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:
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.