Carolyn Broadwell - Travel Tidbits - Dec 2003 - Jun 2004

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Island and Salvador

Well, I think I left off with the description of buying my ticket for the island of Ferdinand do Noronha, and after that a retraction on my description of the looks of the guy who helped me get it... got lots of mail on that!

And now I am about to leave Salvador, Bahia.

The island was beautiful, and quite a surprise to me. It is mostly black rock, being the remains of old volcanos, with a few beaches here and there. It's very rugged, and the landscape is dominated by one "pico" or volcanic core that sticks straight up. In my guidebook it was translated as peak, but that doesn't begin to give an accurate idea of how it looks. I'm not sure how to describe it other than to say it is rather erotic looking, which is a fine description, given the general atmosphere in Brazil!

It still amazes me - the amount of flesh exposed - and I still say it has to be partly the climate. I've just spent a few hours in a shopping mall (killing time waiting for a bus) and was quite amused to see the variety of ways that Brazilian designers have devised to make tank tops interesting. That's more or less what everyone wears, in its infinite variations. That is, when they aren't in bathing suits, of which there were thousands in the stores, and they just couldn't be any tinier. I saw lots of them in use on the island.

On Noronha, I stayed in a family pousada, with air conditioning, private bath, frig, and TV. The couple who ran it was young, and constantly cleaning everything, everywhere. It was called Bela Vista, but it didn't really have luch of a view. I think I had the best room, since I was on a package deal.

My package included a historical walk of about three hours, which was arduous, but I wasn't the oldest person on that. I had a companion who was 79! And full of pep. We both got congratulated on making the whole trek.

The most notable congratulation for me was by a man who came to me and engaged in further conversation. He told me he wanted me to know, as an American, that his mother, who is 92, had just removed the American flag from her dining room, after having had it there in the place of honor for the last 50 years! Our current foreign policy was the reason; she feels we (the USA) are not acting responsibly, given our power and strength.

The day following the walk, we were taken on a 4 hour boat ride along the entire north coast. The white waves breaking over the black volcanic rocks were spectacular. There were lots of dolphins in one of the bays; it's a marine refuge. And there were a few beaches, with light brown sand - not sure where that colored sand comes from. But Noronha is the first place in the international surfing competition to gather points, and the year's first surfing event was being held when we were there. The surfers go everywhere for the waves. A Brazilian surfer was staying at my pousada, and he'd been around the world...

I walked, too. In the heat! But one time I was offered a ride in a "buggy," which was the main method of transportation for everyone except the tours groups. (We were hauled around in vans.) The buggys are open, but covered on top. Great for the climate.

When I left Noronha, I had no definite plans. I decided to see what I could get to from Natal. There was nothing from the airport; it was a Sunday, and flights were full. So I went to the rodoviaria (bus station), and the earliest bus I could catch that was going anywhere I wanted to go was to Salavador. That meant about 5-6 hours of people watching and reading. I made real progress in Tolkien's The Two Towers!

In Salvador, I stayed right on the main plaza in the center of the old historical section. This is really a beautiful city! And I say that even after all the warnings of theft and muggings, etc. (Which does take the edge off of really enjoying a visit...) There were security police everywhere, and signs on buses - and still I had a guy grab for my bag. (He didn't get even close to holding it!) But after a while, I did relax, holding my bag close to my front, and walked around enjoying everything.

The city is on a lot of hills, on a beautiful harbor. (I should give a little history, but if you are that interested, you can look it up.) It's usually noted as the most African city in the Americas, and one of the manifestations of that is the music, which is everywhere, too. The historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it deserves that designation. (It might even rival Havana.) It was also the most important Portuguese city in the Americas in early days, and a major slave trading center. The remains of the grand churches show the early importance, and the dominance of the slave trade shows in the large black population. But there is lots of mixing - not unlike the Caribbean in overall population appearance. In that way, it isn't so much like Africa.

I'm now in an internet in the rodoviaria, which is quite a place. This one isn't as simple as the one in Natal was. Besides the internet, which is big and fast, there is a supermarket, big drug store, plus many boutiques, fast food stalls, tourist service, and 2 taxi co-ops, which give you the price and send you to a taxi from their stand. (The advantage is that you can't get ripped off, and you know how much it will cost. In Fortaleza, I did get ripped off once - not for much, but it still made me mad.)

My next bus jaunt is 30 hours, on a semi-leito bus. That isn't as luxurious as the leito I described getting to Natal, but it's what I took to get here, and adequately comfortable. And the roads from here on are better, too. We stop at many road side stops designed just for the buses, where there is food and clean toilets. That was important on last trip, as I had tummy troubles. I woke up in the middle of the night - on the bus - with acute pains - and it is a good trick to hang on and go to the toilet on the bus. Planes are easier! Imodium did the trick, and it's easy to renew my supply in pharmacies here.

I think this is long enough - maybe too long - but I have time to kill before my bus leaves, so this was a good way to do it.

I love opening my email and getting messages, so anyone who wants to, please write!


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