Part 5 of our 1967 South America trip took us from Belem to beautiful Salvador, Bahía.
Fortaleza: On Saturday, July 22 at 4 PM, after two nights in Belem (if I include the first night we spent still on the Lobo D’Almada in our hammocks) we left by plane for Fortaleza. We asked the airport taxi driver to take us to an inexpensive but good place. Maybe we got our signals crossed, because the place we ended up at charged by the hour. It was yet another red light district. We paid less than $2 for a room with three clean beds and, judging by the interesting noises, paper-thin walls. Can’t remember how much we slept, but we were up early enough to be ready for our 5:45 AM airport taxi on Sunday morning.
The airport taxi (10 minutes ride) cost us 2000 cruzeiros – about 75 cents!
Fortaleza seemed a pretty forgettable place in every respect other than the hotel. Things change, of course. Friends of ours recently took a very long cruise around South America. It included a visit to Antarctica, a return to Florida via the Panama Canal and a cruise up the Amazon River to Belem. Their ship stopped at Fortaleza on the way south to Rio and they were pleased with the look of the place.
Recife: On a cool Sunday, July 23 morning at 07:30 we took off southward bound from Fortaleza by cheap air down the Brazilian coast. Cheap air in 1960’s South America generally meant mostly Douglas DC-3 two-engined, propeller-powered aircraft. The DC-3 is still used today, eight decades after the first ones rolled off the production line in 1935. Check out this fascinating Wikipedia article on this legendary and very safe machine, once described as
Our destination was fascinating Salvador. We had a two-hour stop in Recife. Recife in 1967, unlike Fortaleza, was attractive seen from the air. We could see the coast on the flight from Recife to Salvador: palms, some beaches, lush, green countryside – ragged in spots. During our 2-hour stop in Recife I checked out jewelry at Stern. Anita must have been on my mind…
The view from the plane between Recife and Salvador was one of puffy clouds, hilly country, beaches, river mouths. A rugged, beautiful coast.
The drive from Salvador’s airport from my diary notes:
shoals, green water, blue sky, large waves exploding against rocks.
In Salvador we stayed at the Hotel Itapoan, a bargain at C. 20000 for the three of us – less than half of what we would have paid anywhere else decent. Breakfast wasn’t much to write home about. At some point (my diary reported) we met a female law student named Maria who sang lovely Portuguese songs. I bought a small wooden carving of a priest at the largest tourist market in Brazil at the time: the Mercado Modelo, ruined by a fire two years after our 1967 visit and by another fire in 1984. We also took the neighbouring 63 m Elevador Lacerda that was the highest elevator in the world in 1873 when it was constructed. The view of the port is lovely from the top. It is still a landmark in Salvador. We also visited the jaw-dropping interior of Church of Sao Francisco de Assis, full of the golden spoils of Portuguese colonialism. It was built in the early 18th C. The Franciscans came to Salvador in 1587.
The club scene in Salvador was bourgeois and dull. A disappointment in the country of samba and bossa nova, of Jobim and Joao and Astrud Gilberto. Only slow dances were being played. Yawn. We stayed four nights in Salvador and left on Thursday, July 27 at 10 AM, if my letter home of July 29 is accurate. It took 28 hours to reach Rio de Janeiro on a Greyhound bus. Rio is the subject of my next trip post.
Left at 4:00 PM Saturday for Fortaleza. We flew over a muddy river meandering through dense tropical jungle. Stopped at Sao Luis, Terrasma, then Fortaleza at around 9 PM. Got a room for 4000 C with 3 clean beds – in the red light district, since rooms were rented for three hours, four hours, etc. Shower and toilet filthy as usual. Walk with toilet paper.
Up at 5:30 AM and in 15 minutes the taxi picked us up and drove us back to the airport. 10 minute drive costs 2000 C.
Left Fortaleza at 7:30 AM. Cool on Sunday morning. First stop: Recife. – much nicer than Belem or Fortaleza – beaches. Airport had Stern jewelry; checked prices; almost missed plane. Two hr twenty min stop. Lovely topaz ring $33 – gold. (Note: it seems that Anita was on my mind…)
No jungle between Fortaleza and Salvador. Beautiful, hilly from Recife to Salvador, ocean also, palms, beaches, lush, green countryside – ragged in spots. Brief impression of Recife – good. More to offer than other cities – Belem, Fortaleza seem to have little more than whores to offer, and generally ugly ones at that. They call out to you – “Love, American Boy.” They liked my hat. (Note: a crazy tall crowned medium-brimmed floppy hat made of multicoloured polyester popular during carnival 1967).
Reason for all the whores is the ratio of women to men in Northern Brazil – between eight and fifteen to one! The men go south to find work.
The sight from the window is great now – puffy clouds, beach, river mouths, etc. Rugged.
Monday, July 24, 8:43 PM Salvador, Bahia
Drive from airport to Salvador (Note: on July 23) was fantastic. Women at airport chic and sophisticated. Drove along sea shore – shoals, green water, blue sky, large waves exploding against rocks.
Staying at Hotel Itapoan – one room, 3 beds, towels, clean but unimpressive. Bread, coffee & biscuits for breakfast. 20 000 C for the three of us. All other places expensive – 14 mille each.
Met Maria Laporte – plain, but intelligent & musical, speaks English, French, Portuguese. Studies law at night, likes Physics and Maths too. Sang lovely Portuguese songs.
Saw Mercado Modelo this AM – an indoor market – largest tourist mkt in Brazil. Bought a wood carving – 3 mille. Has everything from large slabs of meat to junky local jewelry.
Rode on the Elevador Lacerda – people in queues behave well. Slept in afternoon. Have the flu. N.B. Brazil is the inventor of bossa nova.
Thursday, August 3, 6:50 PM – (Note: Diary Update written in Rio on Aug 3)
There’s a lot of time to catch up on!
Salvador de Bahia
- Fourth city of Brazil – 1 000 000
- 365 churches claimed -is really closer to 70.
- Baixa (lower town – commercial), Alta (higher town)
- Visited by Brazilian students from Rio Sao Paolo, etc.
- Girls are unsophisticated but fashionably dressed and perhaps prettier than anywhere else in Brazil
- Clubs are dull – British and American songs with the odd bossa nova or samba – bourgeois – kids dance slow to everything – parents strict
- Church of Sao Francisco de Assis (they claim that it’s pure gold but it does not seem to be famous outside Salvador. Handbook notes it for its sculptures in wood.
- Coast is beautiful, water cool and refreshing
- My hat is a valuable attention-getter
***End of Diary Notes***