I had been anticipating visiting the coast since I first set foot in Brazil. I knew I had plans for Rio at the end of November so I was already psyched for that. But when my uncle invited me to accompany him and my aunt and two cousins to a road trip to Bahia a couple weeks in advance, I became entirely enamored at the prospect of visiting a Brazilian beach for the very first time.
I had already packed my bag for Bahia so that when I arrived after work (which I had already rescheduled classes with my students before) I would be ready to leave at 6pm. I slept the entire way there, as I was exhausted from work and was greatly sleep-deprived. By the time we arrived in Bahia it was already noon, meaning we had traveled approximately 16 hours by van. I was a bit groggy from so much sleep when my uncle reached the city. We went out for lunch and later bought some chocolates at a kiosk by the beach. My first impression of the beach was then, even though we were parked some ways away from it. Even from a distance, it was a magnificent sight. I had missed seeing the beach and my heart ached in happiness to know that I had returned to my happy place. We didn’t, however, head over to the beach when we first arrived because we were in great need of rest from the long trip.
I’m not sure what I was expecting our hotel to be like. I thought, judging by the state of the city, that it would be a small but within close proximity to the beach. I was not expecting Tororomba Resort, which was, in fact, quite a marvelous resort. When we arrived, I was amazed at how splendid it appeared to be. There were little tropical cottages scattered around the center of the resort, where there was an indoor and outdoor restaurant alongside a fairly large pool with two water slides hovering over it. Continuing past the pool was a place where dance lessons were hosted, and a little house to the left which served as a game room and media room, and even as a playroom for children. There were also ponds, tennis courts, soccer fields, saunas, and plenty of other stuff that not even I knew they had. Once we received our keys, we left the resort area for our cabins located in “O Bosque” (The Forest). Its title did not deceive: the little houses were placed right in the middle of glorious greenery, grass and trees and flowers of red and pink and orange hues, with a river off to the side of which was connected to the center of the resort. The house inside was nice and clean and organized. There were 3 beds (2 downstairs, one big one in the master bedroom), 2 bathrooms with showers (upstairs and downstairs) and a small kitchen downstairs. The house connected to us, where my uncles would stay was identical to ours, just reflected as if on a graph.
The rest of the night we only stayed inside, as my uncle and aunt claimed they needed some rest after the long drive. So my cousins and I just sat in one of the rooms, talking, eating, and watching TV until the sun began to set. At the time, I had believed that I wasn’t very much proximate to my two guy cousins, Lincoln (17) and Danton (14). But my hopes were that after the trip, I could break down any barriers between us and gain their closeness.
After a while, my uncle decided to go out to the city to see if anything exciting was going on. But the reality was that Ilheus was a pretty big area, but there wasn’t much to do, especially on a Thursday night. We returned, then, for dinner at the resort and went to the area where there was presumably dance lessons going on. There were barely any people when we arrived, however, despite how “happening” the manager described it as. Although it was a fairly small crowd, however, the animated dance instructor made the night a enjoyable one, teaching us new dances to some popular Brazilian songs. I admired his energy and his passion for dance. Once the dance lessons were over, we headed back to our place and fell asleep in anticipation of heading to the beach the following morning.
Friday morning we woke up around 8:00 a.m. and headed to the resort for breakfast. There was a variety of options to choose from the displayed buffet. They even had scrambled eggs, but I opted to try new things, such as the scrumptious coconut tapioca with “doce de leite” (condensed milk) inside and drizzled on top, which is a famous dish in the region of Bahia. It was very light, and without the “doce de leite” it probably would not have had much taste to it. After everyone was satisfied, we made our way to the beach, which was literally 30 steps away from the center of the resort.
The beach. Oh, how the beach was marvelous! So breathtaking in its beauty that it literally caused my heart to ache at the wondrous sight. I made sure to apply plenty of sunblock, as my grandmother warned me of the strong rays of the sun in Bahia, and I was not aiming to return to school as red as a tomato. We were still applying sunblock when a ring of vendors arrived with their intended products of sale. The first that stopped by our area was a Henna Tattoo artist. The man said the temporary tattoo would last approximately 15 days, and I was fairly interested in getting one, especially because it was Henna and would only last for so long until it disappeared. My cousin, Lincoln, got one of his favorite Brazilian soccer team (Galo) on the side of his calf. I decided to get one as well: a symbol that somewhat resembled the sun, when in fact it could have been a simple doodle. I also ended up purchasing a cheap pair of faux Ray-Bans (which ended up getting scratched up inside my purse). When I entered the ocean I was still so captivated by the beauty of Bahia. Compared to Miami beach, Ilheus had more nature, less signs of urbanity (urban life) and all the busyness and stress of everyday life. You could hear the lulling sound of the waves hitting the shore without tuning out any noise. As we were staying at a resort, the beach was almost vacant, basically empty in comparison to the packed, crowded beaches of South Florida. So it was nice to actually appreciate the beauty of the beach without any distractions. It was, to put it simply, a blissful sensation, relaxing on the sand, the smooth sounds of the ocean waves beating the shore, so soothing to my ears. We spent the rest of our morning and afternoon there, and once we made our way to our table where we planned to eat lunch, this lady with a camera approached me, asking if she could snap some photos of me. I was caught off guard but I walked with her as she explained how she works for the resort as a photographer, taking pictures of everyone if they were interested in purchasing them later. The lady beckoned me over to the pool and had me stand in the center of the pool, and I began to pose. All of a sudden, however, water began to spew at me from all sorts of directions and I sprinted away from the sprinklers. It turned out that one of the workers thought the water might look pretty in the background of the pictures but I ended up drenched almost head to toe in water. We laughed so much about it that day. I also participated in a water aerobics class held in the pool alongside my aunt and uncle (perhaps my cousins thought participating with the crowd with their parents would be lame and embarrassing). It was pretty fun actually, and I enjoyed it! I remember having seen classes like this the last time I went to Hot Park in Brazil, but considering my train of thought back then, I thought it too embarrassing to participate as my cousins did, so I understood their decision. Opinions change as you grow older, I have learned, as you begin to value every little detail of life, trying to make the best of every moment. Especially in a situation of being a traveler, as I consider myself to be.
Anyway, after lunch we returned to the beach and stayed until sunset. We ended up going out to the city at night for some pizza, and I tried an interesting new flavor (a favorite of my uncle’s): banana. From the first bite, it was overwhelmingly and unbearably sweet. But as I took another bite and another, it wasn’t too bad. I found that the aftertaste was better than the actual taste. Once again we ended the night with dance lessons; this time there was a different instructor. This one was more flamboyant, more difficult to follow. It was still a fun night, despite the change in instructor. I learned various new dances as I did the night before
Saturday morning we woke up around the same time as the day before, heading again for the breakfast buffet at the resort. We headed to the beach once more and relaxed and walked for a bit by the water. Later that afternoon, my cousin and I brought out the wakeboards and he and my uncle taught me how to jump and ride with the waves. We also passed around the soccer ball, my cousins and I, then attempted to perform little tricks. One of the resort entertainment workers initiated a volleyball match on the beach with my cousins, and I eventually joined in, however, volleyball isn’t exactly my forte. I also tried a game of what appeared to be ping-pong, however the paddles and ball were bigger and heavier than your regular table tennis. Later that day we were greeted by a small crab that was meandering the beach without one of its claws. The people at the resort became fascinated with the creature, watching it scurry along the bright sand. My uncle grabbed it with his bare hands to examine it, and I proceeded to take several pictures of it to capture the memory.
It was such a cute creature, I thought, although I wasn’t really willing to hold it as my uncle so did. I have my limits. During our ping-pong game, Lincoln let out a yelp and began limping over to our table. Apparently he had been stung on his foot. He didn’t let out any more cries of pain. In fact, you probably couldn’t have told that he was hurt, from the calm composure he was presenting. Fortunately the wound wasn’t too critical, as he was already back on his feet an hour later. He didn’t enter the ocean again, however, after the incident. I was a bit wary as well at first, afraid that I could the next one to be stung. But I figured there’s no use in being afraid. I knew that chances of another person getting stung the same day were pretty low. Sometimes having fun means taking risks, right? Life is not remotely enjoyable when in fear it (revise). Later that night there was another exciting soccer match, and more dancing that this time took place on the platform right in front of the beach. We dance the night away, taking the dances we had learned from the previous couple days and putting them to use. There were 4 lively dance instructors this time, dancing with the people or doing their cool routines. I noticed the handsome dance instructor from the first night was there, and he began to dance with a girl who looked to be a tad younger than me. As a new song began, I watched as he showed her the ropes of a new dance routine of forro. She didn’t seem like she was too into it; she was shy with her hips and movement altogether. I began to hope he would later ask me to dance with him. To appear occupied, I simply stayed and conversed with my family as I admired the way the brilliant moonlight shone done on the midnight dark ocean waves. Idly sifting through my purse, I turned around to catch another glimpse of the instructor, but he was already there. He extended his hand, his expression saying “come on, just one dance”. I took his hand, and he whirled me to the dance floor, asking if I had already learned the new steps to the dance that night. I told him he was going to have to teach me, and so he did. I quickly got the hang of the complex dance moves. I know it may seem silly but I was completely starry-eyed, entranced, feeling as though we were the only two people in the room, floating gracefully as in a dream. I probably had felt that way because I had to put all my focus on the dance steps, to make sure I wouldn’t mess up the flow of the dance. I also wanted to demonstrate just how much of a swift learner I am. We had probably danced for a good 3 songs when he went back to the keyboard to perform, and the other, more flamboyant dance instructor, approached me for another dance. It wasn’t the same as dancing with the other guy, however, dancing with him was still fun, as he kept making all of us laugh. After a while, the dance instructors began to strike up conversations with the people who had shown up, and the guy instructor I had danced with asked where we were all from. Then, looking directly at me, he asked, “Anyone here from somewhere interesting? Is everyone here just from Brazil?” And so I immediately assumed that one of his co-workers had mentioned that I was American. Soon they wanted me to sing a song but all the songs my dance partner suggested, I either didn’t recognize the song or didn’t know the lyrics. I also felt too timid to sing in front of everyone, but I didn’t let it show. I simply and politely declined their offer, and so they played the last couple of songs to end the night. It was melancholy that I had to leave the next afternoon when I had such a grand time dancing with the instructor and spending time with my family. Unfortunately though, the night did come to a close and we wished everyone a great night as we headed back to our cabin for our last night. In the morning, we headed to the beach one last time and hit the pool as well, racing down the daring water slides. I also purchased some last-minute trinkets and souvenirs to bring back home from Bahia.
Our journey back was terribly and excruciatingly tiring, as it took longer to go home then it had to come to Bahia. It lasted exactly 23 hours of travel time, as we ended up sleeping a couple hours at some random motel. Once I got back to my grandmother’s house (Monday afternoon!), I wanted to kiss the ground because finally I was back at home with my bed and fully functioning restroom.
All in all, my experience in Bahia was one that I will never forget. Being at such a marvelous, breathtaking location with endless fun brought me indescribably, inexplicable joy. I would recommend everyone to spend a beach week in Bahia!