Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vacations in Brazil pt. 3

AOG, Praia do Forte

We got up and had breakfast, enjoying some very good weather. Then, after being pestered by a Spanish restaurant owner who was visiting to pick up some customers, we sat through an introduction which was half positive and half negative. Our rep started off by telling us what “All inclusive” did not include.

Phone calls, drinks at the disco, and a couple of other things, which I’ve forgotten, were not included.

He then gave us a quick, and condescending, lesson on Brazilian geography. Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are about 5 hours away; Manaus about 8 –almost as far away as Madrid. No one had asked him about this, but I suppose he gets questions of that sort all the time.

He spent an awful long time explaining the different ways in which you can enjoy a Caipirinha- something you can have in the mornings.

Then there was the Caipiroska, which you have with vodka. And the Caipirissima, which seems to be an XXL Caipirinha recommended for clubbing and other types of adult entertainment.

He then went on to tell us about all the different tours we could take during our stay. We settled on 3: Bahia, Whale watching, and the River Pojuca tour.

The hotel has 3 restaurants and we are allowed to have dinner three times in either or all of them. One is Mediterranean, one Japanese, and the other is a Steakhouse. We are having dinner at the Japanese first, then the Mediterranean, then, on our last night, we will dine at the Steakhouse.

Afterwards we went to spend the day at the beach. It was wonderful. The hotel’s grounds and amenities are wonderful. The staff, nice.

What I found most interesting is the hotel’s game room and library, composed, as it is, of three bulky colonial Portuguese tables and chairs, one bulky sofa, the day’s Salvador de Bahia papers, and this was the interesting part, the books the guests have left behind. There’s a lot of Dutch and German books, some French and a few Italian titles.

Hardly any books in Spanish; and the bulk of the collection, no surprises there, is books in English. Surprisingly, not all are brand new titles. There were books which were printed in the 1970s, complete with curling covers and yellow, sandpaper-like pages. These were my favorites to leaf through.

However, I’d brought my own, which accompanied me to the beach and pool daily. But it was nice to see other books.

The hotel also has an internet room and public toilets everywhere.

Praia do Forte

The rep had offered us to go to Praia do Forte town (our hotel is about a 10 minute drive from it, located as it is on virgin jungle territory) that afternoon for a measly 10 reales.

We thought it would be a good idea, but having been warned about crime in Brazil, we leave the camera’s at the room’s safe. Mistake!

At around 4pm, we and some other guests gathered at the entrance hall and get carted unto a van which will take us to the town. What we thought was just a journey there is in fact a stealth tour. Our tour guide is awaiting us there and is intent on us going to visit the Tamar Project Sea Turtle reservation.

My partner and I are horrified at the prospect of being in a large group of people touring a small town like a herd. Nobody had mentioned the Tour guide. In theory, the turtles get fed at 5, and then something funny happened.

Hardly anyone had any Reales with them. The tour guide was very sceptical about anyone leaving the group or doing anything on their own, yet at the same time, about 80% of us had to go and exchange some money.

He was very reluctant to let anyone leave but then, in the end, common sense kicked in and people just started wandering off toward the bureau de change with a few Real-carrying guests accompanying him to the Tamar Project.

We saw our chance and we took it. We walked around the small town for about 20 minutes, popping in on the occasional art and trinket shop before heading towards turtle city.

The cool thing about this place was, first of all, the shape of the public toilets. It was straight out of a Gaudi fantasy. Shaped like giant seashells, and covered in broken tile mosaics, they would not have looked out of place in Barcelona.

The second cool thing about this place, turtles aside, was how close you could get to the animals.

There was a shark pool with evil looking sharks lurking at the bottom, and small Manta Rays minus the sting on very shallow pools at eye level.

This is what impressed us most. Manta Rays, in case you were wondering, have human-looking eyes. It was like looking at a person in fish form. Probably not the best explanation, but accurate.

They were so close to us that you could see them looking at you. Scary and thrilling at the same time.

The shark pool was very impressive too. They were taking turns swimming around the pool walls, with the rest remaining at the bottom of the pool until it was their turn.

The creepy thing was that you never saw them coming until they were right there in front of you. Probably something similar happens in nature with these animals. They were huge, solemn and elegant. Death often is.

Then there was the sponge and Sea Urchin pool (not many visitors), and various pools with many different sort of fish swimming inside of them.

When we left the Turtle sanctuary, we went back to see the town. We stopped at one supermarket to buy some talc and other toiletries. We marvelled at the local products.

My partner mentioned that some of the things on sale were no longer available in Spain. We also bought some aspirin and had our first cold coconut for 2 Reales, less than one Euro.

Here and there we saw one missed photo opportunity after another. We thought the people were friendly enough and wished we had not been so paranoid about taking our cameras with us.

Praia do Forte is safe enough and merited a second visit, cameras in hand. Especially when we took a turn away from the main commercial strip and discovered the picturesque streets which one only finds in tropical climates. Beautiful and calling out for more protagonism.

We were definitely coming back, oh yeah.

After wandering around for a while and half booking a driver to take us to Bahia some time in the future, we get back to the group.

They take us all back and we arrive very tired. It is only around 8pm, and we get to bed right after dinner. They close the pools at 7 by the way. This is rather inconvenient for us.

1 comment:

Timbo said...

Fascinating....please continue!! I feel as though I am there with you.