19.12.2010 - 24.12.2010 34 °C
No update from Salvador da Bahia, nor from Rio or Florianopolis – the wheels are already falling off this train! I'll cover all of them over the next few days and will keep things reasonably brief for everyone's sanity.
Arriving in Salvador from the bottom of Argentina was a paradigm shift – moving from glaciers to tropical beaches and from Spanish and European influences to the heartland of Afro-Brazilian culture.
Salvador is the state capital of Bahia and due to the somewhat unique combination of indigenous, Portuguese and African cultures has a very different vibe to the Southern parts of Brazil. Known as one of the best places in Brazil for Carnival, the city's profile has been increasing in recent years and tourism is having a huge impact. While increased visitor numbers has obviously led to a huge influx of money and certainly improved the living standards of many I can't help but think it has also created a caricature of the culture to some extent, given rise to some over the top tourist activities and created an army of scammers out to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists such as Jess and I - we were minor victims!
It also isn't known as the safest place for tourists to explore freely with areas outside the tourist centres essentially a no go for travellers. That said, if you (as recommended) confine yourself to the old city and a couple of small inner city beach suburbs you have nothing to be worried about – must be something to do with the police stationed on every corner!
While our first couple of days were spent antagonising Aerolineas Argentina and the associated airport staff into returning my lost luggage, we did manage to explore the Pelourinho (the old central city quarter where we stayed) and had a Tuesday night out (the biggest night of the week in the Pelourinho) when the streets come alive with free music and drum shows. Right next to our hostel there was a free concert which a local artist has put on every Tuesday for the past 8 years which we were able to watch from the roof. We also saw an amazing dance show showcasing the various styles of Brazilian dance and took a day trip out to an island to relax on the beaches and eat some of the delicious Bahian cuisine – stews made out of Fish and Shrimp.
In retrospect we had a great time in Salvador but I would do things a little differently if we came again. Firstly, the airline wouldn't lose the bags, which would be a great start and give us a couple of extra days! Secondly, I would spend only two days in Salvador proper (one of those being a Tuesday night in the Pelourinho) and then use the rest of the time to explore Bahia. Either north to Lencois and some great beaches and/or South to Morro (an island) and Itacare (great surf beach) all of which I have been told are amazing.
As Christmas Eve is an important night for Brazilians we were able to get a cheap flight from Salvador to Rio at 4pm on the 24th of December. I'll post the Rio update shortly.