I am visiting my dad's stomping grounds (Wandsworth & Surrey)....we'll do tea and crumpets the right way!!!

3/06/2006 2:01 PM gmt


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