Salvador de Bahia
, Brazil, as we didn't really know much about the country at that time. We literally had bought our guide – which become our bible – couple days before departure. Already our first steps in Brazil were very venturesome. The immigration officers at the airport (note that it wasn’t only one!) wouldn’t let me enter the country as I didn’t have a visa as Chinese citizens would need. Yet, I knew I didn’t have to apply for a visa as I’m holding a Hong Kong passport which has a different status than the Chinese one. I could see the sweat on Mihai’s forehead, fearing that we have to end our trip before it had even started. Luckily, the officers noticed their mistake after some while and we were finally able to start our trip. By the time we arrived in the historical city Pelourinho of Salvador, where our hostel was situated, it was already pitch black
. The bus we took left us at a dark, smelly and filthy square. We felt sort of lost. Several strange looking guys started talking to us, of course knowing that we were gringos
(foreigners). As we didn’t understand any Portuguese, it was frightening. <> We finally followed an English speaking beggar who led us to our hostel, but it turned out to be a bad idea since he kept bothering us for the next days. However, Salvador appeared totally differently on the next day by daylight. It has a very nice historical city with colonial houses, charming squares where people get together and a good beach. But that beach was not comparable at all to any other beaches of the East coast of Brazil. After spending 3 days in Salvador, we travelled south along the Bahia coast and we got to know the beauty of Brazil: Our next stop was the small island Morro the Sao Paulo
. It was just beautiful there. Several beaches offering activities, bunch of small shops and nice restaurants and many cute pousadas
(similar to a Bed & Breakfast). It was very nice even though it was touristy. Barra Grande
was even better. A small remote fishing village located at a peninsula with mile long beach and hardly any people.
The party town Porto Seguro
was also worth seeing. The Atlantic was coloured from emerald green to azure
. We strolled for many hours along the beach, our toes being tickled by the fine sand, and we would have kept walking when I wasn’t too tired after approximately 10 km.
The almost inaccessible tiny fishing village Caraíva
, where electricity was introduced 2 yeas ago, was stunning. The village was surrounded by the sea and a river, the beach beautified by mangroves as far as the eye could reach, its streets covered by sand and no cars. Admittedly, there was a taxi: a horse-drawn carriage. That’s all about it. The village wasn’t lighted so that it was really dark after sunset. We had to use our flashlight when moving around and it was very eerie when we met locals who didn’t use any light. Sometimes, they would just sit outside somewhere in the dark. Anyways, it was wonderful as the stars shined as brightly as we had never seen before. Due to a thunderstorm, the electricity turned out for more than a day and in the night time it was even darker than usual as there was no single source of light besides candles and torches. That was quite a unique experience.
The beach of Prado
was also striking. To see the play of colours of the sea and of the sky was hypnotising. I could keep on writing about the beauty of the beaches in Bahia, but pictures say more than words:
We travelled from beach to beach for almost three weeks. Yet, we were not only lying lazily under a coconut palm tree, in contrast we were actually doing a research – a research about the coconut. We all know that fruit. It is round, has a very hard brown shell, and has delicious white coconut milk and meat in the inside
. We have all eaten a coconut before, haven’t we? They are sold in supermarkets and also offered on every street and fun fair. So, can please somebody explain, why the coconuts hanging at the palm trees are oval or sometimes also triangular shaped, gigantic and green?! At every touristy place in Brazil, they sell agua de coco
(coconut water) by cutting off the top of that latter described fruit and serving it with a straw. Yet, the agua de coco doesn’t taste like coconut milk at all! It rather tastes like some sweeten water. Is it just a different type of coconut that we Europeans know? – Yes, it must be since it looks and tastes totally different!
However, every time when we were hanging around at a remote beach, Mihai was obsessed by the idea to pick a green coconut from a palm tree to have some refreshment. He refused strictly to buy one fresh agua de coco for about 1 € as he was ripped off when he bought one in Salvador. Yet, to pick a coconut was harder than it thought. At his first attempt, Mihai was using a long stick to try poking down a coconut. But that didn’t help and instead, his eyes turned bright red from the dirt which fell from the tree. Nevertheless, he didn’t give up and we finally found a palm tree where he could reach the fruit. I think I have never seen a happier guy than Mihai when he finally picked his first coconut!
Since that day, he was looking out for a reachable coconut he could steal from somebody’s tree every single day. Then, he would opened the green fruit with a small pocket knife and drank the agua de coco with high enjoyment as it wasn’t easy either to slice the coconut with a 5 cm blade. One bright day, he stole one again. But that coconut was much more difficult to cut open then the ones before. Cursing in the worst manner, he stabbed into the green coconut for a long, long time, hoping to reach the coconut water. But instead, his knife point met on a very hard shell, and we could hear that the coconut water was inside the shell. As the other coconuts we had had before didn’t have this shell inside the fruit, Mihai was really eager to find out what it was. He used sticks, rocks and his pocket knife to crack the shell but it was for nothing. Finally, when more time has passed by, he succeeded by using a pocket saw. That agua de coco was much sweeter than the other ones we had. Just yummy! Then we realized that there was a white coating on the inside of the shell. It was coconut jelly! Mihai was able to divide the fruit into two halves to get to the jelly. It was so delicious and that was the first part of the fruit that actually tasted like a coconut!
Because of Mihai’s parsimony and ambition, we found out that the Brazilian coconuts are the same ones that are also sold in Europe
. The difference matters in the ripeness of the fruit. A young coconut contains only coconut water which is often drunk as refreshment or also as water substitute. The coconut that we gringos know with its brown shell and white coconut meat is the ripe fruit. And before the fruit is exported, the green coating outside the shell is thrown away. That is why we don’t recognise 'our’ coconut on the palm trees. Moreover, it isn’t coconut milk but coconut water inside the fruit. The former is produced by man.
Did you know that about the coconut?! – Aha! That is why nobody should say that we are just doing some long vacation. No, we are working hard to discover the world! :)
After weeks and months of planning and longing for the day to come, the 12 of August 2009 finally set in: The day of our departure! It was a little bit weird when we boarded for our flight to