We headed out of Recife for a day at sea on the way south.
Ilheus was different. While Recife was a major port and city catering for transatlantic commerce Ilheus was a small town whose claim to fame was the production of chocolate (now largely in the past). One of the beauties of being in a small ship was that we could get into the small ports. We were welcomed into the port by a samba drumming outfit who seemed to be dressed up in African cotton shirts. They were great.
Ilheus had that same decaying colonial architecture that we’d seen in Olinda. We wandered through the town and looked at the electricity wiring reminiscent of Thailand and India. It hung in swathes across every building and formed great knotted junctions on every corner rather masking the gaudily coloured buildings.
The centre of town was a square a hundred metres from the beach. The Cathedral dominated to one side and the theatre at another. Many citizens sat in the shade of the magnificent old fig trees while other folk did their best to extract cash from tourists. There were stalls selling cashew nuts and raw chocolate, a group of young men doing the acrobatic kick boxing/dance – Capoeira. Well I say doing. What I really mean is that the musicians playing a short burst while two or three put on a performance and then they demanded money from anyone who dared to watch. We watched. It was fun and looked very interesting and the musical instruments were weird. It was worth a dollar.
There was also a very strange big black woman in a headscarf and big flouncy white dress. It was our first introduction to Brazilian Voodoo – Candomblé. For a small payment she would give you a blessing. It seemed perfectly mainstream. Voodoo sat alongside Catholicism. People seemed perfectly happy to come out of the cathedral and receive a voodoo blessing. They were covering both bases.
The Cathedral was heaving with people all joining in with their hands raised palms upward. It always amazes me that the poorer and more deprived the people the more they put their faith in religion and superstition. The evangelicals were making a huge impact in Brazil. There were churches popping up all over the place with massive congregations.
The Cathedral was opulent and a great example of Portuguese architecture though not quite as typical as many. It looked a bit fairy-tale. I enjoyed it. But there were the ubiquitous clutch of beggars.
Out in the cathedral plaza there was some guy whirling around with a huge hat. IHe didn’t seem to be taking money so I don’t know what that was about. I decided it was either some new religion or something for the tourists to wonder at.
I wandered on the beach but, due to El Nino, it was a drab day. The beach was empty and did not sparkle.
We headed out into the hinterland to get a small taste of Brazilian Atlantic rainforest. We saw a waterfall, some pretty birds (including a humming bird) and gorgeous flowers but I was disappointed to find so little life. You could not describe it as teeming.