My Eccentrip: Surviving A Thirty Hour Bus Ride From Salvador To Rio(And Other Stories)

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After spending fifty days in Salvador, in the state of Bahia, I was on my way out to my next big destination on a Kaissara bus. This destination has been a dream for the past five years, it is called Rio De Janeiro.

But as usual I was running late for the bus. Partly because sadness had taken over my entire being, making me slow. The thought of leaving friends, music and Candomble(a religion I had come to love) had almost thrown me into depression.

To make things difficult, I was about to take a thirty hour long bus ride to Rio De Janeiro. Alone.

Just to help with quick information. I had bought the ticket for R$ 320 a few days earlier from the bus station. This site is a good way to get the schedule. But sometimes online payments don’t work. Plus, there is a possibility of getting cheaper tickets at the bus station or Rodoviaria(in Portuguese).

Boredom And Bad Food

The 10.30 am bus finally left at 11.00am.

What followed were thirty hours of nothingness. Boredom put me off to sleep pretty soon. Towns, highways and green swathes of land passed in a blur. There were multiple food stops at squeaky clean but sparsely crowded restaurants. Bus companies in Brazil have tie ups with specific highway hotels. You will notice that only buses of your company stop at that particular restaurant.

These were the only meals that left me disappointed in Brazil. Expensive and tasteless, they are best avoided. The Feijoda at one restaurant was so salty that I almost spat out the first bite.

I missed Indian train travel for the first time, after taking a train too many in February 2015. With no one to talk to for a day my boredom reached new heights. There were only a few fellow passengers, and none of them spoke English.

It was only late afternoon the next day that the bus pulled into the Novo Rodoviaria in Rio. I wanted to celebrate just because the excruciating ride was over. But other challenges  awaited me in Rio(which I will talk about later on the blog).

Despite such a long ride, I am thankful to these buses. Why?

The flight from Salvador to Rio is really expensive and the cost of the bus ticket is a huge relief for a long term low budget traveler(read extremely low budget) like me.

Lungi Dance In Brazil:

Only 48 hours before the long-ass bus ride, I was at Pelourinho – the historical centre of Salvador. With its colourful houses and slopes, this centre is one of the most picturesque of all tourist spots around the world.

Michael Jackson’s ‘They Don’t Really Care About Us’ was filmed here. Not just that, the song was created in collaboration with a popular local Afro-Brasilian music group called Olodum.

My motive was similar to that of Michael Jackson’s. I was there to film a video too. But, for a funny take on a popular Indian song – Lungi dance.

It can be nothing but insane luck that friends agree to make fools of themselves with me. My friends Claudiane, Marcos, Rodrigo and Leane joined me at Pelourinho at 10 in the morning. All of us had to wear funny looking lungis and dance like we never had before.

Good thing about being in Brazil is that people are hardly shy about dancing. Despite looking like jokers to passersby, we danced like no one was watching.

If this Sunday morning was about dancing, the evening before was about playing music. It was the finale of my #BatucadaBeats project.

When Things Don’t Go As Planned:

It was saturday evening at the Candomble terreiro in Arenoso(a favela in Salvador) for the finale of my #BatucadaBeats project.  The worship area was packed with people. Many priests and priestesses were possessed by spirits of their ancestors. There was food, alcohol and booming music. Not your regular Indian bhajan or aarti, you see.

Almost everyone was drunk. I would also go the extent of calling the atmosphere sexually charged.

Generally in a setting like this, I would be binging on alcohol myself. But I was sober as a new born and tense as hell.

Why?

Any moment I was to be called upon to play the drums at this intense religious ceremony. But it was a choice I had made for myself.

Forget feeling in control, I could not even remember the beats I had practised for over a month.

Then the moment arrived.

It was time to play Ijesha beats(the ones I had learnt). Thankfully, I had two other people for company.

I was behind the drums and it was time.

There were people singing and it was noisy. Quite contrary to the total silence in which I had always practised in. I just wasn’t able to pick the rhythm.

Despite trying hard, I could not match my companions. My teacher yelled ‘Concentracao‘, asking me to concentrate.

I could not. Two minutes later I felt I wouldn’t be able to do this.

Just then my teacher Bira(pictured above), took to the drums next to me.

He looked at me and kept saying ‘relax, listen & play’. Slowly, there was some semblance of a rhythm, though still not perfect.

A few more minutes later, I took to the base drums. That seemed easier. For the first time, I watched people dancing in front of me. I was actually playing drums at a Candomble ceremony in a continent far far away from home.

Till about 45 days ago I hadn’t even tried a musical instrument.

My inability to get the difficult rhythm right would have disappointed me. But the fact that I had managed to do something that was considered impossible by many gave me some satisfaction.

I was told that Candomble terreiros won’t allow me to click pictures, let alone playing music at their ceremonies.

But then weird ideas are mostly practical.

I admit that I am less than a beginner in music. May be I will remain that way forever.

But, you know, this one time I played drums at a ceremony where people were possessed by spirits of gods 🙂

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2 Comments

  • Diren says:

    This line gave me goose bumps
    “For the first time, I watched people dancing in front of me. I was actually playing drums at a Candomble ceremony in a continent far far away from home.”
    Thank you for taking us to Brazil in an incredible journey 🙂

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