It’s Sunday afternoon so it must be Marau, in the province of Bahia. We’ve just finished lunch at a large table with the owner of the Casa do Arandis hotel Cacau and his wife Nanana. The hotel is truly in the middle of nowhere!! Yesterday we flew from Rio on TAM, one of the ‘local’ airlines, departing from the city airport. It’s much smaller than the international one, close by Flamingo Bay, and on take-off one gets a good view of the city. We arrived in Ilheus, a small town on the coast, after a couple of hour’s uneventful flight. We had a taxi booked and with Carlos’s surfboard on top and the four of us plus Tiago inside … and off we went. (‘We’ being Celina and I, Carlos her brother, his wife Camila and their son Tiago (aged 1)).
The first hour was on good roads then, after a stop for a Tapico pancake, we transferred to dirt ones. I’ve only been on dirt roads twice in my life, in Belize where in the 1980s most of the roads were compacted red earth, and in Tasmania in 1994. There’s something about the way a wheel hits a soft patch, creates a small indentation ….. and gradually a pothole develops (a little like tracked vehicles would create waves (ups and downs) in a dirt road). After another hour I’m beginning to wonder just how much further and suddenly we’re here, on the east coast of the Marau Peninsula.
Brazilians have a fascination with personal health, and right now I’m glad. I have come to accept that the Rocha Miranda family have access to all kinds of medical experts, who are consulted regularly. The motto seems to be ‘if in doubt, have a blood test’! The medicine cupboard at Celina’s parents’ house in Rua Iposeria is enormous – so any ailment you have, there’ll be something for it to hand. Here in Bahia, where travel is not easy, the doctor’s at the end of a telephone and antibiotics and solutions to every sort of problem are kept in one’s home. On Saturday I developed a sore throat, which by Monday had exploded into white spots and mouth ulcers. And here I am in Paradise, feeling crap. Fortunately the various experts, within Casa do Arandis and further afield, were consulted and various pills administered. This evening I’m on the mend!!
The rhythm here is lovely. Breakfast is not until 0830 as the staff don’t come in too early, this after all is Bahia! After an enormous feast, it’s down to the beach (if it’s not raining) for swimming or walking for miles along the sand. Lunch is at 1400 and the sun disappears around 1630. Then it’s up to whatever you want to do – until a light supper!
After a week, it was back to noisy Rio. Casa dos Arandis was certainly in the middle of nowhere and that has its pluses and minuses! Getting anywhere involved a bouncy, bone-jarring 4X4 journey and one was soon put off. Not that the beach and bath-temperature sea water encouraged one to leave it; and not a soul in sight! The night sounds in the tropics are simply wonderful and one could listen to the cicadas, frogs, birds, insects and other fauna for hours – except of course when one’s in bed and ‘something’ is making its way either across the roof, or indeed under the house, for this was on brick piles with a large ventilation space underneath!
Today Sunday it was back to Barra (pronounced Bah Hah) beach to soak up some sun, for the forecast for tomorrow is torrential rain; that means a taxi to the Bikram studio!
Hope the world is well where you are?
Richard Yates – email@example.com
P.S. Thought I should give you a very short synopsis of modern Brazil (now I’m becoming slightly more knowledgeable!)
You could divide it into 4 regions, although there are actually 26 states!
In the southern part of the country (Santa Catarina, Paraná and Rio Grande do Sol) immigrants from Europe have retained their own cultures and traditions. The Germans still celebrate Oktoberfest, the Italian make wine, the Azoreans concentrate on fishing and the state of Paraná is closely associated with Slavs from central Europe. In addition there are large Jewish and Japanese concentrations.
The central and eastern part of Brazil, including the country and political capital Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro (cultural capital) and Sao Paulo (business capital), is the most developed, most densely populated, the richest and most important from an economic point of view part of the country.
The Amazonian and northern areas are rich in wildlife, include the world’s largest river basin and there are huge contrasts in the affluence of the towns and cities.
The inhabitants of Northeast Brazil (including Bahia) are a direct result of three centuries of importing slaves from Africa; in fact 40% of Brazil’s current population are descended from African slaves. Cocoa and rubber were the most successful crops grown, but the former has suffered from crop failure due to parasites, and the latter from competition. The 1800s saw a huge expansion of rubber plantations and Brazil became the world’s largest producer of rubber. Then an Englishman smuggled out some rubber seeds and took them to Malaya (as Malaysia was then called). In 15 years Brazil was elbowed out of the rubber market and, unused to competition, by 1914 plantations became uneconomic. Today Brazil imports most of its rubber!
The cultural mix across Northeastern Brazil ensures wonderful cuisine. Along the coasts the African descended population flavour their food, mainly fish and fruit, with coconut milk and red dendê (palm) oil. Away from the coast the cowboy descendants of the Portuguese settlers have a simpler fare, using dried meat, manioc root (including manioc flour) rice and black beans.
So there you have it, Richard’s easy guide to a vast country (2400 miles north to south, 2400 miles east to west) of 185 million people.