Sunday, January 2, 2011

Booty-ful Bahia

After our Amazon Adventure, we took a red-eye flight to Salvador in the Brazilian province of Bahia.

Bahia is one of the most diverse parts of Brazil and has a very strong African influence from the many freed slaves who formed early communities in the area. Famous for its cuisine, capoeira and candomblé, Salvador, Bahia’s capital (and the first colonial capital of Brazil), embodies the best of all those things that come to mind when people say, “Brazil.”

Beaches & Bikinis

We spent several days in Salvador enjoying the beaches of the classy Barra suburb with our new friends from the hostel: Cassie, Mike, Jamie, Rob, Kevin & Thiago. On the weekend, it got extremely crowded but all the Brazilians seemed comfortable being in such close quarters and were all very pleasant and good-humoured about it.

Besides catching much-needed rays in between cooling off in the water, we spent our time eating mystery meat on a stick, drinking cold beers and maracuja caipirinhas, and watching people: guys practicing capoeira on the beach (see below) and girls prancing and dancing in tiny bikinis.

The unselfconsciousness of the Brazilian women was a wonderful thing to see and something that all us Anglo-Saxon gals could learn from. All the women, regardless of the size of their tummies, thighs, boobs and butts wore these little bikinis and enjoyed any and every bit of attention they got. Of course, the boys just liked to look.

Girls at the beach at Praia do Forte

Guys also wear small swimmers

Sunset in Salvador


We were in Bahia for a very important football (soccer) match against Portuguese (the São Paulo team). If Bahia won, they would move up from the B League to the A League. Needless to say, there was a lot of excitement and tension at the bars on the corner of our street when a group of us from the hostel went to watch the match that Saturday night, surrounded by locals.

Bahia won, 4-0, and the whole city seemed to explode. Cars were honking, grown men cried tears of joy, everyone was dancing, and for the next 2 days (it happened to be a long weekend), everywhere you went, someone would spontaneously shout “Bahia!” and everyone around would cheer.


As well as an abundance of the delicious fresh fruit you find everywhere in Brazil, we ate a lot of great Bahian cuisine.

My personal favourite was the moqueca, a kind of spicy fish (or seafood) stew made with coconut milk. Feijoada, a bean stew with beef and pork, was another favourite. And everything, meat skewers included, was always served with farofa, a toasted flour made from cassava.

And of course, we ate churrasco. Lots of churrasco. Jace loves meat, so all-you-can-eat meat (with a great salad bar which included sushi and paella) could not be overlooked. And for R$35 (= AU$21) per person at a very good quality restaurant, it was also excellent value.



It wouldn’t’ve been Brazil without delicious caiprinhas! Our hostel in Barra had free caipirinhas between 7 & 7.15pm each night (limit 1 per person, unless you’re Rob), which was a great start to the evening. I was shown how to make them properly one night (Link recipe blog), but someone also came up with an easy version which involved mixing limes (or maracujas) with cachaça and Sprite. Not as good, but still gets you happy!

Back L-R: Jamie, Kevin, Mike, Cassie, Alix, Rob; Thiago in front


Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian form of music/dance/martial arts. It looks really cool and is actually quite tough (as we found out when we tried to do it in Rio de Janeiro). Jace and I went to a dance show by Balé Folclórico da Bahia in the Pelo (Pelourinho) area of Salvador, which featured a display of capoeira at the end of the performance. The athleticism and speed of the men performing was amazing.

We also saw some guys practicing their acrobatics on the beach.

The capoeira boys


Also at the performance of the Balé Folclórico da Bahia, we were introduced to candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian Animist religion which is basically worship of various African gods (orishas) by means of possession/trances, offerings, sacrifices, healing, dancing and percussion. At the Afro-Brasilian Museum, we learnt more about this interesting religion and the influence of the Africans in Brazil.

The various candomblé orishas

Iemanja, goddess of the ocean, as represented by the famous Brazilian artist Carybé


Ok, so maybe you don’t think of turtles necessarily when you think of Brazil, but at Praia do Forte, north of Salvador, there is an awesome turtle sanctuary, Projecto Tamar, that is working to save the sea turtles along the Brazilian coast. You can go there to see the different kinds of turtles that nest in Brazil (and some sharks) and learn about how they’re working to protect these endangered creatures. They planned to release 1 million baby turtles into the wild last year.

Baby turtle <10cm long

Turtle and shark happily coexisting

Bones of an ancient turtle, the archelon, which lived 70 million years ago. It could be up to 4.6m long and weigh up to 3 tonnes

After 10 days of relaxing in Bahia, we had to fly south to Rio de Janeiro. When we got there, we found more beaches, bikinis, capoeira and caipirinhas, but it had a very different vibe. Rio is cosmopolitan, touristic, fast-paced and international. Salvador, in contrast, feels relaxed and comfortable. For a couple of weary travellers, Bahia made us feel the most at home in all of Brazil.

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