Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Portal Do Mar - Salvador

While I was in Salvador I stayed outside the city in an area called Itapúa, on a beach known to locals as Ipatanga. It is a stretch of pristine coast lined with small wooden bars and restaurants. Behind the bars there is a Narrow Street bordered by private houses, quaint cafes, and some guest houses. There was one small hotel but primarily this area serves as a weekend getaway for the Salvadorians. Most houses are locked up during the week, guarded only by vicious dogs, and the beaches are deserted and peaceful. But come the weekend the city dwellers flock to this area and spend their days dancing, eating, drinking, and BBQing all over the place! We rented a house there. It was a comfortable 5 bedroom out of which only 3 were left available to us. I think the owners were a bit worried about renting their house out to a bunch of guys whom they suspected would throw wild parties and attempt to fornicate on any comfortable surface available. Nonetheless the rooms were comfortable. And most of our time on the premises was spent BBQing in the gazebo or chilling in the pool anyways. There is nothing better than spending a hot afternoon on the beach, just crossing the street back over to your own house and jumping into a cool swimming pool. Fucking priceless.

Although there were numerous bars and restaurants studding the coastline, I got really cozy at Porto Do Mar. The owner was a cool guy who opened up a line of credit for me on the first day arrived and did not have any local currency. He also spoke a bit of English which always helps. His establishment had a huge deck on the street level that was half covered for shade and the other half was in the warm sun. On the beach in front of Portal Do Mar he had set up tables, umbrellas, and deckchairs as did all other establishments on this stretch. I found out later oh that his spot was the most popular amongst the locals as well because on the weekends he had a live band come in and jam. It was really just a drummer and an acoustic guitarist but the sweet mellow sounds played over the loudspeakers on to the beach.

Our stay in Itapúa was the healthiest and most rejuvenating portion of the trip to Brazil. It probably had something to do with the jetlag but the whole lot of us was up every morning by 8am and would link up on the beach right after where we joined in games of football, volleyball, or just sat around sipping ice cold beer and sampling the food hawkers were selling. That was my agenda actually. And there is nothing more revitalizing then drinking beer all day absolutely guilt free, especially when you can start before 10am and never face accusations of being an alcoholic. The variety of snacks available was awesome. There were vendors selling a range of different grilled nuts with salt and spices, other dudes came by with little boiled eggs, and yet others with fresh oysters in ice boxes. I hit up a few of those very now and then. The best item in my opinion though was the QEJIAO. Which is cheese, similar to how we call it in Bahasa Indonesia, KEJU. This solid block of cheese is skewered on a splint of wood and these blokes walk around the beach holding them over a small pot of hot coal. When you order it they fire the QEJIAO up for about 5 minutes and hand over this hot grilled piece of appetizing cheese. It is the most fucking unhealthy thing you could eat but it is just so fucking good.

One might wonder what is so different about flying halfway across the planet to sit on a beach and scrutinize life when you could fly to Bali and do the same thing for a fraction of the cost. Well the huge difference is that you look at things from a totally different perspective. The Bahiano’s are the most fascinating people I have come across in 30 years on this planet. I yet have to meet a group of people with so much lust for life and living. They personify the description of a sun worshiper. Some of these women and men would come out to the beach to sit on a chair and sip beer while only moving every hour or so to keep facing the sun. They would also make periodical adjustments to their bikinis insuring they have a unformed tan line. There was a constant flow of food and drink to the tables and even the people with fittest bodies were loading up on everything offered. Then suddenly music would break out somewhere and a couple would start dancing, while other couples frolicked in the water always touching, holding, and kissing each other. I have never experienced such public displays of affection. But even while some guy might be standing there making out with a girl with his hand was on her ass, there was really nothing lustful or sexual about it. There is no urgency in their behavior or desire to reach some climax. It was Zen like in a way that they were all just enjoying and living in the moment.

Although Itapúa is a bit off the beaten track, it was the perfect place to set the pace for our holiday. While visiting Salvador you could stay in Barra (the city) and still take pleasure in the public beaches there but you would not be able to enjoy the vast space Ipatanga has to offer.

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