In my last post, L1602 – The wrong Grande!, I described our disappointing port call to the industrial port of Rio Grande. We then had three days at sea, sailing north up the coast of Brazil, bringing into focus the vast size of this country. On the last of these three days, I saw and photographed a lovely sunset:
Early the following morning we sailed into our 7th and penultimate port in Brazil, Ilheus. This city is located just 211 kilometers south of the state capital Salvador, which we visited on our journey south (documented in my post L1602 – Lift off!). The main industry here is tourism – so I thought this port was likely to be a great deal more interesting to visit than it’s predecessor, Rio Grande.
There were three shore tours offered in Ilheus, all of which had a walking tour of the historic part of the city as part of the tour – the choice was what else you did to accompany this. The choices were to go to a beach, to visit a cocoa farm, or my choice – to head into the Atlantic Rainforest and visit a waterfall there. I thought it would be interesting to get a tiny experience of this rainforest, and also see another waterfall – although from the picture in the tour guidebook it was nothing on the scale of the mighty Iguazu Falls I had experienced earlier in the cruise (see L1602 – Flies high, falls wide).
The port in Ilheus was a basic affair without a port terminal building, so we were able to walk directly from the ship to our waiting tour coach. On the way we were greatly entertained by a group of local Samba drummers, who were pounding out a hypnotic rhythm despite the heat – although still quite early in the morning the temperature was already very high, indicating we were in for a hot and sticky day ahead:
Once on our coach, we set off past one of the many fine beaches in the area:
On the coach we had two local guides, the main guide spoke only the local language, and the second translated what she said into good English – a better experience than we had in Rio Grande. The guides explained to us that in the past the area was famous for cocoa plantations. The plantation owners became very wealthy on the export of the cocoa to Europe, and bought themselves the title of Colonel, although they had no connection to the army. Using their wealth they visited Europe, and returning home rebuilt parts of the city in the styles they had admired on their travels. The cocoa trade continued until the late 1980s, when a fungal infection called Witches’ Broom completely decimated the crops and destroyed the industry. There is uncertainty how this infection was spread, some claim it was an act of deliberate bio-terrorism.
We drove out of the city to the north, passing some quite basic housing on the way, before reaching the coast road:
After running parallel to the coast for a while, the route headed more inland and into the Atlantic Rainforest. At times the forest encroached very close to the road, and occasionally there were some small villages:
After about 45 minutes we reached our destination, Cachoeira do Tijuipe. A local landowner had created this small tourist attraction around a river running through the rainforest. At various places the river widened into pools, where you could bathe if you wished, and there were a couple of ‘waterfalls’, which were in reality more like cascades. There was quite a steep walk down an unpaved track to reach the river, which was crossed on this narrow rustic bridge:
From there it was a short walk to the first of the pools and cascades, where there was also a café offering refreshments (at our own expense). This is where most people stopped, but I continued to follow the paths upstream, and came across a second pool and cascade, which I found more attractive, not least due to the considerably fewer people around! The surrounding trees gave good shade from the burning sun, and it was a very attractive place to explore:
We were given an hour and three-quarters before we had to return to our coaches, the walk back up the hill proving more of a challenge as the day grew steadily hotter and hotter. Back on the coaches, we headed back to the city for the next part of our tour.
On our drive to the rainforest attraction, at the point where the road veered inland from the coast, the English-speaking guide pointed out a pull in area beside the road, which she said provided a good view looking back along the coast, but regrettably we did not stop to see it. Some of the people on our coach asked if we could stop there for a short photo stop on the way back. We were told it was too difficult to cross the road to the pull in area heading back, but that the coach would slow for us to grab what would be an inferior picture through the coach windows. The obvious question was why therefore didn’t we make the stop on the way to the attraction?
As we drove back along the coast road, I could see our ship in the distance:
On the outskirts of the city we stopped at a chocolate factory and shop. Through glass windows you could see the chocolate being prepared, and in the shop you could purchase their wares:
However in the shop, despite being divided into two identical halves, it was almost impossible to see what was for sale behind the glass display cabinets, never mind get served, due to the crush of people. Not only had all four coaches from our tour arrived at the same time, but at least three more from another tour were also there at the same time!
I do get frustrated by the way Fred. Olsen insists on sending multiple coaches doing the same tour out in convoy, rather than spacing them out time-wise, resulting in small venues being simply swamped with people. A couple of other examples come to mind:
– in Northern Norway I took a tour from Alta which initially drove across a remote mountain plateau, and at one point there was a stop so we could appreciate how remote and isolated it was – only it wasn’t because two coach-loads of people were there at the same time!
– in Finland I was on a tour which amongst other things visited this tiny decorated church, but five coach-loads of people arrived to see it at the same time – it gave a while new meaning to playing sardines and nobody got to see very much of the church, yet alone photograph it.
Anyway rant over, back to the chocolate factory and shop! Some of the passengers did succeed in buying the chocolate, but I wondered how it would fare in the heat of the day. Reboarding the coach, we then drove to the historical centre of the city. Here we disembarked for the walking tour.
Our first stop was the Catedral São Sebastião – the Cathedral of Saint Sebastian. Construction of the cathedral began in 1931, and it was dedicated in 1967:
Much of the remainder of the walk was related to the celebrated Brazilian author, Jorge Amado (1912 – 2001). His books, translated into 49 languages and sold in 55 countries, reflect Brazil’s culture, contradictions and inequalities. He grew up and spent much of his writing life in Ilheus.
We passed the Vesúvio Bar, which used to be frequented by the Colonels, and where Jorge Amado set one of his most famous books, Gabriela, Cravo e Canela – Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon. A statue of him sits at a table outside:
Our next stop was the Bataclan, now a restaurant and bar, but in the heyday of the Colonels it was a brothel. The guides told us of a secret entrance from a bar that the men-folk would use so that their wives would not know where they really were. The inside of the Bataclan reflected it’s colourful past, here I’ve used the hanging umbrellas to preserve the modesty of the ladies who’s pictures adorned the walls:
Upstairs there was a large room, with one end set out to replicate Jorge Amado’s bedroom, and the other displaying some of his artifacts such as his typewriter, as well as many pictures showing how the city looked at that time:
We then walked on to the Museu Casa de Cultura Jorge Amado – the Jorge Amado House of Culture Museum. This house was built by Colonel João Amado, father of Jorge, and is where Jorge spent part of his life. We saw a room preserved as it would have been at that time, and also displays of photographs of him, and some of his clothing and works. There was also a curious sculpture and some attractive tiling inside the building, and a statue of him standing outside:
We then walked by a very grand building built by another of the cocoa Colonels, which is now the town hall:
On our way back to the coach we passed a church, another Colonel’s grand house, some street art and the theatre. Our coach was waiting close to the beach:
Reboarding the coach we drove back to our waiting ship, and I was very relieved to get back to the cool conditions of my air conditioned cabin for a rest.
After the disappointments of Rio Grande, thankfully this was a very good tour. On a scorching hot day when the temperature reached 35 degrees, the river, pools and cascades of the rainforest provided a stark contrast to the history on display in the city, including the (former) brothel.
Postscript: Later that day I went up on deck to watch and photograph as the sun set our ship setting sail for our final port in Brazil and South America, which will feature in my next post: