If there’s one reason and one reason alone to go to Salvador, particualarly if you like traveling with your stomach as your guide – then acaraje has to be it!
Made from ground feijao, (black-eyed peas), this deep fried ball of goodness is then topped with spicy sauce – ask for it ‘bem quente’ (trust me!)
After the spicy sauce comes a seafood mix, some salsa and a few other variations depending on the vendor you’ve chosen. Top it off with a few prawns and you have a cheap snack that packs a punch, which I have to say isn’t common in the foods in Brazil…
I hadn’t had one in 6 years, so I asked the baiana lady if her acaraje was awesome, because after 6 years, I needed awesome. She laughed, assured me it was and then asked me if I wanted it hot or cold (spicy or mild). Very hot please was my reply. It burnt the sides of my mouth and throat, but it was truly an awesome acaraje.
This street food is sold by vendors all throughout Brasil, often by the Baiana women, wearing their traditional costumes. For awesome acaraje in Salvador, head to the lighthouse at Farol do Barra. I think her name was Maria… Still savouring the taste!
Bidding my island adventure adieu, I was on a plane to Salvador. Having been there last time in 2005 and stayed mostly in Pelourinho the historic centre. It rained every day last time I was in Salvador and I didn’t even get to experience their beaches once. This time I planned differently… I stayed in a great location in Barra, near the lighthouse. The pousada Ambar was awesome and had spectacularly good breakfast each morning.
I had a pretty watery connection with Salvador, and it still held strong this time. Finding myself cut off from the beach due to the rain, it was back to the Mercador in Pelourinho for some trading. Yes, it’s touristy, and there’s plenty of ‘religious’ women who want you to grease their palms for your protection and blessing… but there’s genuinely some great merchandise there as well.
The famous Elevator connecting the high part of the city with the lower costs just 15c to use. It’s kind of a must if you’re there, and a quick and easy way to get up and down between the two parts of the city.
At the market, I found a lady selling the most awesome necklaces made out of small tiny seashells, each one meticulously painted a different hue. She also had some amazing necklaces made out of the seeds of acai, my favourite amazon berry! (A plus was that Australian quarantine had no issue with either!)
It was a good days activities while the rain persisted.
But finally, a smidgeon of sun broke through and I was determined to see what Salvador life on the beach was all about.
While not the crystal clear waters of Fernando de Noronha, it does have some great swimming spots. Porto da Barra is one, where on a small slice of sand, the sun worshippers flock to pray to their god.
Serviced tents provide everything you need (water, shade, and a watchful eye while you bathe) and they even water the sand under your feet so it doesn’t get too hot. (I did find that a bit too strange…)
With a calm bay in front of you, this sheltered beach faces out to a row of boats moored about 500 metres off shore. With a brisk swim, swimmers make their way out to the boats to sit on them, sunbathe and strike up a conversation with another swimmer.
Again, just like Rio, you can buy almost anything on the beach, so just bring a little money, sunscreen, sarong and a sense of fun…
Salvador… I hated the place to begin with but loved it by the time I had to leave. The charm was slow to grow as it was constantly raining and the endless requests for money got to even the most patient traveller. But on my last night in Salvador I met a cool 12 year old kid called Jefferson who after trying to sell me peanuts, decided to stick around and chat. After a while he asked if he could have 1 Real (50c AUD) for a hotdog. Not one to deprive anyone of their mustard or ketchup intake, I obliged. He returned with hotdog in hand and a grin on his cheeky face. After offering me a bite, he sat down to become my tour guide for the rest of the night. Dancing along with the other backpackers at my table, he took us round to show us the best places to dance a little samba and hear some great music… and I left Salvador a musically satisfied man.
One other thing in Salvador that I should explain is the ribbons or ‘fitas’ from the famous ‘Senhor do Bonfim’ church. People buy them at the church as presents of good fortune for others. The different coloured ribbons are then tied around someone’s leg or arm with three reef-knots. As each reef-knot is tied, you have to make a wish. Once tied to your wrist or ankle, you must let the band fall off by natural means. They last anytime from 1 month up to 2 years according to the stories from other travellers. Mine has been on my arm now for almost 2 months and it’s not too stinky yet although it has gone rather stiff and is losing its colour.
Ahhhhh… Bahia. Home of spicy food, capoeira and Afro-brazilian rhythms. I kicked off this adventure with historic Porto Seguro – the coastal city where Brazil was first discovered by the Portuguese over 500 years ago.
The first night there I had a great experience with a local tattoo artist who approached me to draw a henna tattoo on my arm. My greeting included a firm reminder that I did not want a tattoo and also that I had next to no money. He continued to talk and then next thing I know he started drawing a tattoo on my arm. Now he was fairly interesting and was pretty funny so I let him continue, reminding him that I didn’t want one, but thinking maybe I could give him a few Brazilian Reais for the effort. After completing a fairly large and impressive tattoo on my arm he tried to convince me that the tattoo was worth about 150 Reais ($75 AUD) but that he would give it to me for 130 because I was a nice guy. Laughing hysterically I told him he should go back and learn basic portuguese as I had said I had next to no money and didn’t want a tattoo to begin with.
His response to this revelation was interesting, as he whistled for his 6’2″ amigo to come over. Having a whole inch more in height but considerably less in the muscle department I still kept up the banter, “And you are?”. The “tatt” artist explained the non-payment situation to which I added a basic reminder of how business transactions operate in 99% of the world. The artist tried to get a bit desperate then saying that he needed to pay his slightly over-beefed friend for the tattoo. Pondering what it must be like to be a henna tattoo pimp, I laughed again, gave him 10 Reais ($5 AUD) and bid him and his tattoo pimp a good night.
After that I headed to nearby Arraial d’Ajuda where amongst other things I encountered the very man who supposedly created the Lambada dance craze of the 80’s. There’s a bit of contention between Bolivia and Brazil about who created the dance, but seeing as the word ‘lambada’ is a portuguese word, I tend to believe the Brazilians. I originally thought the lambada was from Mexico or something, but after seeing the locals dance in Arraial d’Ajuda, I am without doubt that it began in Brazil.
Arraial d’Ajuda is a beachside village of hippies and tourists who come together at the beach to play and frolic in the calm waters. Picture hundreds of people all playing sports, drinking and grabbing that tan. Then move 3 km down the beach and you are standing on an isolated stretch of coast where one or two people are practicing capoeira on the sand, and the others are strolling about aimlessly, but content. You choose the type of beach you want and then spend the next few hours lapping it up. I stayed for a week…