March 25-28, 2007
I decided I'd had enough of Salvador and headed to Praia do Forte, yet another cookie cutter-beach resort town on Brazil's NE coast. Accommodation was supposed to be expensive, so I headed for the campground. The only problems with this were that I was the only camper and would have to walk twenty minutes every time I wanted to see the town or the beach.
The campground owner's friend was heading to Praia do Forte and offered to show me around. Almost as soon as we entered the place, I ran into Matias, the Argentine from my Chapada Diamantina trek. I knew he was living somewhere near Salvador but I didn't remember where. He invited me to stay in his place, so for the rest of my stay I was living for free and in the middle of town, a great combination.
Praia do Forte was a pleasant place to visit because it only had three roads, the main one being for pedestrians only, and miles of practically deserted beaches. The downsides were putting up with the hundreds of hippies trying to sell me their jewelery (Why don't they get a real job? Oh wait, nevermind.) and the constant bombardment of solar rays.
The main attraction in Praia do Forte is the turtle reserve, part of the TAMAR project. TAMAR stands for "TArtaruga MARinha," which is the Portuguese phrase for "sea turtle." The project's main purpose is to repopulate Brazil with its five species of sea turtle, all of which have been brought almost to extinction by hunting and pollution: loggerhead, hawksbill, olive ridley, green, and leatherback. This is accomplished by getting the turtles to reproduce in captivity and enter the sea, where only one in one thousand will survive into adulthood. Adults of all five species were on display in aquariums at the reserve. The biggest and most impressive species was the leatherback, whose shell can grow to over two meters (that's taller than me) and can weigh up to 700 KG (that's ten times what I weigh). Also on display were a wide variety of other sea life and a mountain of information about the project. Life in Praia do Forte clearly revolves around the TAMAR project, so it was good to see how well it appeared to be going.
The other area attraction was the Castelo do Garcia d' Avila. Garcia became one of the luckiest men in Brazil in 1552 when the Brazilian government chose to give him a huge piece of land for apparently no reason at all. This generous offering propelled him from poor farmer to castle owner extraordinaire. The walk through the blazing sun took forever, but the half-crumbling-half-restored castle was somewhat interesting. And after all, I just couldn't skip out on seeing Brazil's oldest standing edifice.
Most of Brazil has more beaches that you can shake a fio dental at, and Praia do Forte is no exception. The coastline stretched forever and for the most part I only had to share it with the turtle hatchlings. This part of Brazil is getting old quickly, though. One can only do so much relaxing while clinging to his sanity.
The photo album for this entry is here.