Brazil - The Journey South Begins

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Fri 19 Feb 2010 23:12

Date: 16 February 2010

Position: 13:22.92S 38:55.61W


Before we left the Bahia (bay) of Salvador we spent a couple of days exploring its upper reaches. Having weighed anchor after our first night in the Itaparica Channel, we went to witness the great Tororó Waterfall, trumpeted by the pilot book almost as one of the seven wonders of the world. This we couldn’t miss. So we motored the few miles down the channel to witness the glorious sight of a tiny trickle of water barely dampening the side of a very small rock wall.


Wanting to revisit some of the places which the temporary crew had enjoyed over Christmas and the New Year, but which I had missed whilst being back in the UK, we turned tail, hoisted the sails and headed out of the channel and up into the Rio Paraguaçu, past the Ilha Francés and fell off the chart into the area excitingly marked “Uncharted”. I have to admit that we had the help of a succession of GPS waypoints provided by a sailor who had explored the upper reaches the previous year – and just as well because although the river was wide, most of it consisted of very shallow water apart from a narrow channel which had enough depth for us. Some two miles upriver we swept round a bend and were greeted by the sight of a glorious baroque church on the shore of the river, surrounded by palm trees, and standing behind a strip of white sandy beach. It is extraordinarily beautiful. Now disused and destined, I fear, to fall into dangerous disrepair, Santiago de Iguapé was built by the Portuguese Jesuits at the turn of the 17th century (Iguapé is the Indian word meaning “by the water”). Almost at the steps of the church, local Brazilian families were lounging around and swimming in the warm river water. Behind the church is a small village whose inhabitants fish the river in dug-out canoes and (I subsequently discovered) harvest oysters.


When enjoying hot summer-like weather, one rather expects the evenings to be long. But we are in the tropics. At this time of the year, the sun is passing almost directly overhead and the sun rises at 0600 and falls promptly at 1800. And when I say falls, it falls like a stone. Bright sunshine one moment and 20 minutes later it is pitch black. So we went ashore at about 1700 and wandered round the ramshackle little village before it got dark. What we hadn’t expected was that Carnaval is not just restricted to the big cities, but that even villages as small and simple as this have their own Carnaval, and here it was in full swing. Dozens of kids, some covered in ash and all in fancy dress ranging from groups of tuttu’ed ballet dancers to ghouls with hideous masks and horns, were wandering around. When the van blasting music appeared, everyone went into a frenzy and paraded around the village square crushed around the van, all dancing. It was a fabulous manifestation of the joy of a small community celebrating Carnaval at its most simple. Brilliant and completely unexpected fun.


Monday morning we started making our way to the exit of the Bahia, anchoring off the village of Itaparica ready for the open sea and the start of our journey south.


The following day we had a very pleasant beam reach 40 miles down the coast to Morro de São Paulo which is an up-market albeit very chilled out beach resort, not just for the better-off Brazilian but for a number of foreigners as well (we heard a number of Argentine accents in the streets). The anchorage is slap bang in the middle of the route where dozens of tourist boats hurtle past between Morro de São Paulo and the next village up the coast, Gamboa. It is like being anchored in the middle of an aquatic motorway. The dangers of this became apparent a few weeks ago when a yacht, snugly anchored, was T-boned by one of these ferries travelling at full tilt, resulting in serious structural damage. So when we went ashore in the evening, I lit the boat up like a Christmas tree with anchor lights at deck and masthead level (strictly against regulations, but anything to be seen) and we also kept a bright light in the cockpit, illuminating the bimini.


We found a delightful bar, set on a hill overlooking the lush vegetation of banana and palm trees and sipped caipirinhas as the sun went down. As I was taking a sip of the nectar through my straw, I couldn’t help but notice another straw slip into my drink and drain the entire glass in one expert suck. It was the DS. “You were drinking too slowly” she explained.


After we (the DS, that is) finished our drinks we wandered down the one street lined with expensive boutiques and had a simple pizza about four feet round at a restaurant on the beach in front of which four muscular young Brazilians were playing a version of volley ball with their chests, heads, legs, feet – anything except their hands or arms. This is the famous fute-volei and you need incredible skill to get the ball over the net just once. These guys were having incredible rallies that went on for minutes. We were riveted.