Quite often we find ourselves forming a basic opinion about a place prior to arriving. I personally, like to read about places but prefer not to look at pictures of it because I feel like it almost ruins a part of the excitement. Wade on the other hand, reads blogs, looks at photos, maps the route to our accommodation, stalks the governor of a city on Facebook and knows every dodgy part of town before we even leave the previous town!
So when it came to Salvador, I was really excited about exploring the city. We had spent a good two weeks chilling out on beaches, away from any real hustle and bustle so having a city to explore for a few days was going to be a welcome change.
I had booked us in to an apartment owned by an Aussie guy and his Brazilian wife, in the area known as the Old City or Pelourinho. All I knew about Pelourinho was that it had plenty of colourful historic buildings, winding cobblestone streets and was a real cultural hub of Salvador. The part I had conveniently overlooked was that Salvador is currently one of the worst cities in Brazil for violent crime.
Wade didn't overlook this so my excitement was met by his poor attitude at the thought of having to protect my naive arse for the next three days!
When we arrived by ferry, Salvador looked more or less like the biggest sh*t hole we have seen thus far. The lower part of the city is a panoramic view of crumbling old apartment buildings, broken glass where there once were widows and an overall grey and dull feel about it. We were with a friend we had met in Itacaré so we all decided to share a taxi rather than walking aimlessly with all of our belongings on our back.
We were greeted at our apartment by the owners' brother who gave us a quick intro before leading us up to their rooftop patio to give us a better idea of the city. Dave, the owner had written a 6 page "Guide to Salvador" for any guests in his apartment and as we looked at his maps and listened to his brother, all Wade I were hearing was: "don't go there, it's dangerous". "Don't go there after 4pm, it's also dangerous". "Go down that street to the right but not to the left. Left is the dodgy end of town". "Don't carry more than $50 on you and keep some small notes separate so you can grab them easily in case you do get mugged". "If you go out after 5pm spend the extra money to get a taxi even if it's only a 5 minute walk. The same goes when you're coming home".
Great! That usual excitement I get about exploring a new city evaporated in record time. We felt safe enough in our apartment as the family all lived in one big secure complex and had done for quite some time so it was just outside that we had to be concerned about!
We had planned to meet some friends from our week in Itacaré that first night (read our Itacaré blog here) so we jumped in a taxi and took off. Unfortunately it was Monday, which in Salvador is the most eerily quiet night I've seen so far in all of South America. Almost every restaurant and bar in the apparently usually busy nightlife district was closed. We had dinner and a few drinks with our mates before saying goodnight and jumping in a taxi to go home. About 5 minutes after walking through our door we heard a gunshot that we can only estimate the distance of but Wade reckons it was within 500m from our building. And on that note, we drifted off to sleep.
The next morning was absolutely miserable. Rain had been pelting down since early morning so we waited until it eased to head out. We went to the only two dry places we could think of. First a shopping centre for some basic necessities and then the Mercado Modelo which is the central market for art, handicrafts and souvineers. Markets are not usually on top of Wade's "to do list" but this one was fantastic. First up, we almost bought a massive two piece artwork before remembering that we don't have a house to put it in! We drowned our sorrows by stopping in at the next stall where a guy was selling a variety of local foods such as honeyed cashews, banana cakes and locally produced chocolate. He also had one of the biggest collections of cachaça we've seen in Brazil. Cachaça is the local liquor used to make Caprinha's. While I was tasting a delicious chocolate liqueur with a side of sugared coconut, Wade was given a shot of 70% cachaça that came out of a bottle containing not only the alcohol, but also a whole.... yes a WHOLE lobster. It smelt about as good as it sounds and while my shop keeper mate was pouring my second shot of chocolatey goodness, Wade pussied out, reached behind old mates back and quickly threw his cup in the bin without so much as a taste! Pffft soft!
The rain continued throughout the afternoon and night so after a quiet night in, I was determined to do some sightseeing the following day, rain, hail or shine.
We woke to a beautiful sunny day and headed straight into the historic Pelourinho district. Pelourinho is a large cobblestone area of town filled with more churches, museums and beautiful old buildings than you can poke a stick at. While there were certain museums I originally wanted to visit, we ended up going wherever was either free, had signs in English or offered an English speaking guide. Somehow this left us at the coin museum (about as fascinating as it sounds) and the Jorge Armado Museum which was actually quite interesting.
We wandered the steep cobblestone streets for hours, taking plenty of photos, listening to live music, watching a bit of Capoeira and just really enjoying this historic part of Salvador.
On our last night we went to sleep to the reassuring sound of two more gunshots which we convinced ourselves must be a nightly ritual similar to a 12 gun salute.
There was so much more we would have loved to see in Salvador but we have decided to pick up our pace over the next few weeks as Brazil is starting to suck our bank account rather dry. Tomorrow afternoon we leave Salvador on a 24 hour bus straight to Fortaleza. This was a difficult decision as we are missing quite a few places by doing this but we both know it's just not possible to see everywhere.
So with our phones charged, a bag of snacks packed and a good set of ear plugs, we are off to Fortaleza on a bloody long bus trip. The buses here can be quite hit and miss so I hope I won't have much to say about it in my next blog because I was sleeping soundly the entire trip..... yeeeeeah right!!
For the first time, we don't actually have a plan once we step off the bus so I look forward to filling you in on what we did in our next blog!
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Enthusiastic but Useless Traveler.