The dogs and beaches of Arembepe and some adventures in Salvador

10 Apr – 30 Apr

I had heard much about Salvador da Bahia and its rich culture, fabulous beaches and amazing food, which was part of the reason why I chose Salvador as the location for my first Workaway experience.

Workaway is a website that helps link people who need help with various things with volunteers. The general agreement is that in exchange for about half a day’s work, the host provides usually 2 meals and accommodation for the volunteer, who then also has some free time to tour the area. It is an excellent, not to mention economical way to travel, while getting to know some locals and also contributing something to the country.

The place I had chosen was called Sitio Folha d’Agua, a natural sanctuary located in the little beach town of Arembepe that offered yoga retreats and healing courses, in addition to having a dog pack with 16 dogs. It sounded like a slice of heaven to me, and the perfect place to get over the little bit of travel fatigue I had developed.

So when my bus finally pulled into Salvador after another excruciatingly long bus ride, I was not done. I hopped on another bus headed for Arembepe, and slightly more than an hour later, I was in Arembepe, where I called my host Evelyn, who had agreed to pick me up. I finally arrived at the Sitio, and was introduced to the wonderful dog pack. It was slightly overwhelming but the dogs all seemed lovely,

Some of my doggy friends! <3 Arembepe, Brazil, May 2014

Some of my doggy friends! ❤
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

as did Evelyn and the two other Workawayers, Khalil and Rhea, a French-Scottish couple. I was slightly exhausted after the long travel day and headed to bed early after the dinner that Evelyn very kindly provided.

Not before taking some night-time pictures of the Sitio Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Not before taking some night-time pictures of the Sitio
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Absolutely gorgeous place, even at night Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Absolutely gorgeous place, even at night
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

A tree I fell in love with Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

A tree I fell in love with
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

The next day, I awoke early, at about 6am, because of the dogs’ delighted barking when Evelyn went out to greet them. I headed out to join them and the morning passed quite rapidly, with a couple of hours spent on brushing the dogs and checking them for fleas, followed by a delicious breakfast of fresh fruits, bread, and coffee. I spent the rest of the morning wandering around the compound pruning dead leaves and branches, a very pleasant activity I quite enjoyed doing.

And taking more pictures of the premises Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

And taking more pictures of the premises
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Lovely place, with delightful places to sit and while the time away (during my free time of course) Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Lovely place, with delightful places to sit and while the time away (during my free time of course)
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Evelyn and Khalil hard at work Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Evelyn and Khalil hard at work
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

For lunch, Evelyn took us all out to the town of Arembepe as a welcome treat for me. We had moqueca, a regional speciality only found in Bahia – a rich seafood stew that was absolutely bursting with flavour.

Arembepe is a delightful town! Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Arembepe is a lovely town!
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

After lunch, I supposedly had the afternoon off, but decided to accompany her to the grocery shop to pick up some supplies for myself. I spent the rest of the day hanging out with the delightful dogs – Princesa (the oldest of the pack), Bambi (the leader of the pack), Foucinha, Bambinha, Brisa, Amigão, Putchu, Xuxa, Zooey, Boli, Xaru, Linda, Luana, Paje (who barked at everyone), Lobo and Albert. It took a couple of days to learn all their names and recognize them but it helped that they were such lovely dogs.

The next day, there were a bunch of visitors coming to the Sitio for a spiritual healing ceremony, so the morning passed in a blur of preparations – raking the leaves in the garden, bringing out the things necessary for the ceremony, and then helping the visitors with their preparations as well. Things quietened down a little in the evening once the ceremony started as I wasn’t involved and just had to keep an eye on the dogs, a relatively easy task.

The next day was a Sunday, and technically my day off but because some of the visitors to the ceremony had stayed on, I had to help with getting breakfast ready, but after that, I was free to do as I pleased. I decided to make use of the little outdoor pool in the Sitio and go for a swim to cool off from the heat, after which I simply relaxed in one of the many hammocks in the Sitio, reading and stroking the dogs as they came by to see what I was up to.

Dogs and hammocks - who could ask for more? Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Dogs and hammocks – who could ask for more?
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Monday was back to work, and Evelyn set me to the task of raking the leaves. I found that I enjoyed it tremendously – there’s something about gathering all the fallen leaves together and bringing some order to chaos. And of course, I learnt that a freshly raked garden stays freshly raked for about five minutes. My morning of work done, we had lunch and I headed off to explore the town.

The beach at night was so  peaceful and tranquil <3 Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

The beach at night was so peaceful ❤
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

It turned out to be a quiet little town right on the beach with not too many inhabitants and I loved its tranquil atmosphere.

My favourite time of day in Arembepe Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

My favourite time of day in Arembepe
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

I spent the next two days doing general gardening type jobs at the Sitio as well as helping with the care of the dogs. The afternoons and evenings I spent at the beach, swimming and reading while basking in the delightful sunshine.

Never ending stretches of coast are super relaxing to walk along Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Never ending stretches of coast are super relaxing to walk along, but sometimes fishermen are fun to talk to too
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Everything looked like it was from a postcard Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Everything looked like it was from a postcard
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Gorgeous colours at sunset Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Gorgeous colours at sunset
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

I even took a trip to Projeto Tamar, a turtle conservation project dedicated to finding and protecting turtle nests on the shore. It was pretty cool to see some of the turtles they had rescued and learn more about their conservation efforts.

Crush of Finding Nemo fame? Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Crush of Finding Nemo fame?
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Eager to get fed, he splashes a ton of water out of his tank Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Eager to get fed, he splashes a ton of water out of his tank
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Some sort of wriggly starfish Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Some sort of wriggly starfish
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Sunset on a turtle egg shell Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Sunset on a turtle egg shell
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Crazy full moon Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Crazy full moon
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

It was my day off on Thursday and I decided to head to Salvador to see a bit of the city, so after breakfast I set off. Now, there had been a police strike the day before, but listening to the news on the radio, I found out that the army had been activated to replace the police presence in Salvador so I figured it would be pretty alright to visit. So I caught the bus to Salvador after breakfast and arrived at about 11am or so.

First thing I see in Salvador - a military truck near the port Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

First thing I see in Salvador – a military truck near the port
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Lots of soldiers in the streets Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Lots of soldiers in the streets
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

I spent a couple of hours walking around

The bay area of Salvador da Bahia Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

The marina with lots of pretty sailboats
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Abandoned buildings are common in Salvador Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Abandoned buildings are common in Salvador
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

The elevator that links Cidade Alta (high city) and Cidade Baixa (low city) Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Elevador Lacerda links Cidade Alta (high city) and Cidade Baixa (low city)
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Bay of Bahia Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Bay of Bahia
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Brazilian kids with sass are everywhere Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Brazilian kids with sass are everywhere
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

In line with Salvador's place as a host city for the World Cup 2014 games Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

In line with Salvador’s place as a host city for the World Cup 2014 games
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Praça da Sé Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Praça da Sé
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Random artwork in a random street Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Random artwork in a random street
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

and had my favorite moqueca for lunch

Happiness in a bowl (: Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Happiness in a bowl (:
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

before turning up at the plaza where the free walking tour was supposed to leave from. I waited and waited (and happened to meet Jacek again!) before finally realizing that perhaps the tour had been cancelled because of the strike.

Hanging out with the soldiers while waiting for the tour Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Hanging out with the soldiers while waiting for the tour
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Ah well, I had more time to explore but unfortunately for me, most of the tourist sights were also closed because of the strike. Finally tiring of walking around aimlessly on deserted streets, I decided to head back to the bus station to take a bus back to Arembepe.

Another Praça Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Another Praça
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Fun coloured buildings bring such joy to a city Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Fun coloured buildings bring such joy to a city
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

There is a tradition of tying these little ribbons to the gate of a church to make wishes come true. I don't know how many of these wishes actually will come true, but it makes for a very pretty sight indeed Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

There is a tradition of tying these little ribbons to the gate of a church to make wishes come true. I don’t know how many of these wishes actually will come true, but it makes for a very pretty sight indeed
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Great view of (some part of) the city from a random carpark Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Great view of (some part of) the city from a random carpark
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Sunset, always a gorgeous affair Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Sunset, always a gorgeous affair
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Unfortunately for me, Elevador Lacerda which is the most practical form for transport between Ciudad Alta (Upper City) and Ciudad Baja (Lower City) was already closed – but this meant I had a legitimate excuse to take a moto taxi, essentially pillion on a motorbike! However, when I reached the bus station, much to my dismay, I found out from some of the street vendors that the last bus to Arembepe had left 6 hours before, at noon, because of the police strikes. All the decent hostels in Salvador are in Ciudad Alta, which meant I had to take another moto taxi up to find myself a hostel for the night, but one of the street vendors, Valnei, I had been talking to took pity on me and offered me a place to crash for the night. He was a really nice guy so I accepted his offer and spent the night at his place with his little brother, his girlfriend and two adorable dogs. It was also a chance to see what life in the favelas of Salvador is like, and in the morning, Valnei put me on a bus back to Arembepe. My trip to Salvador turned out to be quite an interesting adventure indeed.

The next few days passed relatively calmly – I worked in the Sitio in the mornings, gardening, pruning, planting, raking and caring for (aka playing with) the dogs, and went to the beach to swim and relax in the afternoons and evenings.

Beach shenanigans Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Beach shenanigans
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

I met some handicraft sellers in Arembepe and joined in some of their festivities occasionally, even meeting the family of one of them, Eddie. Eddie and I became good friends, and on my next day off, we decided to go to Praia do Forte, a beach town about an hour from Arembepe.

A very typical beach town - church, beach, coconut tree Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

A very typical beach town – church, beach, coconut tree
Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

The church of the fort of Praia do Forte Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

The church of the fort of Praia do Forte
Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

It was an interesting town with a cool old fort on the beach that was built by the Portuguese settlers.

Very cool old fort Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

Very cool old fort
Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

Very well preserved ruins Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

Very well preserved ruins
Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

And a gorgeous day to boot Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

And a gorgeous day to boot
Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

Eddie got thirsty after our fort exploration and climbed a coconut tree to get us some fresh coconuts Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

Eddie got thirsty after our fort exploration and climbed a coconut tree to get us some fresh coconuts
Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

Apart from that, Praia do Forte is also home to a larger branch of Projeto Tamar, and we had a fun afternoon checking out the turtles and even some sharks they had rescued.

Turtles and sharks hanging out Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

Turtles and sharks hanging out
Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

Very cool collection of shells at Projeto Tamar Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

Very cool collection of shells at Projeto Tamar
Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

Nice beach to chill out (and do some yoga) as well Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

Nice beach to chill out (and do some yoga) as well
Praia do Forte, Brazil, Apr 2014

All too soon, my time at the Sitio was drawing to a close and I spent the next couple of days tying up some loose ends with Evelyn and my marketing efforts for the Sitio. I also had to say goodbye to my newfound friends Eddie and Cyntia

Cyntia and her charango Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Cyntia and her charango
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Eddie's dog, Hippie blended in with the sand quite well Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Eddie’s dog, Hippie blended in with the sand quite well
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

but we had a nice day together the Sunday before I left, watching some movies and hanging out at the beach.

Goodbye Sitio - Evelyn, Rhea and Khalil at my last dinner with them Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

Goodbye Sitio – Evelyn, Rhea and Khalil at my last dinner with them
Arembepe, Brazil, Apr 2014

I set off for Salvador on Tuesday, intending to spend a couple of days there before heading to my next destination. I ended up on a super long bus ride from Arembepe to Salvador, somewhat like a tour of the suburbs but eventually I made it to the city centre. I dropped my stuff off at a hostel and had lunch and made it for the free walking tour of Salvador that I hadn’t managed to go on my previous trip there.

The guides of the free walking tour Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

The guides of the free walking tour
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Old-school barber shop Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Old-school barber shop
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Salvador, home to gorgeous buildings Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Salvador, home to gorgeous buildings
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Going downnnnnn (in an elevator) Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Going downnnnnn (in an elevator)
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

A common sign Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

A call to address the homeless situation in Salvador – “Here, people could live” 
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

The tour turned out to be very informative and interesting and definitely provided a different perspective of Salvador that made me fall in love with it a little bit more. I went samba dancing with some people from my hostel and it was super fun, although I discovered that I still have two left feet.

It was more walking around Salvador the next day.

Cashew fruits and nuts! Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Cashew fruits and nuts!
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

A strange obsession with the bay Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

A strange obsession with the bay
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

A museum documenting the Angola-Brazil relations Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

A museum documenting the Angola-Brazil relations
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Empty facades are a common sight in Salvador Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Empty facades are a common sight in Salvador
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Broken Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Broken
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Hands Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

FREE PASS
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

I also sent a package back to Singapore with some random bits and pieces which turned out to be a super expensive package. All too soon it was time to say goodbye to the wonderful Salvador

Salvador bid me goodbye with a rousing samba performance Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

Salvador bid me goodbye with a rousing samba performance
Salvador, Brazil, Apr 2014

and to take my bus to Lençois, my first stop in Chapada Diamantina!

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