Carlos then treated us to a thrill ride back to the airport, during which I came to understand what circumstances nurtured the talents of Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet. For instance, lanes are mostly ignored by everyone; drivers simply zig or zag to wherever a space opens up. Despite getting lost three times Carlos still made it to the airport an hour faster than the bus. Incidentally, many Brazilian cars run on alcohol which is derived from sugarcane. It has been around for decades here.
On to Salvador!
Salvador, in the Brazilian state of Bahia, was once the capitol of Brazil. Having been the center of slave trade, Salvador still maintains very much an African flavour in its population, its food, and its music. It also very much maintains an African climate, as we quickly found out that it is at least as hot as Manaus -- unbearably hot in fact, and that's in the middle of the winter. Mosquitos are a constant plague so heavy duty DEET is a must.
We had a place to stay in Salvador with relatives, namely Flavio and Milene. They took us to a little square with a bunch of outdoors food stands with reputedly one of the best Acarajé places. Acarajé is typical Bahia food. It is mostly deep fried (of course) dough forming a sandwich which is then filled with shrimp or vatapá (shrimp paste), and some sort of salad consisting of little cubes. Acarajé can be ordered in various levels of spiciness. Having heard what some of the ingredients are I was rather sceptical. Soon I had to go back for seconds, as Acarajé graduated to the position of my favourite Brazilian food. They used to sell 20 million of them per month in Salvador. Now that I've tried them they're selling 20 million and 100 of them per month.
Acarajé and Guaraná -- a total Brazilian.
Surrounded by downtown Salvador's architecture one is transplanted back into colonial days. The only thing ruining the illusion is the constant pushiness of trinkets sellers and "tour guides". One sight to behold is the São Francisco church with a sequence of murals depicting moral and virtue. The murals kept going on forever as it would transpire that the artist had no less than 40 guidelines in store. In fact it looked like there were even more on the second floor, but it was closed to visitors. Amusingly the Brazilians have not seemed to progress very far along the sequence themselves, judging from the fact that guideline #1 is "Silence is Golden", a motto wholly lost on Brazilians at large.
Upon exiting the church we were then accosted by the caretaker of the church next door (I kid you not) who, in keeping with the general experience of pushiness, assured us that her church was much different and better. We were invited to come to a candomblé session, which is a spiritual séance.
A church seems like a funny place to hold a séance. It was not the only example of pagan superstitions inherited from the slave days. There is an annual ritual where people come and clean the steps of the Nosso Senhor do Bonfim church, to appease, mind you, the gods of the sea. At a church. I find that hilariously ironic, as the catholic church itself had a successful tradition of assimilating pagan rituals by covering them in a catholic sauce rather than trying to abolish them.