14.07.2010 - 28.07.2010 35 °C
Since leaving Rio, I have been covering a lot of ground in a fairly short period of time. My plan was always to head up the east coast of Brazil, heading for the Amazon. Closer inspection of the map had resulted in the dawning realisation of just how vast Brazil is and how far I had to cover. So the last three weeks have basically involved a series of long overnight bus journeys, each covering up to 1000km, with stops at various beaches and interesting cities along the way.
My first stop was Porto Seguro, a beach resort north of Rio. A couple of days there were enoguh to enjoy a lot of beach time and some particularly potent Caipirinhas on the town's "alcohol catwalk"- an area of the high street that in the evening is filled with booths selling food, drink and cheesy gifts. All too soon it was time to climb back onto the bus however and move on to Salvador.
My first proper beach - Porto Seguro
Salvador is a large city with a reputation for being the cente of African culture in Brazil and South America. This is historically due to the region's sugar plantations, which brought vast riches to a minority of landowners and also resulted in the import of thousands of African slaves. This has resulted in a vibrant music and dance culture, including capoiera - the martial art/dance reputedly developed by the slaves as a way of training in fighting techniques without alarming the landowners. Whilst there I went to a dance show which presented some of these styles. The highlight was a stunning capoeira demonstration with amazing spins, kicks and general athleticism. All of the dancers had ridiculously ripped bodies and I think the girls I went with were drooling slightly by the end, whereas I just felt intimidated!
Traditional Dress in Salvador
Salvador also has some lovely old buildings, including the Church of Sao Francisco which has a stunning interior with almost every surface covered in gold leaf - definitely 18th century bling!
A lot of the historic centre has been refurbished over the past few years, so areas such as the Pelourinho are very colourful. Salvador also has a reputation for one of the most dangerous places in Brazil, at least partly due to the large areas of poverty surrounding the city centre. Whilst I was there, some French girls had their bags stolen on the beach, so there is definitely some truth in the rumours. I played it (overly) safe and didn't leave the main tourist area or wave my camera about too much, and didn't feel too worried, but it definitely constrained where you felt comfortable going.
Colourful buildings in Salvador
After Salvador I headed for another beach resort called Praia Da Pipa. This is one of the most popular resorts for Brazilians, with a series of beautiful beaches fringed by palms and cliffs. A couple of the bays have a resident population of dolphins, which are supposed to come swim with you if you're lucky - unfortunately I wasn't. I only had a couple of days here, but enjoyed some nice walks on the beaches and some great sunsets.
If I thought these were good though, my next destination got even better. Jericoacoara is an amazing place - so remote you have to drive along the beach to get there and with streets paved with sand (if you can call that paving).
Jeri High Street
It's a really chilled place, famous for its kite boarding and the surrounding sand dunes. It is also one of the only places in Brazil where you can watch the sun set directly over the sea. As the sun descends, everyone races to the top of "sunset dune" a huge dune next to the main beach, where you get the best view of the sun slowly slipping below the sea. It's a mesmerising experience, even when shared with several hundred people.
Heading for Sunset Dune
The sun dips below the horizon
The other unique feature is a rock formation called Pedra Furada (literally "pierced rock"). This has a natural arch, through which you can watch the sun set from the beach at certain times of the year. Fortunately, this was one of those times, so I also got to see the amazig sight of the sun dipping behind the rock, then reappearing in the arch before disappearing for good. Very impressive, even if it was shared with twenty other people all fighting for the perfect spot to take the photo (I think I won!).
The final highlight of my time in Jeri (other than actually standing up on a surfboard for the first time ever) was a trip by dune buggy to Lagoa Azul - the blue lagoon. This is a vast lake formed within the dunes by rainwater. To get here you have to drive for almost an hour by dune buggy, the standard form of transport in Jeri. These are lightweight buggys with huge wheels, soft suspension and plenty of power for dealing with the soft, rutted sand. Our driver raced along as we hung onto the back, driving sideways up dunes just for the fun of it, as well as stopping to watch the local fishermen at work.
Local fishermen at work
Our transport for the day
View from the buggy
The lagoon has a little bar and restaurant on an island in the middle, so you catch a boat across and then can lie in the crystal clear waters sipping an ice cold beer in the sun - it's a hard life!
I'll end this now before everyone gets too jealous, my next post will probably be about being eaten alive by mosquitos in the Amazon, so less reason to be envious!