Barra Beach Beats

This is our fourth and final Day in Salvador da Bahia, the old capital of Brazil. I’m glad we made the choice to stay in the historic centre of Pelourinho. For all its seediness and decrepitude, it gives the traveller a taste a the real Brazil. It’s touristy but edgy, broken but charming, dirty and grand.

We rolled in at 9.30 on Sunday night, and I can’t deny being more than a little apprehensive at the scenes that greeted us. Firstly, off the main drag, there was a thief being chased down. He’d just caught a right hand off one of his pursuers, yet – as the blow was glancing – somehow managed to spin and keep going.

Despite the menace of the situation, there was an air of comedy as we tracked his pursuers in a straggling line down the street. They ranged from the guy who had delivered the blow – a big, well-built black fellow – to a titchy, bespectacled white girl with pigtails. In between, every hue of the cornucopia of Brazilian society seemed to be represented. We did not observe the malefactor’s fate, but things did not portend to a happy ending for the lad.

Making our way up the hill, we were straight into a world of debauch and menace. Drunkards and prostitutes peppered the sides of the roads. There had been a celebration of some sort and we were catching the tail end of it.

Herb was asleep on my lap as we ascended, and I’m thankful that he was, as it was an intimidating atmosphere. My Argentine pal asked the driver in Spanish whether Pelourinho was dangerous. He replied that certain areas can be, especially at night.

It’s pretty easy to establish which places these are. In general, one just sticks to the tourist areas around the main streets. In the day time, Pelourinho is a completely different proposition – it doesn’t feel remotely threatening and strolling around and taking in the crumbling colonial relics is a thoroughly enjoyable pursuit.

The fort and lighthouse at Barra.

Today, we’re catching our first game between the U.S. and Belgium before flying out to Rio early tomorrow for the quarterfinal between Germany and France on Saturday.

We’ll probably catch the early match between the Argentina and Switzerland at the Fifa Fan Fest zone, set up down the coast in the neighbourhood of Barra. We spent the day at the beach there yesterday.

Up top are some locals making merry at a caipirinha stand on the beach. The owner struck up a beat on the beer coolers and his mates turned up one by one and joined in, completely spontaneously. To quote Ralph Bellamy in Trading Places, “They’re very musical people”.

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