Salvador: Cults, culture and crazy street parties!
Trip Start May 10, 2009
48Trip End Nov 02, 2009
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After a 25 hour overnight-and-overday bus marathon from Fortaleza, including a disaster of a lunch experience, sore backs, tired bums, bored stiff and starving we were only to glad to spot the golden arches and demolish some burgers! For the first time in a month, to order something you knew what it would taste, look and smell like was exactly the comfort we needed, before getting ripped off once again by Mr Taxi Driver en route to our hostel. Unfortunately we arrived at about 8pm, i.e. after dark, which in most Brazilian cities is not exactly the time to be lurking about bus stations with backpacks and lilly-white legs, hence Mr Taxi Driver got to buy a few rounds for his friends that night at our expense.
Our hostel was in the Pelourinho (Pelo for short). To give you a better idea: The Hood, the Ghetto, Govan Mbeki ave, Hillbrow JHB or Peckham. This we only really discovered after leaving the hostel during the day time.
The Modelo Market is where they used to trade slaves much like livestock are traded today. The slaves were kept in the damp, dark cellars below. Another punishment for them was to tie them underneath the market (which is above the water) and let them drown when the tide came in. Today it is a more acceptable souvenir market.
We also visited the Sao Francisco church which is a lavish building covered in gold inside! 1500 tons of gold (or something to that effect) just for the decoration on the walls and ceilings. The church was built by the slaves and to demonstrate their displeasure they purposefully disfigured the angels and statues throughout by making them look pregnant, having deformed faces or ridiculous oversized sex organs!
Our guided tour of the area was brilliant and we learnt so much more, too much to fill in the screens of this blog. A few more details are in the pictures...
Sadly though, the area is a hotbed of drug activity now and there are countless kids (some as young as 10) hooked on crack cocaine which is readily available just meters from the main sites. It is so terrible to see these wrecked shells of children, totally emaciated, spaced out and useless, crawl out of various holes begging for money for the next hit.
In our unenlightened opinion, it looked like people dressed up as African women, shuffling and jerking around, pulling faces and squawking like chickens from time to time. Also convulsing on the floor in front of their 'queen'. The people that enter the trance reappear later on dressed as though they are heading for a cowboys and indians fancy dress party!
It is hard not to sound condescending but upon reflection they might think similar things of our religious practices. I suppose one would have to grow up with these beliefs to fully appreciate the ceremony. We are glad to have experienced it, but its all a bit much for us.
We spent another day in the calmer, more relaxed Barra area, walking along the beachfront and swimming in some rather aggressive waves. We wondered whether Iemanja, the sea god, was unimpressed that we didn't embrace Candomblé!
(Unfortunately, not too many pics of this place as we were not keen on getting the camera out in some areas due to the dubious characters around and also rules against photography in all churches and the Candomblé ceremony.)
Next stop... Lençois!
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Where I stayed
Albergue do Pelo