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Wednesday 20 Jan 2010
Salvador, Brazil

In the land of Bahia and crazy drivers!

Wrecked beyond belief, I arrived at Salvador airport around 6am and quickly got a taxi to the Alpha Hostel (or "Alpha Pousada" as they're called here), which I read is located in a laid back part of Salvador beside the sea called Barra (pronounced "Ba-ha"). My taxi driver was a little bloke that looked like an extra from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, standing about 5ft, but for some strange reason he had issues with eye contact so my main form of communication in Brazil (i.e. a lot of pointing and gesturing with my face) wasn't gonna work on this guy.

And to help matters no end, as soon as we had left, it became apparent he had no idea of the location of my hostel, despite me having the full address.

As we drove along I began to consider just what use my travel insurance was going to be considering it wouldn't compensate me for any flight delays less than 12 hours (and even then, it would only be a small bit)... then I began to wonder why my taxi driver seemed intent on driving through red lights and had a tendency to drive over the lines on the road so that he in fact took over a 1/2 lane on either side (this seemed to be common to all road users here)... Suddenly to our left a car comes swerving within 1m (remember we are all travelling around 120km/h), before swerving sharply left in front of another car and smashing into the kerb, flipping the vehicle sideways and in a 480 degree spin, while causing a pileup behind!! It was like watching a movie or one of those dodgy SkyTV cop reality shows. If we left the airport 1 second later, that could have been us smashing into the loco driver.
Welcome to Bahia!

So eh.. what was I saying about travel insurance? Oh yeah.. best decision ever!

We had much fun trying to find hostel. Being typical of most hostels, it was situated in a fairly non-descript small street away from the main thoroughfares. Makes for a nice quiet place to sleep, but a nightmare to find. The taxi driver was a particularly stubborn little guy and his insistance at not looking into my eyes got me into such a huff I was on the verge of whacking him! Even when I crouched down to his level, face to face, he just seemed to stare "through" me. Maybe he was blind. Judging by his driving this is likely. I even saw the hostel sign once as we drove past it... imagine how frustrating it is when you KNOW where to go, but can't tell the driver. Walking wasn't an option as my bags weighed a ton, but I was seriously considering it... one blessing for the whole thing was that we agreed on a price for the trip (80 Reais, which is standard from the airport), so when the meter ticked past 120, 80 was all I had to pay! Tongue out

Somehow he got me there and thankfully the lads at the hostel were really cool and showed me to my room immediately. Collapsing into bed I was knocked out for about 7 hours!

Mostly a chill out day today... I wandered down to the beach and took in the view of the nearby palm-fringed promenade and got chatting to the folks at the hostel. As I've found so often, most of the other tenants were South American.. with the odd scattering of Italians, Ozzies and Brits. Maybe it's the recession back home that's keeping everyone away, but at least my Spanish/Portuguese should get better hasta pronto! I booked a twin room in the hostel (single rooms seem to be a non-entity in Brazil) and it was cheap, nice and basic, but only had a weak ceiling fan... so the room was constantly hot and I was left tossing and turning that night (later on I'd manage to borrow a stand-up fan, but after this I established a new REGLA NUMERO UNO: "Always get a room with AC in the Brazillian summer!". Despite this, I was thankful for my private room as the dorm was equally hot, but looked extremely uncomfortable with beds stacked 3 high. Whatever works for ya!

Before heading to bed though. I had dinner at an Argentinian pizza restaurant. Northern Brazil seems to have an abundance of Argentinian landlords and restaurants, which is great as they're usually friendly/helpful and excellent purveyors of food! Being Argentinian football fans though, the clientelle all sported dodgy mullet haircuts (I could tell by the large Argentinian gestures that one guy was even trying to convince another man to have his son get the mullet, and enjoyed flicking the back-hair around with ill-gotten pride! Nooooo!)

An interesting situation happened later though... kids from the local favela marched into the restaurant and asked for food and drinks. In any other country, the owners would tell the kids to get lost, but the staff in the place seemed kind of intimidated and were almost pleading with the kids to head off after giving them some stuff. They didn't bother me though as they seemed harmless enough, so I gave one of them some pizza (he seemed astonished that one guy would have a whole pizza to himself!) and he headed off. I wonder though if the restaurant would face some serious retribution if it turned the kids away. One of them heads back, picks up a gun and let's loose in true "City of God" fashion, taking a few customers along too...

Then again maybe that's just my overactive imagination!

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South America Twenty Ten

Travel blog by peterforan



After previously dipping my toes in Latin America via trips to Cuba and Central America, it's time to go for the big splash! 3 1/2 months to take in as much as I can, armed with little more than my camera, laptop and a few dodgy Spanish phrases.

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    Pelourinho architecture
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    Pelourinho doorway
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    Baiana lady serving Acarajé
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    Delicious Acarajé with caruru and Shrimp!