We arrived in Salvador at around 4.30 pm to a welcome from the other boats who had arrived before us. It is already very busy with the lead up to Carnaval! The Tourist Terminal where we all are is in an old derelict part of town. City blocks full of empty vandalised squatted in high rise buildings, both residential and office. We found out that most of them are heritage listed as they have some lovely old Portuguese colonial architecture but structurally now are too unsound to renovate – so goodness knows where you go from there!? It is all quite unsafe in general but now in particular because of all the extra people in for the 4 days of Carnaval. It is the largest street party in the world with 4 million people attending. 3 million usually live in Salvador out of 200 million in Brazil (125 mil of whom are Catholic) Lots of ethnic cross over between African slave descendants, local Indians and Portuguese. Hard to know where one starts and another finishes really. Even the churches and religious ceremonies have native religious influences. We went to one church that has 850 kilos of gold leaf on it’s interior all of which was sourced here and sent back to Portugal for beating and sent back and applied!! The old part of the town (Pelourhino) which is accessed by an elevator is quite cute and old with cobbled/paved streets and a mixture of old and newer hotels, cafes, restaurants intermixed with lots of souvenir craft shops and religious effigy shops. You can buy replica body parts to take to this particular church and have them hung up for curing of the affected part of your body……hmmmm. I have seen this elsewhere but had forgotten about it. Look here for photos in the next day or so....... The sponsors evening prize giving went well except the sponsors couldn't get there as they were stuck all night in Carnaval traffic. We all got our T shirts nevertheless. chat Eau Bleu got it's first ever award! Nothing to do with sailing however - for knowing how many steps there were in Jacob's Ladder on St Helena!
Carnaval – well what can I say…….wall to wall people and massive mack truck type things covered in speakers booming out fairly awful music from 6 pm to 6 am for about 6 nights but with the 4 middle nights being the biggies. You can hear it from all over the city. It is in three parts. The more sedate (if you can call it that, like a soccer stadium melee) is Pelhourino. Then the city and a beach area which are wild. I have this on the authority of Dustin and Galen who ventured out each night till 3 or 4 am and got sweated on, trampled on, peed on, nearly fornicated on (on a gay type night)pick pocketed (unsucessfully luckily) and deafened. The crowds are so thick that you cannot get your arms up or down. The streets are walled or have shop fronts so you just get more and more squeezed up. Pete and I decided it was not going to be our thing so went up to Pehourino before the crowds and came back down as they arrived which was quite exciting enough, thank you. At one stage there was a 2 mile long queue for the elevator! We found a couple of really quaint hotels with closed in court yards with splashy fountains and sat in them a bit. Thankfully it has now finished and the streets and shops are a little calmer.
We have discovered the nicer parts of town now. Big, clean - massive really - shopping malls – that interestingly don’t have supermarkets in them, they are elsewhere. The biggest problem is the language barrier. No one speaks English. The Portuguese is a little different to the original according to our Portuguese boat people so my one year of Spanish is almost useless unless I can see it written down. At the hairdresser my data ran out for Google Translate so when I made a half inch gap with my fingers the guy though I meant leave half an inch! Oh well it grows. It is now quite dark salt and pepper – the first time it has been it’s own colour for at least 45 years! Look here for photos in the next couple of days.
My birthday! 60! Pete organised for us to go to a gem dealer. Mindy from Wayward Wind came with us. Super interesting. We heard lots about the local gem mining and discovered that the dark aqua marine is mined here, the only place in the world. We spent ages looking at trays and trays of gems and finally I chose an oval one for a ring and Mindy and I both got earrings. A very generous birthday present from Pete! Marcello, who is the local go to guy for everything turned up in the morning with a huge cake! So when it is cool tonight we will have the ARC people over for cake and champs. Out for lunch shortly. Thanks to Rupert and family and friends who have emailed calls etc so far! It’s looking like a great day already……There is a lot of Flemish blue and white tiling around the old town which is very pretty.