River Voyages

 Home Up Rolling down to Rio  



After about three months we finally left Centro Nautico and headed off into the Bay.  First stop for most sailors, and we were no exception, is Itaparica.  Only ten miles across the bay from Salvador and with a half-hourly ferry service, but a different and very pleasant world.   It's worth the trip just to experience the bus service, based almost exclusively on very old Volkswagen microbuses, into which are squeezed 10 passengers with their luggage the driver and a conductor.  Fortunately it's a small island so the trips aren't too long!  We believe the conductors are an interesting example of genetic engineering.  There isn't anywhere for them to sit and a microbus is too small to stand in, so they wedge themselves behind the front row of seats, bent double with their buttocks jammed against one window, their back against the roof and one hand pressed against the opposite window behind the drivers head.  With the remaining hand they contrive to collect fares and dispense change to all the passengers as we bounce along what is less a road and more a concentrated collection of potholes.  A secondary task until the bus is filled to capacity, is to shout the bus' destination at any pedestrian within earshot in the hope that they will make a spontaneous decision to join the trip.  This is achieved without any changing of position but by a swivelling of the head as demonstrated by the possessed girl in The Exorcist.


Every mile you move away from the cities the more the world changes and the further back in time you seem to travel, except for the ubiquitous satellite dishes that exist even in remote villages without running water, sanitation, electricity, etc.  How do they run the satellite TV?  If they don't have a generator they'll open the bonnet of a pickup and connect up to the battery!

We spent some weeks exploring rivers in Bahia de Todos os Santos and others further down the coast.  A few places had been discovered by tourists - mainly Brasilieros from the big cities - but aside from that the  life is pretty basic - fishing in dugout canoes, washing clothes in the river, etc.  The people are poor, but seem happy, friendly and interested in us and where we'd come from.  There seemed no sign of envy for our obvious relative wealth and no theft problems which exist in the relatively wealthy cities. 

Going into a local bar in one of these villages is an odd experiences too.  There'll generally be several locals in there, not drinking, just chatting.  None of them will have a drink, they can't afford to buy one.  So as soon as you walk in and order a beer you set yourself apart from them.  Nobody seems to mind.  With our Spanish and their Portuguese we normally have a lively conversation (though generally it's the same one).  Often I just want to buy everyone a drink, but that also feels the wrong thing to do.  When they do have a drink (say on market day) - it's cachaša the local distilled sugar cane - they start early, are very noisy and it's all over by 10pm.

But, although exploring the rivers is very peaceful, after a while, one river or fishing village looks much like another, one plate of beans or manioc slop is about the same as the last.  And really when all the people are living at close to subsistence level, there's not much room for great cuisine or high culture.   Places start to merge into one another and memories are defined much more by events than by location.  For example I vividly remember being saved from drowning (again!) by a combination of Lindy and a man in a dugout canoe, but where was that exactly (you will need to ask Lindy). We remember running aground trying to get out of a river entrance - the name of the river hardly matters though.  Werner running aground or having anchor problems - could be anywhere.  Our watermaker failing,  almost everywhere etc etc.

So, and if you think we're being lazy, you're probably right, but we thought probably some images would convey the feeling of Brasil much more than pages of writing:


The market is the same as it always has been and people get to it and away from it in the same way they have for hundreds of years.  They build their boats in the same way and not much changes - apart from the satellite dishes of course-


So what next, we'd been prevaricating for a while as to what would be our next step.  We could only stay in Brasil for another couple of months before our Visas expired and we would have to leave for a minimum of six months.  We were in no real hurry to head north to the Caribbean, which is the natural next step for most sailors.  Our first choice would be to visit Argentina, but although the trip south didn't seem too difficult, the return north looked much more tricky - or at least more uncomfortable than we wanted to be!  The other alternatives from Argentina are - South Africa (a long way and then where?) or south towards Magellan or The Horn (no comment necessary).

In the end a strange contradiction in the Brasilian immigration regulations came to our assistance and almost made the decision for us.  The law had recently been changed to extend the time that a yacht can stay in the country from six months to two years.  Unfortunately, the regulations applying to the crew had not been changed at the same time so we were still limited to 6 months!   So it was simple - We'd sail down to Rio, find somewhere safe to leave the boat for six months, fly to Argentina and then in six months or so time return with new visas.  Easy as that.  Time to head to Rio.


 Home Up Rolling down to Rio

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Last updated 18th March 2018