by Karen Refsgaard, January 2019
Three weeks vacation on Svalen, Bahia in Brazil – such a nice experience. Why?
- Because our little family got together, Morten, Lisbeth, John and me which is not very often!
- Because Brazil shows such a diversity of people, food, music and another approach to life!
- Because exploring the world from a sailing boat is connecting continents, people, and experiences.
Brazil is a real melting pot: The people come in all sorts of colours and shapes and classes, but what seems to unite them is music, exciting (street) food, mangos and a relaxed and informal lifestyle with few norms and an incredible welcoming attitude to us. However, racism still exists. According to some of our sources about 60% of the populace is illiterate (less than 4 years of school). And as life is easy, there are only marginal needs for housing, clothes and with cheap and accessible rather healthy food it is rather easy to keep people at their classes – little need for mobilisation through knowledge or power in order to achieve more equality!
We spent time on the boat as a family, sailing between the islands Ilha Parica and Bom Jesus, in the bay Todos o Santos, and exploring local coastal life. Mornings always with mangos, oranges, passion fruit if we we are lucky and müsli. The small local shops were our favourite places to shop – getting the local deals and always fun to check out what they could offer. The best experiences were the large beef carcasses, just being cut according to our need. Had also a small dive to see a small coral reef and especially long swims which in the end nearly ended to be together with Dolphins hunting for fish. On Christmas day we had a little celebration dinner, pebernødder from DK (two varieties as my parents compete) so we voted and 3 in favour of the Hedegaard variety and 1 in favour of the Bjerregaard variety! And with gift exchanges of books and Havana sandals!
The many dinners – as the evenings were the most preferred – in Salvador, on the boat or on Ilha Parica gave rooms for some nice talks – especially between Morten and Lisbeth, who had fun together.
Salvador is a large city. It was the entrance for the majority of slaves to South America, and so roughly 80% of the population here is black today, often working in the service industries. The beautiful old town of Pelourini with weathered Portuguese architecture was a nice experience with lots of local food and loads of tourist shops where all sorts of drums, leather, African and Brazilian fabrics of all types and colours, dangles and dingles and services to braid one’s hair were sold! But also great music at the squares in the evening, Capoeira and things for all the senses.
We experienced the more well-off class of Salvador! Got access to the yacht club through Viviana and immediately got invited from a older couple to join them for the day. I think this is typical Bahia. Despite all advices about crime, mugging etc. we have met only very friendly and helpful people here – from the Uber taxidriver to the very well off !
On a sailing boat being in harbours you meet a lot of people travelling across the world. This is a world on its own – culturally great. French Yann e.g. sailed alone across the Atlantic, was finished with the easy life in Europe and continued on to South Africa – in a small sailing boat, fixing things himself and not using much! Or Elisabeth from Hjørring – travelling like Lisbeth – became our new friend both in music, South American culture and sailing.
And being on the sea also shows a different world – all the life that happens, whether it is transport of ice, mangos or people, if it is a small fishing boat testing the nets early in the morning or a partyboat a 3 at night. You get it all.
We got a taste of the Atlantic salty sea, the hot sun, we turned brown – although John beats us all, so dark when we arrived! Lucky although that the younger the wiser in protecting your skin against this boiling sun!
Thank you for three great weeks exploring Bahian life at sea.