"In your face."
23.08.2006 27 °C
Monday 21 - Wednesday 23 August
An early start from Lencois bus station saw us on the 08:30 to Salvador. Salvador is a sprawling urban city with a 'historic' central area. Arriving around midday we jumped straight into a taxi (best not to hang around South American bus stations) and headed for the centre.
Historic Salvador consists of a central square surrounded by a labyrinthine jumble of narrow streets, some pedestrianised some not, but all teeming with tourists and - notably - lots of Tourist Police. The city has gained a reputation for petty crime against tourists, so the abundance of uniformed officers was a welcome sight. The taxi driver found navigating to our hostel (cunningly hidden in a traffic-inaccessible side street) decidedly tricky, so he deposited us in the adjoining road and vaguely gestured us toward our destination.
Once checked in it was time to join the other Gringos milling around, and take in some of historic Salvador's fine architecture.
As we wandered, we began to see why people describe this part of Salvador as "in your face" - heavily tourist-oriented, you are frequently accosted by beggars, money-changers and hawkers. Prostitutes are less than discreet, although they seem to be tolerated by the police.
Not wishing to venture too far today, we retreated to an excellent coffee shop (I'm a coffee addict, and good coffee shops had been in short supply lately) where we stopped to watch the world go by, and enjoyed a decent early evening meal.
Tuesday 22 August
Our route through Brazil had dictated the visit to Salvador; moving on from the Chapada Diamantina, Salvador was the next major city from which onward transport to Rio de Janeiro - our last stop in Brazil - could be arranged. Today, we faced buying the tickets for the thirty-hour bus journey to the capital; a prospect I was dreading. We made for the travel agent recommended by our hostel and were shown bus times and prices. On a whim, I asked for the price of an internal flight. Our man hastily tapped away at his internet connection and gave us the answer. We were astonished - a 90 minute flight cost just a few quid more than the unfeasibly long (and loathsome) bus trip. We handed over the cash without hesitation. Tomorrow we'd be flying down to Rio! No evil bus! Woo-hoo!
Immeasurably relieved, we spent the day exploring further, and riding Salvador's huge public elevator down to the city's lowest level to browse a large handicrafts market situated by the harbour.
Later, returning to the square and with camera in hand, we were accosted by four ladies in elaborate costumes; desciples of Brazil's Candomble religion. They happily posed for pictures with us,
then suggested we part with £20 for the privilege! They seemed happy enough with a fiver...
The general bustle, noise and attention from traders hungry for the tourist-dollar can get wearisome after a while, so this evening we were grateful to find an oasis of calm in the form of a second-floor restaurant near our hostel, from where we could observe the goings-on in the street below in hassle-free comfort.
Wednesday 23 August
A slight hitch this morning; we had to vacate our room at 11am, but weren't due at the airport until 4.30pm and the hostel wouldn't store our backpacks for us. Luckily, the place where we had breakfast would, and so we were free to spend our last few hours in Salvador browsing the varied shops and sights, revisiting last night's restaurant for lunch and - naturally - topping up the afternoon caffeine levels in the coffee shop. And then it was time to board our airport transfer, check in our luggage and be whisked into the night sky en route to the fun, sun and romance of Rio.