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An unforseen diversion

Day 14: Salvador

My eyes involuntarily flicked away from the computer screen, as two objects moved into the background.

I instantly recognised them.  They were the couple that I had seen checking in in the late hours of the previous night, while the small group of us hostel guests made idle chatter in the dimly lit lounge adjacent to the hostel's reception room.

'Hi,' I automatically spoke up.  They returned the greeting.  We exchange the usual traveller pleasantries.  Namely, where are you from, where have you been, and where are you heading.

She was Dutch.  He was an Argentine.  Both in their mid twenties.  They had flown up to Salvador from Buenos Aires the night before, and were due to spend a very loosely planned month up here in the northern Brazilian state of Bahia.

I filled them in on my week in Rio, and joked about wishing I was still back there and not here, in the manner of a person who is trying to make light of what they feel is a very serious situation.

'So what are you doing now?' Odette, the Dutch girl asked curiously.

'Oh, just trying to figure out where to go next.  Salvador is just too quiet for me.  Maybe somewhere up north?'

'You must go up to Recife and Olinda, it is beautiful up there,' she enthused.

'Anyway,' her boyfriend spoke up.  'We are just going outside to buy something, we'll be back in a second.'  And with that I said good bye, and returned to my web browsing.

Less than two minutes later, the silence was broken by the hostel door bell ringing, and in stepped the same couple once again.  They made a beeline for my direction and stopped in front of the computer.

'Would you like to come to Itecare with us?' they asked suddenly.

'To where?' I asked in surprise.  Evidently my Brazilian geography skills were lacking.

'Itecare,' Odette explained.  'Me and Ivan were about to go buy tickets to get there and just thought of asking if you would want to travel with us!'

The incredulity and astonishment must have registered all over my face, because she hastily added, 'only if you want to of course.  It's nine hours away by bus.'

'Err...' my mouth gaped open as I searched for words and also rapidly mentally scanned my options.

Let's see.  I had already spent several days in Salvador.  The hostel was as lively as a funeral parlour and the other guests had personalities to match one.  While I had told Odette I was on the internet, looking at ways of venturing up to the north, this was in fact, a lie.  Instead, the real reason was I was quite seriously close to plonking down several hundred reals on an air ticket so I could fly down to Buenos Aires and join my friends from Rio.  But what if I just teamed up with these guys instead?  They were practically offering me a lifeline out of this solitary travel!

'Err...' I continued to stammer uncharacteristically.

But jeez.  I barely knew these two.  I had only spoken to them for less than ten minutes at best.  What if they were complete maniacs?  I'm sure they weren't, but then again, I don't think serial murderers go around sweetly introducing themselves as axe murderers when trying to ramp up their kill score.


I really needed to make a decision.  Their looks were expectant, yet my mouth was still unable to form any coherent words.

What if Itecare was worse than Salvador?  What if, somehow, we didn't get along on the way?  Would it just result in awkward silences and forced, polite conversation?  Should I just not bother?  Was it worth taking the risk?

'I'm coming!'  I announced, almost shouting it, before my mind could force me to choose logic over impulse.

'Yay!' the Dutch girl clapped.  I could already see she was the more energetic of the two.  'Let's go buy these tickets.'

'If you don't mind, I might wanna join you guys too,' a hesitant, drawling voice spoke, seemingly out of nowhere.

I swivelled round in my chair and my face came within inches from a pair of white socked feet in old, heavily used trainers standing on the staircase.

It was Walter, the older American guy in my dorm room.  The rest of him came into view as he walked down and came to a stop at the foot of the staircase.

'Oh. Er,' Odette faltered slightly, before picking up again.  'Yes, sure you can come with us too!'

As the four of us walked out of the hostel, up and down several hilly cobblestone streets and towards a travel agent, I wondered how Itecare was going to pan out.  A quick, conversational chat while sitting on the hostel PC had let to an invite to some small surfing town a full overnight bus journey away, and an eavesdropping backpacker had secured himself a place in this impromptu travelling crew.

While coughing up the 100 Reals for the one way ticket, I wondered if the combo of Brazilian sun, sand and sea had caused a damaging effect on my regard for personal safety.  I barely knew these people, and had never even heard of the place I was now destined to go to.  Perhaps it was better not to think about it. 

Later that evening, as we packed our backpacks, a new couple strolled into our dorm room.  Much younger, they were around my age and I introduced myself instantly.  They had just come through Colombia, entered Brazil through the Amazon, several river boats and buses later, arrived in Salvador.

'How is it here?'  the girl asked.  She was born in Brazil, and moved to the US before she could even crawl.  A Californian through and through, later on Camila would go on to pepper her sentences with 'like' and 'oh my God'.

'It hasn't been very lively,' I carefully phrased.

She picked up my subtle disappointment with Salvador.  'Oh?  Where are you guys going then?'

'Itecare.  Join us!' I half-seriously joked.  More out of concern that I was bundling into a bus with perfect strangers, and so this was my effort of recruiting more people into our crew as a safety mechanism.

After a late dinner at a nearby restaurant, the Dutch girl, her Argentine boyfriend, the American traveller and I shoved ourselves and our belongings into a taxi and made our way to the Salvador Bus Terminal for our 11:30pm departure.

I had no idea what to expect, and had no idea of what was to happen in Itecare.  But that is the nature of backpacking.  And with that in mind, I settled back into my seat in the taxi, and watched the world go past as we sped along to the bus station.

The Motley Crew to Itecare


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