April 16th – Got a good early start to Campeche Island. Walked all the way there – it was a long way, or so it seemed – over 7 miles. Once on the mainland beach directly opposite the island, I found a boat which ferried me over, and promised to pick me back up in 3 hours. Walked over to the tour guides and I was just in time for the island walk that took a small group of us – maybe 6 people – over the hill at the interior of the island to the eastern seaboard, where the waves were much rougher and most of the archeological sites were. It was very interesting to see the petroglyphs etched into the stone There were numerous different patterns and designs, and most of them are getting difficult to see anymore, due to weatherization.
Back on the west side of the island where the water is calm, I celebrated my being there with a beer at the outdoor restaurant, and a walk along the beach, where I saw some fascinating grinding holes in hard rock along the shoreline. My boat came back for me on schedule, and another wondrous little miracle happened – the family who shared the same boat back with me offered me a ride back to the Lagoon, which I gratefully and immediately accepted.
On the drive back we passed huge HUGE developments of 6 story condo buildings – these things were massive, and about 8 of them. Apparently they were built in advance of the sewage and water situation being solved, so the developers have been stopped, even though the enormous buildings have been all built. And it is a known fact that these large new condo buildings will undoubtedly dump their sewage right into the ocean, largely untreated. And they are already perched at the edge of the lagoon. The wildlife around the area has been directly affected, and though the damage is all known, the locals are unable to stop the monied interests.
From what the family told me, Brazil is growing way too fast. In the last 8 years, 88,000 people have moved in to this rural coastal area – that’s 11,000 per year. The growth seems to be due in part to the expanding mono crops of GMO soybeans being planted throughout the region. The large soybean crops are killing off the native plants and changing the environment around the entire agricultural area – which is extremely large. We arrived after only a 15 minute drive back at the Lagoon, and they dropped me off at my favorite little restaurant, sparing me that grueling 2 hour walk all the way back!
I ate my favorite meal and walked the 6 short blocks back to Submarino Hostel where the mom, Maria Helen, of Julio and Paola (the sibling owners of the hostel) invited me to join her and a group of her friends at a true Bahian dinner that evening. It was my first knowledge that Bahian food was going to be so much different than Florianopolis food.
Bahia is populated mostly by the descendants of the slaves who originally were brought from Africa by the Spanish and Portuguese to help mine the gold and diamonds in the early 1700s that were being extracted from the land and shipped back to Europe. The more I learned about the history of Brazil, the more I saw how similarly it tracked with what happened in North America, only North America was being plundered and overtaken by the British and the French. The more history I continued to learn of Brazil, the more my eyes were opened…but that’s another post.
That evening Maria Helen came and picked me up in her car, and drove myself and her friend to a home owned by two Bahian women who had set up the whole house – with indoor and patio seating – as a restaurant. In their kitchen was a large pot filled with boiling local vegetable oil into which they plopped the traditional Bahian food for fast frying (about 5 minutes) before removing and serving.
It was fascinating and very filling, containing fish and coconut and vegetables all smushed inside the fried white patty of ground palm heart, I think. When I find out for sure I will come back to this post and update what it was made out of and what it is called. I ate several and was absolutely stuffed!
After that I was taken back to the Submarino Hostel whereupon I dove into bed, utterly exhausted.