2004 Brazil – Bahia

The boys from Brazil…

(Trip 1, Bahia)

9 – 17 May 2004

Since we bought our house we had gone through a holiday free period of over a year and a half when we decided it was the highest time for another trip. However, this time we took a bit of a different approach. We decided we wanted to go on an exotic holiday somewhere in the middle of May to wherever the sun was shining. Instead of checking out possible destinations we opted for a last minute via the internet. Kenya, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Cuba, Sri Lanka, Mexico, these had all the possibility for an inexpensive Last Minute booking on the world wide web… As said, we could not be bothered where we were going as long as the sun was shining, a beach was close and we had some time to relax and do, yes indeed, absolutely nothing but enjoy ourselves. It was quite an exiting time finding a trip to the unknown which fitted exactly in our two week leave period.

Well, as you guessed, things did work out. Two weeks before departure when we visited  the website from Thomas Cookand found a perfect nine day trip to Arraial d’Ajuda. Ehh, Arraial where?? The first thing we had to do was grab a map and check out where it exactly was. It turned out to be in Bahia, Brazil and very close to Porto Seguro where Pedro Álvares Cabral, a Portugeze, set the first time foot to Brazil although he was on his way to India. Well with him being more than just a bit confused, could we have found a better ‘surprise’ location to go to? We did not think so and were absolutely delighted with our destination.

After a ten and a half-hour flight and a short stopover in Salvador de Bahia we finally landed in Porto Seguro. After the lengthy Customs Procedures we picked up our bags and were transported to our hotel. During the short transfer we got a short glimpse of Porto Seguro and immediately liked it a lot. We took a ferry to cross the river and with high anticipation checked in into Pousada Areia Branca. It was a small, but extremely friendly hotel and we were sure we would have a wonderful time. Our room was simple but sufficient and it did not take long before we took a refreshing jump into the pool, followed by our first caipirinha, the local drink of choice.

The next morning we made a short beach walk and after our breakfast decided it was time to explore Porto Seguro. Although it was raining cats and dogs at times we could not be bothered and had a great time. The atmosphere was brilliant and we finally ended up in the historical part of town where the brightly colored houses of the former slaves were still to be found. Bahia is the black part of Brazil and the majority of the people are much darker colored than in the rest of Brazil. At several places we saw baianas de acarajé, women who are usually dressed in white and in front of them a table spread with a spicy and exotic assortment of Bahia’s own version of fast-food. Getting an appetite each of us bought an acaraje, which is a deep fried kind of bread made from mashed black-eyed peas and filled with camarão, small sun dried shrimp, and a hot pepper sauce. It was very tasty indeed.

In the evenings Porto Seguro became even more lively with countless open air restaurants spreaded along the streets, serving regional and international dishes. Of course we we’re not able to visit them all in our stay of just over a week, especially since there was an equally good selection of restaurants to be found in Arraial d’Ajuda.

One of the ‘attractions’ was the via d’alcool where at some evenings a drag queen performance took place while the spectators could enjoy large quantities of caipirinhas. I don’t know whether it was the impact of either the dreadful performance or the caipirinhas but I do remember waking up one morning after a visit to via d’alcool with a tremendous headache…

Although this holiday was mainly meant to do nothing an relax we could not resist making a trip to the Potaxo Indians in Caraiva. We took of with a number of people in two 4-wheel drives and headed of through a beautiful landscape. The first stop was a buffalo farm with 5000 buffalos. Due to the sheer size of the farm we only saw a couple of them and for whatever reason they were not very impressed by us as they made their way out on our arrival.

On arrival in Caraiva we had to cross the river by small boats and continue the final leg of the tour by buggies which brought us to the reserve where the Potaxo Indians lived. The short boat ride with a view of the beach was stunning and the buggy ride could only be called spectacular. Especially sitting in the back was good fun while the buggies found their way through the dunes.

We were welcomed by a number of young Potaxo Indians who joined us to their communal area where a short show was performed with several dances. Although they really did their best it all seemed a bit staged and you could notice they were still not used to their new found way of making income by dancing for not understanding and giggling tourists… I was not very eager on the ‘audience participation time’ but their was no way out their invite of dancing with them. Gosh, did I feel stupid. Anyway, it was well meant and a nice time indeed but maybe it was because my previous travel experiences to the far east, which had a much higher impact on me, that I could not really connect.

It wasn’t strange that the beach of Caraiva, which we visited after the visit to the Pataxo Indians, was the real highlight of the day for both Paul and myself. It was serene, virtually empty and seemed to come straight out of a picture book. We had a wonderful lunch over there, worshipped the sun and bathed in the crystal clear water. Far to early for our liking we had to head back to Arraial d’Ajuda but there was still a long trip ahead. At the end of the day we could look back to a very enjoying experience which was extremely well organized. We had booked the trip with Selvagem Adventure, which you can find in Arraial Darte, the gallery from Geraldo Casado, which is described a bit further on in this story.

After only a couple of days of holiday we already felt totally relaxed and it seemed we already were longer in Brazil than we actually were. Although we had already dined in Arraial d’Ajuda we had not visited it by daylight. Since it was not far away from our hotel we walked up there and after a steep climb arrived at the church. During daytime the whole village seemed to sleep and besides some hippies gathering at the market square there was not a lot going on. We strolled at ease through the empty streets and enjoyed the tranquil atmosphere. But then at times we found the unexpected. Arraial d’Ajuda was the last place to find it but with a big grins on our face we found a real dog parlor. Out of all places…

A couple of hundred meters from our hotel we found an art gallery. So far we had not been impressed by the souvenirs and art on sale in both Porto Seguro and Arraial d’Ajuda but this place was certainly different! Arraial Darte, the name of the gallery,  was owned by Geraldo Casado, an Indian artist who also painted the majority of the work on exposition in the gallery. He turned out to be a real nice man and we were really impressed by his paintings. I fell in love with an oil on canvas painting called ‘Harmonia’ and had a strong Tibetan theme, which was unusual to find over here. We made several visits to the gallery and had nice conversations with Geraldo and his wife, as far as the combination of their broken English and our total lack of Portugeze allowed. The dilemma was clearly there… We had found several paintings which would really do well at home but where should we put them? The living room was definitely out of bounds since that is exclusively limited to work from my friend Nyoman, also known as Guci Painter. Finally the paintings choose themselves. Paul fell in love with a painting of horse riding Indians in a Salvador Dali style and I found an abstract which was utterly stunning. Both of them would do perfectly well in our hallway and after a short discussion they were carefully being wrapped as ‘hand luggage’ and now reside in our hallway.

On the day before departure we took a bus to Trancoso, which is about 25 km south of Arraial d’Ajuda. The trip itself led us through a breathtaking landscape which was worth going already by itself. However the main attraction of Transcoso are it’s unspoiled beaches. You can walk for hours and hours gasping all the time what a stunning place it is, like we did. We waded through the warm and shallow water, strolled through the sand, admired the palm trees, the white sand and the mangroves, continuously telling each other how beautiful it was. I can go on for pages about the beauty of the area but I think a couple of pictures will tell more than a thousand words.

Finally we settled down at a nice location for a couple of drinks. The friendly waiter (and yes he was cute indeed, though a little bit young) showed us a couple of fish and we choose one which was to be grilled for us. While waiting for our lunch to arrive we saw Bernice, the hostess of our hotel, who also had a day off. We enjoyed lunch together and afterwards had a great time sunbathing, swimming and… enjoying numerous cocktails. At the end of the afternoon we headed to Trancoso ‘downtown’ where we took the bus back to Arraial d’Ajuda.

On the last day we decided to be even more lazy than we were before. The swimming pool, sun, caipirinhas and a light lunch were the ingredients for our last day in Brazil. In the evening we were brought back to the airport for a dreadful 10 hour flight back home…

Our first encounter with Brazil and it’s people had been absolutely fantastic and we had enjoyed every single minute of it. Although we knew beforehand this would be a short stay we hated to say goodbye. Little did we know that we would be coming back to the biggest country from South America within 4 months…