To those of you who are fortunate (or not, depending on your perspective) enough to be able to open this attachment, it is time for another crazy Anita update. This time I wish to reflect on my travels in Brazil!
First of all, I would just like to say that things on the ship have been somewhat weird since Brazil. Everyone is contemplating the inevitable fact that the journey is very nearly over, and that its time to go home. I have mixed feelings myself. I am looking forward to seeing my parents in Miami (yes!! They are flying in to greet me, with Monica too!) And going home to Boulder and seeing my friends whom I’ve missed so much…. On the other hand, we keep getting lectures and ‘discussions’ about how we are supposed to cope with re-entry. We are warned that things will not look, feel or seem the same, both because the US is not the same country as when we left, and because we are not the same people as when we left. I truly do not believe that I will be able to absorb the full impact of this voyage until months from now….Sharing my experiences with you all has been incredible though. I am so blessed. See you all in Colorado in a couple of weeks, and to those of you in England – I fly in Christmas Day!!
Anyway, so we arrived in Salvador, Brazil on the 19th of November. The weather was once again balmy and tropical, but without too much humidity. It was perfect. Unfortunately, I arrived with a stinking cold and I had to take it easy for the first couple of days. I had planned to travel out to a National Park called Chapada Diamantina, and stay in a town called Lencois, on the third day of our stay, with a few friends. In the meantime, I hung out in Salvador and soaked up Brazil. Our ship was docked about a ½ mile from the old district of Salvador – the Pelhourinho. This is an area, which was used to sell slaves imported from Africa until the late 19th Century. It is now an area of hand cobbled streets, narrow alleys, glorious architecture, catholic churches and cathedrals, and many cafes and restaurants. I spent the better part of the first day happily wandering around, visiting whatever seemed appealing. Each building is painted a different pastel color, making this a real photographic heaven. It was beautiful, a step back in time. And speaking of time, this was another taste of the Seychelles – life has a very slow pace here.
The following day, I took a private tour of the rest of the city of nearly 2 million inhabitants. We visited several monuments and residential districts and churches. One of them is called the Bon Fim church, which is famous for the miraculous healing that takes place there. There was a rather creepy room inside the church where people had taken photos of their various injuries, diseases and lost limbs that had been miraculously cured during their visit. That evening we spent at the Pelhourino, watching a live concert by the Brazilian band, Oludun, who were performing in honor of Black Consciousness Day – an annual celebration marking the freeing of the slaves.
The following morning we departed at 6am for our bus ride to Lencois. The journey took 6 hours, but the scenery was magnificent along the way. This two night, three-day stay has definitely been a highlight of my voyage. This was despite our facing a rather unique start upon our arrival – a raging forest fire. Apparently it was set off intentionally to make way for agriculture. I had not expected to see deforestation in Brazil so close. It was pretty spectacular, especially at night when it lit up the sky in a deep orange glow. The town of Lencois itself is a beautiful, and authentic little village that was easily traversed on foot. Lush forest and mountains surrounded it. Our first day, we took a tour. The day was simply magical. We started off with rather a daring adventure – we were driven to this canyon that had an enormous waterfall, and was surrounded by cliffs. This is where I decided it would be fun to go zip lining – this is where you are attached to a rope and you jump of a cliff and land in the water below. Well, it seemed simple enough, until I got into the harness and was standing at the edge. At this point, I turned to the guide and said, I’m sorry – I just can’t do it! At which point he laughed, informed me that I had already paid, and pushed me off the cliff!! Needless to say it was too quick to be frightened – but it’s the closest to bungee jumping I’ll ever do, and I loved it. It was such a thrill that I immediately climbed back up and did some freefall cliff jumping. Wow.
From there, they took us to a peak, which we climbed for a breathtaking 360-degree view of the park. It reminded me a lot of Yosemite in California. From there we drove to an area of caves, where we were told that we could go snorkeling into the cave with flashlights!! The water had 60 meters of visibility. This had to be experienced, so I madly signed up. The experience turned out to be one of the coolest of my life – I can’t really explain it with words – it was like being in the movie The Abyss, swimming in pitch black darkness, with the roof of this enormous cave just inches above your head, shining flashlights into the crystal clear water to see it teeming with fish despite the dark. Inside the cave, we all switched off our lights to feel what real pitch black is like. It was surreal.
After this, I didn’t feel like I could handle any more excitement, but more was in store. They took us to the largest caverns in Brazil – we hiked down into a canyon for about an hour and then entered this cave, which was over a mile long. It took us about 45 minutes to walk through it. The ground was the finest sand I’d ever felt and some of the stalagmites and stalactites were over a 100 ft long. It was truly spectacular, and once again, we experienced pitch black when our guide extinguished his lanterns. By the end of the day I was a shadow of my former self, covered in red dust, dirt, rain, and sunburn. We fell into a restaurant and ate the best meal ever. From there – I collapsed into my hotel room bed.
Our last day in Lencois we went horseback riding. I have a little experience riding horses, and I’ve always enjoyed it. However, if any of you have tried it in the US – you will know that it tends to be a mild affair – the horse is plodding along while you enjoy the scenery? You know, liability issues. Well, NOT in Brazil These horses were feisty, fast and furious. When mine first broke into a canter, I though I was going to be thrown and killed. Eventually I got the hang of it – I just had to relax and “go” with the horse. Wow, it was exhilarating. We rode out to river where we swam and then hiked to another series of waterfalls. On the way back, these horses seemed to know that they were going home, and OH MY GOD! – they were galloping and racing each other. I jolted every bone in my body to kingdom come, – and paid for it for about a week. I discovered muscles in my inner thighs which I didn’t know I had, and I felt that a cervical vertebrae had for sure switched itself with my tail bone during the violence. It was really exhilarating.
We took the night bus home that evening – and I slept like any bruised and battered person would, out like a light. I was so tired that I crawled into my cabin and slept right through my alarm for a tour the next day to Capoiera.
The last day in Brazil, I really needed to take it easy – so I spent the day shopping. (for presents for all you lot, Ok?) I was very sad to leave – I loved it here, and as usual, I didn’t get to do some of the things I’d planned – like going to see Candomble (the Brazilian African religion) and personally witnessing a trans-possession ceremony, or getting my cowry shells read, or trekking in the Amazon, or partying in Rio. But as is usual in every port, one only has time for so much, and I had a wonderful time. There will be a next time, I for sure want to come back.
Well, I hope I haven’t bored you all to tears. I have missed you all and am eager to see you and hear all your news. I hope that you’ve enjoyed my chronicles. Perhaps I’ll have time to send one more from Cuba…… Until then, much love and wishes.