Hitchhiking: Lençois & Chapada Diamantina to Salvador

My uncanny luck struck yet again as I headed back to Salvador after four days of falling in love with the enchanting Chapada Diamantina.  For anyone visiting Brazil, this place should be as high on their list as Rio de Janeiro and Jesus always are — higher, in fact.  The truth was this trip was two or three days in the making, sort of on accident, and full of wonderful surprises (which partially makes up for the horrible news I got at the end of it — more on that later).  But onto the post…

praia flamengo, salvador, beach, bahia, brazil

The Plan

Goal: Lençois in Chapada Diamantina to Salvador, hopefully right to the apartment in Vitória

Distance: approximately 422 km, full of potholes

Intended Route: Start at the only exit out of town and hope someone knows the way because I am no longer in possession of a Guia Rodoviário  (Brazil map book)!

The Journey

I left the house of Eduardo, my CS host, later than I normally would like hitchhiking, but I was waiting for him to wake up so I could say ‘goodbye.’  There’s only one exit out of Lençois and Eduardo’s house is right next to it and all but 15 minutes after leaving the house I was already in someone’s car.  Lençois and the Chapada Diamantina area has had in influx of hippies, owing to the magical scenery I suppose, so hitchhiking is very easy.   This guy was giving someone a ride to the next town; I didn’t get his name or his photo, but I’m sure he would want everyone to know they should keep their seatbelt on until the vehicle has come to a complete stop.  He gave quite the lecture to the young man he was transporting and I was glad he didn’t see that I wasn’t wearing mine.  Oops.

I was out of his car for about five minutes, in just the next town over, when a car pulled in across the street at the gas station.  There were four Brazilian guys in the car, all of whom I had met two nights before and hung out with on Friday and Saturday evening.  They were friends of friends of Eduardo and going back to Salvador.  Lucky me to arrive right where they could pick me up.  I had, in fact, known they were leaving on Sunday, but the power outage in the town had left me lost in a land without electricity and WIFI.  I expect even without my uncanny luck that getting a ride here would have been no problem, though it would have taken slightly longer.

During the course of the trip, however, I found out they weren’t actually going all the way to Salvador.  They were stopping closer to the airport, about 30-40 minutes drive from the city proper — sigh, no door to door service for me — to a place called Itapuã.  I was planning on taking a bus from there to the city since it was so close, but one of the guys, Ronnie, lived in this camping area by Praia do Flamengo and, since he was going to his girlfriend’s place for the night, I could stay in his trailer.  For anyone looking for reasonably priced free living, a sabbatical or something, this might be the place.  There’s something like 80 families living there, it’s secure, it’s a mix of trailers/semi-permanent structures, and there was WiFi.  I spent the remainder of the night talking to Ronnie, his girlfriend, and Paulo, an interesting old musician who was one of the neighbors.

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Morning light revealed an almost completely abandoned beach.  Under normal circumstances I would have hung out in the area much longer than just enough time to check out the ocean front and take a dip, but some horrible news (don’t worry no one has died) had arrived in the morning and I felt a more pressing urge to return to the apartment.  Pursuing my normal strategy of half-assed hitchhiking while waiting for the bus once again proved to be the way to go.  A man called Roosevelt stopped and told me he’d take me to Itapuã, to an area where I could catch a bus better, but I guess he changed his mind five minutes or so later after we had talked for a bit.  I cannot stress enough how awesome it is to know enough Portuguese to have real conversations!!!  He told me he was going to show me where he lived and that I would be floored by how awesome it was–then he would take me all the way into town.  Why? I have no idea, but I guess he really wanted me to see the place.

He lives next to these amazing sand dunes by Salvador’s airport, Parque das Dunas, that I’d never heard of, but people come from all over to explore.  Roosevelt gave me a tour of all the classes, the greenhouse, composting area, etc, etc.  They were doing quite a bit of environmental work and education and he was masterminding many of the additions to the area.  Next time I’m in Salvador, I’m definitely going back there — it would be a great place to do video work/photography.  I was very disappointed to have to leave so quickly.  Once he’d showed me the entire place and introduced me to a number of people, he drove me all the way to the apartment and said if I needed any help or wanted to go there for the evening before my flight (surprise! to somwhere) I could call him and take the bus back out there.  I’m thinking about it…

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Hitchhiking in Brazil might be dangerous, but I’d be missing out on so much if I wasn’t going around this way! Ah, Brasil, Brasil já saudades pra você…

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