Before I started researching for South America, I could only name one Brazilian city. After the World Cup, I could name seven. After three weeks in Brazil, I have lost count the number of cities I have visited. Brazil is one giant and fascinatingly diverse country and I have barely scratched the surface.
Lindsay and I first arrived via the Argentina border at Iguaçu Falls. Brazilians pronounced Iguaçu ever so gently: igwa’su (c with a goatee is pronounced like an s). We pronounced it e-GWWAR-zooo (say it really bogan). Nobody understood us and when they did, they burst into hysterical laugher.
Anyway, back in e-gwar-zoo, we spent two days checking out some 275 individual waterfalls, grouped together on the Argentine/Brazilian border. The falls are wide, tall and loud. The Brazilian side provides a more distant, panoramic view while the Argentine side provides a closer look.
I prefer the Brazilian side because I love everything Brazilian. On the Argentine side, we took a boat which flirted with the side of the falls. This was enough to get us completely drenched. Besides the falls, we visited a bird park (lame). As 30-something year olds, we were the youngest people there. There was nothing else to do here so we quickly moved on, catching two flights to Salvador on the other side of the country.
Now Salvador feels like Brazil. It’s hot, it’s dusty and it has its fair share of favelas (slum housing in urban areas). It also has beautiful beaches. It is in fact, the only place in Brazil where the sun sets over the ocean thanks to a bit of a nook in the land.
Salvador is the capital of Afro-Brazilian culture and this is on proud display. Young Afro-Brazilian men are super fit and super topless all the time. Young Afro-Brazilian women don short short denim shorts regardless of body shape or size. Havianas are compulsory for everyone.
Also evident is Brazil’s more regretful past. Beautiful Pelourinho (historic town centre) with its colourful colonial building was once a place for trading and punishing African slaves. Some 4 million African slaves were brought into Brazil to work in the sugarcane fields in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The crafts and souvenirs market, the Mercado Modelo used to house new shipment of slaves. They waited here before being auctioned off. These days, all sorts of paranormal activities are reported after dark. The São Francisco church was built by slaves. In revolt, some of the faces of the cherubs are distorted and some angels have exaggerated sex organs.
Despite its dark past, the people of Salvador loves a good party and there is a street party in Pelourinho EVERY Tuesday night. The cobblestone streets are filled with African street food vendors and rowdy locals, singing and dancing to the beat of African drum. It’s like no one has to work on Wednesdays.
Salvador is bursting with culture and history. But unfortunately, beyond Pelourinho and a handful of beachside suburbs which are heavily patrolled by tourist police, it’s unsafe to wander. After two days, we took a bus and headed west to the town of Lençois to prepare for our fourth and final hike in South America…
To be continued…