Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Some things I wish I could find on Bondi beach.

I'm not a beach person. Never have been. But if I lived in Salvador, Bahia, I'd probably be on Praia do Porto da Barra a lot.


There were a few things I expected to be the highlights of our 4 short days in Salvador.

The UNESCO World Heritage listed historical quarter of Pelourinho was definitely on the list.  

With its ankle-twisting cobblestone streets.

And candy-coloured buildings set on a hillside.

It was a typical Brazilian mix of the poor and mundane next to the magical and exquisite. 

Despite bad press, we felt completely safe there, thanks no doubt to the omnipresent police trucks and fully-armed policemen.
High on my list of things to do in Salvador was to glut on their famous food until I passed out. Heavily African influenced, it's a daily reminder of a time when Bahia was the centre of the slave trade.

There were heart-attack inducing, gooey caramelised desserts.
Oily seafood moquecas that sat heavily in the stomach for hours after eating.
This pic and a recipe from here.

Crunchy piping hot acarajés, stuffed with dried shrimp and okra and all manner of other unknown things, deep fried in orange palm oil [dendê ], splattered with a good dollop of chilli sauce.
This pic from here because I forgot to take one.
This pic from here, for precisely the same reason as above. You'll also find some info and 2 recipes for acarajés at this blog, including a VEGAN one...check that out, Ms C :)

Every acarajé stall had its version of the smiling portly Bahaina.
This pic from here.
I could be wrong, but I suspect they don't really dress like this every day, just to walk to the shops.

Strangely enough, I didn't get to eat any feijoada in Salvador. But more on that another day.

Finally, of course, I was in Salvador to do capoeira!

After more than 3 weeks of travelling around Brazil and not seeing a single evidence of this martial art in its homeland, I was beginning to doubt that it really was as popular as I'd been told.

But I was sure I would see it in Bahia, because THIS was capoeira heartland.
This blurry sign [blur because of my lack of camera skills, not because it really was] is one that any capoeirista from anywhere in the world will recognise. I finally managed to do a class here.

And this is arguably the most famous face in capoeira.

This video is for those of you who've always wondered what capoeira is, but was too lazy to find out.

Of course, this is very stylized. We're a lot more sweaty when we train. And NO! [because I know you're going to ask] - I don't do any of those circus tricks because I'm too damn old.


With So Many Great Things To Do In Salvador, how did it turn out that the thing I most enjoyed there was the beach?

It's a puzzle even to me.

A few steps across the road from where we stayed.
An unpretentious scrap-sized strip of sand next to a busy road. 
This pic from here.
Not iconic. Nowhere near as famous as Ipanaema or Bondi. Not even particularly pretty.
Yet - I'll go so far as to say this - the day that we spent there might be one of those flashes of my life that I get as I lie on my death bed.

Here are all the things I loved about Porto da Barra, and wish I could find on Bondi beach.

#1  Beach chairs and umbrellas for rent, no need to lug your own there unless you want to.

We rented our 2 chairs and an umbrella for just 8 reais [a little more than 4 AUD] for the whole day. Who knows? That might even have been the tourist price.

And when we were ready to leave, a foot wash to clean away the sand from between our toes.

Courtesy of the man we'd rented the chairs and umbrella from.

#2   Caipirinhas, made to order on the beach.
Consumed without fear of rowdiness and king hits ensuing. Everyone was as tranquilo at the end of the day as they were at the start, despite the presence of this and other cheap álcools around.

This was something that really amazed me, coming from a binge-drinking culture where things can turn ugly so very quickly.

#3   Acarajés, fresh prawns with wedges of lime, grilled cheese and meats on sticks, fresh caught lobsters, agua de coco, soft drinks, fruit - all sold where we were on the sand.

No need to trek to the shops for a bite. No fear of ever getting peckish or thirsty.

This video [and the picture below it] were shot on a beach in Sao Luis, Maranhao. It shows how the cheese [queijo coalho] is grilled - the charcoal burner there was a little more homespun than the ones at Porto da Barra!

I can't begin to tell you how delicious these sticks of grilled cheese are.
Check the link above for the recipe. If you're able to find this type of cheese or similar at your local deli, try it. I promise you won't regret it!
There weren't just food vendors on the beach. There were people selling everything a beach bum might need, from sunblocks to sarongs. It was great fun negotiating prices from the comfort of our beach chairs. And The Cushion madly bought a big blanket that we had to lug around in our backpacks for the rest of the trip.

#4   Dogs on the beach!
Some came with their owners.
Some obviously had none.

They may have been allowed there.
Or not. But nobody seemed to mind.

That day, at least, I didn't see anyone get upset, not even at the mangy ones, or try to shoo them away.

This one adopted us for the day.
 There was enough beach for everyone to share.
 #5   As the afternoon wore on, the recyclers arrived.
3 or 4 of them, cleaning up, and making a real or 2 at the same time.
Brazilians, we discovered along the way, are an ingenious lot and very good at turning nothing into something.

I bought a kite for my Sister 2 on the beach [in Sao Luis, which I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of]. It was nothing more than 2 pieces of polystyrene cut to shape and painted with some bright colours. But it flew really well! Poverty is a great mother of invention.

We stayed on the praia for as long as we could. Long enough to see the tide come up and try to wash our caipirinha cart away.
Long enough to see even the food sellers and other vendors call it a day.

Until finally, the sun went down and we had to go.
I've never, in my life, been so sad to leave a beach.

An Interesting Thought.
I'm glad I got to share our day at Praia do Porto da Barra with you. It's dubious I could have done the same if it had been Bondi. I might have been chased off the sand for sticking my camera in so many faces and bums. There are many laws that govern street photography here, especially at "sensitive" areas like beaches.

If you take pictures for fun, but have enough fancy lenses and equipment to be mistaken for a National Geographic professional, you may want to check out your rights to do street photography in NSW. Just CLICK HERE. 

An excerpt from this site -

"Bondi Beach has practically become a photographer's no-go area. Things were already tense in 2003 when I took this shot of young girls mucking around in the sand. Nowadays I would not even dream walking along this beach with a camera…"

Since I don't want to get into trouble, I won't post the picture mentioned, here. To see it, please visit the site.

And then, that night.

A storm arrived, complete with cold howling winds and crashing waves. It didn't stop raining for the next 2 days that we were in Salvador. 


For enquiring minds -

Ehhh Bahia!

Check out more of Bahia culture, food and music at this fun site!

Mama, what is capoeira?


houndstooth said...

I had NO idea it was so hard to take a photograph in Australia! Sheesh! That seems a little over the top. Your day at the beach looks so idyllic, though! I'd be remembering it fondly, too!

P.S. The bridge you asked about yesterday is a wooden contraption with no rails and you can see down below you between the slats in the boards. It's not for the faint of heart, but fortunately, the dogs have nerves of steel so it's not been an issue!

Im Joy said...

Wonderful reading this! How true.. Bondi beach is a soul-less vacuum, if only we could bring some of Bahia into our lives every day!! Nice to see more of you Brazil trip! xoxox

rottrover said...

What a fantastic day! Thank you!!

georgia little pea said...

@houndstooth - yes, we're a little paranoid here. especially where there are kiddies involved.

@im - helloooo missy! so good to see you here. "soul-less" is a great way to describe it :)

Berts Blog said...

Wow, this whole post took my breath away. Seriously liked the first video.

We learned a lot of stuff we didn't know too.

verobirdie said...

I had no problem taking pictures at Bondi. oK, it was on a very rainy in May, and the beach was deserted :-)
I had no idea this could be so sensitive.
I guess you would like the beach in Barcelona, for the same reasons you loked this one.
Have a nice day!

What Remains Now said...

I had to laugh outloud when I read, "This video's for those of you who've always wondered what capoeira is, but was too lazy to find out." How did you know! Ever since you mentioned that was one of the reasons for going to Brazil, I've meant to look up a little more about capoeira but never did. Thanks for doing the work for me. No wonder Georgia can't get away with anything. You've got that third eye.

georgia little pea said...

@Vero - I love Barcelona! Some of the beaches in Asia are like that too. Not here though :(

@Lori - lol lazy one. I don't know about a 3rd eye but my reflexes, coordination and balance are better than they've ever been. I'd recommend it to all old people everywhere who don't mind the possibility of snapping their spine :)

Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

OMD, that capoeira video is impressive! And you do that? Even more impressive. Thank you for posting another video for me;) I had looked it up but hadn't thought of looking for videos.

I never knew that about Bondi Beach either. What a shame. Loved reading about your day at the beach and how cool to have a doggie friend keep you company.

The food is making my mouth water, I'm hoping to check out the links tomorrow night.

georgia little pea said...

@Sue - Bondi is alright. it's just a little sterile.

glad you like the vid. to see what REAL capoeira games look like, google youtube capoeira. they're played in a circle/roda with a music "orchestra" and everyone else clapping and singing. sounds weird i know!

Anonymous said...

those are some awesome pics! Even the storm is enticing. woo woo woo!

Kristine said...

All that food looks so delicious! Grilled cheese on a stick? Seriously? I could die happy after eating five of those. Maybe ten.

The dessert didn't look too bad either... Yum. The best thing about travelling is all the delicious new food. Screw the beach, I say, take me to the food carts! ;-)

Thanks for sharing all of these awesome photos, and for risking your life to take them!

Kirsten (peacefuldog) said...

Wow--that looks like such an amazing trip! I loved traveling in Latin America and being adopted by street dogs. Capoeira is an incredible art form--I've studied it a little but have never been brave enough to go into the middle of the roda!

Jan said...

We loved your travelogue to a place we've never heard of and are too lazy to go there. Thank for taking us to exotic places. The food made us hungry although we seldom eat anything more exotic than a hot dog.

Pamela said...

I don't have much to say. Lovely post. The beach sounds wonderful.

I'm just sitting here grinning.

georgia little pea said...

@Kristine - food is ALWAYS a highlight for me. One day I'll be brave and post a pic of our post holiday tummies :)

@Kirsten - a fellow capoeirista yay! Don't be afraid. The higher belts will always be careful with the newbies (unless they're toads).

Street dogs everywhere are survivors and can smell a food vending machine coming a mile away :)

@Jan - please vary your diet. I'm sure it's not good to eat too many hotdogs however deeeelicious they are ;p

georgia little pea said...

Dear Pamela - that's pretty much the desired reaction. Thanks :) x

Elizabeth Keene said...

All of that capoeira looks like a circus trick to me. You must be in very good shape. I've noticed capoeira advertised in my town since you first mentioned it here - I don't know that I'd ever heard of it before that. Quite impressive.

It's amazing what a good chair and cabana service on the beach can do for one's mood. :) Tropical beverages, a dog and some grilled prawns. The stuff death bed flashes are made of!

I love those pastel painted buldings. Reminds me of a beloved place in the states. :)

More, please!

georgia little pea said...

A beloved place ... intriguing.

Oh please, pleelease try capoeira! From what I know of you, you have the determination, energy and humour required. Don't give up for at least a few months - it can be very challenging and frustrating in the beginning!

Anonymous said...

My favourite is the woman and mural in the background. Lovely. And the boys running on the beach reminds me of the movie City of Gods.
Thank you putting the link for NSW Street Photography laws.

Friko said...

Oh dear, oh dear me, if I tell you that I really don't like spending a day lying on a beach, wherever it is, will you hate me for ever?

And I'm also sorry for the stray dogs, there are always stray dogs and cats in tropical countries.

Just as well you're not like me, this day which was such a pleasure for you might have been spoilt.

btw: Benno couldn't possible bathe in the field when it's flooded, the field turns into a raging stream and I've had another labrador been torn away in it until he fetched up under the bridge in the village and luckily found his way home.

georgia little pea said...

No, I wouldn't hate you :) I'm not a beach person either, remember?

That water didn't look like a raging torrent! Lucky Benno didn't go for a swim. Lucky your other dog got out of it safely too.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous... I'm getting itchy feet! I love the rasta barmen with their booze cart!

H and Flo

ps... I know Bondi might not evoke such memories (unless you're a 20 something English backpacker on Christmas day), but come on, it has got Dr Chris. Mmmmmm. Dr Chris. Now, if MY vet looked like him (as opposed to Mr Burns from the Simpsons), people would think I'd have run Fergus over on purpose. And I may well have! JOKING! Sheesh.

Pup Fan said...

This whole post was just a feast for the eyes! One of my goals this year is to do more traveling, and this post is just increasing my desire to do so.

chandra said...

The buildings are gorgeous and the acaraje looks to-die-for and I bet even the vegan version is delish. THANKS for that recipe. I like to make Hoppin' John to bring in the new year but this year we traveled to the in-laws for Japanese new year feast. Thanks to you now I have a new recipe to try with black-eyed peas!

So glad you went to the beach and had such a fantastic day ... and then shared it.

I think I would have picked the purse-sized BBQ over the blanket for my purchase!

-c at ddy.

p.s. I've watched the capoeira video three times. it's so beautiful. with some extensive training, I think maybe, just maybe, I could play the tambourine in a capoeria video.

georgia little pea said...

@Flo - Dr Chris of Bondi? Pah! You should meet Dr Steve of Balmain :)

@Chandra - I'm SURE you would be able to play the tambourine (pandeiro). Please let me know how the acaraje turns out if you ever try the recipe :) I haven't yet myself x

sonia a. mascaro said...

Wow! What a great reportage! Good information and amazing photos! Well done, Georgia!
I visited Salvador years ago and I loved so much the city and many beachs surrounds. You really did a great post here! Thanks for sharing!

georgia little pea said...

Oi Sonia. Muito obrigada! Estou feliz que voce gosta isto "report". Eu adoro Bahia e espero que eu voltarei um dia! Beijos pra voce, a minha amiga :) x

Pippa said...

Nice bit of Portuguese in that above comment :) Just been browsing through some of your earlier posts to avoid doing boring things in the flat, and thought this was a brilliant write-up.

I missed out on Brazil - my godmother/older cousin lived there for years, but of course I headed off east and Aus wards. Stupid me.

I think the Aus photo laws are probably the same as pesky English ones. Does that mean my 25+ year old photos of Bondi are valuable? :D

In Spain we don't have that sort of - er - rigidity, nor Gib either as far as I am aware as I am always taking pix for my blogs.

Kate (Pippa's person, obviously)

georgia little pea said...

Kate a.k.a. Misery? :)

Those old Bondi pics could indeed be valuable. They'll at least be fun to look at. I believe the same draconian laws apply to all sorts of other situations like swimming pools and kiddie football games. I feel sorry for parents who'll never have memories of their children's fun day at the beach/pool/game. But that's the way the world turns these days.

Never to late to go to Brazil!