Destination Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia.
Discovering the district of Barra: the lighthouse, the beach, locally known as ‘Ipanema of Salvador’.
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Sunday, July 23 , 11 am.
We first went to the landmark of Barra: the Farol (light tower). The black and white tower monstrosity that was constructed on an elevated reinforcement pointed brutally in the grey sky. The palm trees in its surrounding area had grown in the direction of the prevailing winds. The telephone company was smart enough to have a telephone booth placed in the shape of the light tower, which was also painted in black and white.
Pale white tourists
There were few tourists in sight. Pale tourists with blond hair, wearing clothes that were not in agreement with the usual Brazilian fashion. Sometimes I noticed some expressions in American English, some in Spanish, and even in German. I was not paying attention to, but I did not notice any conversation in Dutch during my stay in Salvador. The fortress, with the lighthouse built within the walls, was an impressive structure. We approached the fortress, but it was closed. Bad luck.
The azure blue ocean looked calm. Small waves gently pounded on the rocks along the shoreline. Occasionally a large wave smashed against it; at high tide, waves almost reached the level of the road, which was about five meters higher. Young daredevils dived recklessly from the edge of the wall, into the water, amidst the rocks. For me, their child’s play appeared like a Russian roulette. A small mistake may have fatal consequences. But, who is about to stop them? Near the fortress, military police on horseback kept a close eye at the location. Was this some kind of prevention?
We walked along the coastal road. Ambulant vendors tried to attract our attention, but without success. They offered many trinkets – such as jewelry, hats, caps, sun cream – that had almost no value. On our right side, an obvious building appeared. Painted in light blue, with two apparently unequal towers. One of these towers had an ocher-colored statue on it. It was a Spanish hospital. The light blue contrasted strongly against the deep green of the grass that grew on the hills. There are more hospitals in Salvador that are associated with other countries like Portugal and the Lebanon.
We continued our walk, and arrived at another fortress. This fortress was located at a strategic point; the historic cannons were directed seaward. In the immediate vicinity of this fort, which also was closed to the public, small wooden boats were moored, some of them rested upside down on the dry land.
The weather was overcast, and the cool temperature was not very inviting for beach goers. Only a few withstood the relatively cold and strong wind. Were they foreigners? A man was making exercises with a homemade dumbbell that consisted of a metal rod with cast concrete at both ends. A very cheap but highly effective invention. In Recife, I already had tried this cheap alternative of a dumbbell. I have to admit that the cast concrete ends were not very light…
‘Ipanema of Salvador’
Finally, the sun had won the battle with the grey clouds, and started to shine abundantly, as if it was very pleased to see us walking. Now we did not hesitate and we went on the beach of Porto da Barra. The Ipanema of Salvador, according to the locals. For sure, this small beach strip must be very crowded at sunny and warm holidays; maybe as crowded as I was used to see in Dutch Scheveningen. There were stairs that gave access to the beach. The stairs were flanked by more ambulant vendors and small market stalls. One of these stalls was full of local Bahian dishes. One of the tasty snacks is acarajé. I already had tasted this delicious snack at the Sunday Market (Feira Hippie) at the Afonso Pena Avenue in Belo Horizonte. This first encounter was unforgettable, and now I really like this snack. And now we were in the region of the acarajé… I could not resist.
Barra beach life
Our group of ten sat down on the beach. On comfortable yellowish white sand. Carol had brought a canga (beach cloth) that had the print of the Brazilian flag. And she offered me to share this with her. Of course, I did not hesitate. A few of us could not resist jumping in the cold seawater. Only a few moments later, they ran out of the water, shaking heavily. Our heroes! We intensely enjoyed the warm sum, the pleasant beach, beautiful Barra, amazing Salvador. Our vision of a good life, of good holidays. Our throats became very dray, and it was decided to leave the beach. We went for a local bar and ordered some beers and soft drinks. We spent some hours there, gulping the beers, sipping the soft drinks, chatting and laughing with each other. Que vida chata!
At three pm, we decided to return to the pousada. And we took a rest on our mattresses. Carol came to visit me and we dozed together, enjoying a short beauty sleep. Unfortunately, there had to be an end to this relaxing sleep. We were about to go to the faculty at night, where we were invited to attend a welcome meal, and demonstrations of local Bahian dances. That seemed all exciting for me, and having a free meal is always welcome…
By Dr. Adriano Antoine Robbesom
Original text in Dutch, translation with help of Google Translator