Peter and Hilly Smith’s Trip to Poços – Bahia – Brazil
Arriving in Salvador, the adventure began. A taxi took us on a 7 hour journey to the tiny village of Poços in the state of Bahia, North East region of Brazil. There were a couple of small villages along the way but in general the journey took us through a vast countryside of semi-arid land, with hardy vegetation composed mainly of thorny shrubs adapted to lack of water and extreme heat.
Poços is a small village, compact and approx. 2km square, it can be quite easily walked around in 40 minutes. The majority of the roads in central Poços are constructed from stone although once away from the Centre you will find they are mainly dusty dirt roads. Although things are quite basic, the females take great pride in keeping their part of the street clean and tidy by brushing their own part of the street every day; as well as this, rubbish is picked up once a week by the bin lorries.
The houses are traditionally one story high, very tightly packed together and secured with metal shutters to prevent the risk of thieves breaking in. All of the houses have water tanks in the grounds which hold approx. 10000ltrs of water. Our accommodation was with a lady by the name of Tia Maria who is the most gracious of hosts and would not let us do anything around the house; on our first day at breakfast Tia Maria prepared enough food for about 20 people! Which was very gracious of her but all we were looking for was toast and tea. Lunch and evening meals include rice, beans with grilled meats, usually served with a green salad or vegetables. This was followed by fresh fruit which was usually picked fresh from the tree. No meal would be complete without a drink of very strong sweet black coffee. If you enjoy a cup of tea after your meal, remember to take your own.
Every Monday, the day starts very early with the arrival of the market traders. Around the main square people sold everything from leather riding saddles, fresh tobacco, fresh fruit & vegetables with fashions to suit all tastes. One small discovery was ‘jack cake’, yellow sponge doused in a thick sweet syrup, perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth. Monday is also the day we had fish from the market, and Maria cooked it to perfection.
Poços doesn’t cater for the traveller, and not much for the locals for that matter – magazines, newspapers, card shops and postcards don’t exist, if they do, well we couldn’t find any! Tiny little drinking bars, set up by locals, sell cold beer and Campari.
Poços is mostly a quiet village; people rise with the sun and begin their daily routines. The cloud often bubbles up in the morning, giving some respite from the intense sun; and this is when most of the physical work is done. Between 11am and 2am the villagers tend to spend most of their time either inside or looking for shade from the intense sun.
Traditional values play an important part in Poços and are passed down through the generations; there are still a few local tapioca factories in use (with extremely old equipment that would be condemned if used here in the UK), horse riding on a Sunday afternoon, tending to crops and of course no Brazilian village would be complete without a couple of football pitches.
Religion is a big part of village life, with almost everyone attending a church; and there is a good selection to choose from, whether it be catholic, Baptist, Evangelist, or the Jesus Saviour.
We thought it would be a good idea to go to all of them earlier on in our stay, letting people know there were some ‘gringo’s’ in town. The idea paid off, everyone was very friendly, shaking our hands and even though the language was a barrier, we sensed that we were being made to feel welcome. Word got round that there were 2 foreigners in town very quickly. Almost everyone must have known we were there. Some of the more enthusiastic teenagers would approach us and practice what little English they had learnt. ‘What is your name?’ we would hear almost every day,- but once we told them, they went away giggling, finding it strange that we didn’t speak Portuguese.
We made friends with one of the school teachers, who just happened to be an English teacher, his name Jasson. He became our unofficial guide to the area, taking us to see the surrounding villages, the chrome mine, caves with pre-historic paintings, a plantation and views of Poços. The college where he worked looks after young students up till the age of 16, Jasson took us a couple of times to have a look around.
Some of the students had already seen us at the churches, but for those who travelled outside Poços to the college, this was an encounter with real live foreigners. Lots of giggles with their hands over their mouths and staring! The college has a class room designated to blind, deaf & non-speaking students, with Braille charts on the wall, support aids and books which are all provided by the government. Poços is lucky to have this classroom, being in such an isolated area. We went into one class of young teenagers who were learning English. We wrote a question on the board in front of the class: ‘Who is going to win the world cup, Brazil or England?’, Well, you could image the response..!
The village, although small, seems to manage with several nursery, primary and one huge Secondary school, if students want to further their education, there is a college in Bonfim, which is about 40 minutes’ drive, the universities are in the major cities, the nearest being Salvador. There is a small Health Centre, with a dentist, maternity unit, physiotherapy department which holds basic medical supplies. Minor operations can be performed in Campo Formoso; major operations are done in Salvador, which of course is very far away!
More about Poços very soon
By Peter and Hilly Smith (Trustee)