I envy the football fans who draw Salvador for their group matches in the 2014 World Cup.
One of the reasons is that between matches they can go to Tinhare, an island off the Dende coast.
It’s about three hours queasy ride on a catamaran from Salvador.
The main town on the island is called Morro de Sao Paulo, and it’s very famous as a top destination for Brazilian beach goers. Because it’s an island, crime isn’t so prevalent and I felt much safer than I did in Barra (see last post).
You won’t find any motorised vehicles out here either. Instead there will be several guys holding wheelbarrows with ‘taxi’ painted on the side, waiting on the quayside. You may well need them to help you find your pousada (guest house) but I had a small bag, so I ran the gauntlet and just asked for directions along the way.
Morro has five beaches in all, called logically; First Beach, Second Beach…
The first beach is located nearest the original village, so is the most developed and has the best restaurants and a lot of the less picturesque (cheaper?) pousadas.
The wide second beach is where most of the action is. The higher end guest houses are here, and lots of bars with their own private sun loungers and umbrellas on the beach.The beach of course provides lots of interesting sights, for everyone! Personally though I couldn’t keep my eyes off the amazing football games and Capoeira circles that sprang up along the water line once the sun came out (after three days of cloud in mid-Dec).
The third beach is the quietest and is probably the best place to stay if not to play. Most of the sand disappears at high tide.
The fourth beach is huge and stretches off for a couple of kilometres into the distance. It has hardly any development at all, just a couple of bars at the beginning. I never got as far as the fifth beach but I presume it must be pretty much deserted.
I was staying at Chez Max which had a beautiful garden.
You could stay in your own hut or get a room on the first floor of the block for $90 a night.
The second storey of the block has the same rooms for $140 because of the beautiful sea view but I got it down to $90 because I only wanted to be near the wi-fi hub (usually a good connection, though not very fast).
My room had an empty fridge, an aircon that didn’t work (I hate them anyway) and a separate bathroom with a decent shower. The breakfast is pretty comprehensive if a bit repetitive (coffee, ham, cheese, melon, cake). The best thing was watching the humming birds having their morning meal as they buzzed like bees around the flowers in the garden, but too quickly for me to photograph.
I didn’t having an evening meal here due to them having live music every night (another pet hate while I’m eating). But I tried a few other places in town:
At Cafe des Artes in the main square I had a great Fettucine ai Frutti di Mare, consisting of small prawns, loops of squid and a crab sauce. The ratio of seafood to perfectly cooked pasta was about 50/50. If anything the sauce was a bit too intense, but I loved it (A-).
Their signature dessert (a slice of dry tart with cream sorvete, or Brazilian ice cream, served with swirls of toffee) was ok (B). They also do a tall strong caiparinha for $8 (A).
The other posh place is in the old building that looks over the square. The name escapes me but it has changed since the Bradt guide was written.
I had a good Argentinian rump steak (A) when I was there but the portion of rice was a bit small and, with the salad as a the side, the plate looked rather bare (B) for what I paid, so I probably wouldn’t go back.
The caiparinhas were pretty stiff though, especially the house version (A+).
Gate to Rua Ponte Grande
There’s some history here too. If you go through the old gate (bearing the date 1746) at one end of the square (down the side of the posh house above), you will enter the part of town where all the locals seem to live.
Down this street (Rua de Ponte Grande) you will find the old water cistern, built by the Portuguese a few hundred years ago.
Also in the Bradt guide are Sabor da Terra on Rua Caminho da Praia where I had an excellent moqueca, and Tinhare, down some steps off the same road, where the moquecas are also good but the atmosphere was lacking.
I ended up eating lunch a lot at Recoletos, a bar on the second beach. The staff took great care of me, provided me with everything I needed and didn’t give me any reason to go anywhere else.
The food was fine if nothing fancy. Really, what more could you want for lunch than a couple of pieces of nice grilled fish, white rice, a big salad and a cold beer? Creamy mashed potatoes that’s what! They totally made my day.
On another occasion I had their Bobo de Camarao, a prawn stew looking all the world like a moqueca, but then what do I know. As always this came with a nice salad, rice and vatapa.
For dessert I pulled up one of the vendors selling Acai. Don’t miss the chance to have it if you see it, or hear people shouting ‘ah-sa-ii’. This one had pineapple piled on top of frozen purple Acai juice and a scattering of granola on the top, which worked so well in combination. It was perhaps the most delicious fruit dessert I’ve ever eaten (A++), not least for it’s great thirst quenching properties.
A nice place to eat, and possibly stay, on the fourth beach is Pimenta Rosa. It’s very peaceful here and there were monkeys in the trees all around.
I had a nice lunch here of grilled fish, rice and salad (B+). The rice had raisins in, an interesting idea that worked for me this time, although I’m not sure it’s something I’d like to eat a lot of (B-).
This was followed by an indecently large slab of chocolate cake which was pretty good too (B).
The beach paths were slowly being redeveloped when I was there. They are just wooden walkways on the sand that help you move around a bit more quickly. Along the sides of the walkways there are lots of small fruit stalls that set up just in the evenings.
Some of stalls double up as a bar and for the equivalent of three or four quid they will make you a caiparinha (or a batida, I’m still not quite sure where the line is drawn. In terms of fruit content, batidas have more) with the fruit and cachaca sugar cane rum of your choice.
I asked for matured cachacas each time and these are some of the bottles I got. Tatu or tatuzinha is the word for armadillo, a animal you might possibly see on these islands.
Some of my favourite fruit combinations included Acerola (a small red fruit) & Strawberry or Acerola & Caju (cashew).
You often see vendors selling Acerola alongside another small fruit (the size and colour of a Kumquat) called Seriguela (hog plum in English apparently) which consists of juicy citrusy flesh around a large seed. Very refreshing on a hot day.
There are hundreds of fruits in Brazil (this was just a tiny selection) but as if these weren’t enough, they have imported varieties too.
This fruit is called Jambo and is originally from Asia. It can come in other colours but this white version looked very much like a bulb of garlic bulb although it is actually hollow inside and tastes of very little.
Another favourite was Ameixa (plum) ice cream, just one of a multitude of flavours, some familiar, some not, that are available at the parlour off the square.
This sadly was the end of my trip to South America. Truth be told, I’d been pretty lazy and hadn’t gone to many of the places in Brazil I’d been planning to go to. After all that travelling it just felt so nice to sit and do nothing on the beach. Still, there’s plenty saved for next time.
The best guide book I found was for this region of Brazil was ‘Bahia’ by Bradt Guides (Alex Robinson 2010).
I also recommend the excellent blog site Flavors of Brazil.