Category Archives: Uncategorized

The beaches of Salvador

Farol da Barra beach - Tiny waves, awesome people, beautiful lighthouse at the very end.

Farol da Barra beach – Tiny waves, awesome people, beautiful lighthouse at the very end.

In every new place I go, I have to figure out how to get to the beach.  My first day surfing in Salvador I hauled my board unto the very bouncy and rackety bus to end up at Farol da Barra, a gorgeous beach at the tip of the city, with a historic lighthouse at one end.

This was an urban beach, very different than the beaches of Floripa, which are often surrounded by mountains and sand dunes.   I also realized how spoilt I’d gotten in Floripa.  The beaches of Salvador, while beautiful, do not boast the best or biggest waves on your average day.  But I am learning about Brazilian beach culture, which is how the rest of non-surfing Brazilians enjoy their coastline — lounging by their umbrellas, eating fried fish and any of the assorted delicacies brought over by the passing vendors, and drinking fresh coconut water while working on their tans.  I’ve been trying it out and its not bad at all.

Jardim da Alah beach at sunset

Jardim da Alah beach, from the water, in late afternoon

Later I found what would be my favorite surfing beach, Jardim da Alah.  I met an awesome vendor of coconut water named Fabinho, who works on the sidewalk by the beach and kindly watched my stuff (a major issue when on a solo surf adventure).  After my session, I learned that he was a friend of many local surfers who all left their stuff with him and hung out afterwards drinking coconut water.  He taught me how to use a PVC pipe to pump out water, guerilla style, from a municipal source on the edge of the beach, so I could get a freshwater shower before I got back on the bus.  Thanks Fabinho!

Happy 2013!! With love from Salvador and Rio de Janeiro


Happy New Year everyone!  I hope 2013 brings great things and much joy in the outdoors for everyone.  I have just landed in Rio De Janeiro, a city so beautiful it will make your head spin.  Already there are many adventures in the making here.  But first — over the holidays I finally had a chance to sort through some of my pictures and videos from Salvador, so I am going to post these first while I work on getting my feet on the ground here in Rio.

In Salvador, I stayed with an amazing host family – set up by my incredibly generous Californian-gone-Brazilian friend, Colin.  My little balcony overlooked a busy little square full of children playing and adults chatting at all hours of the day.  Nearly every night at the kitchen table, I played music with Colin on violin, my host brother Zinho on guitar, and me on pandeiro/raps/singing.  Perfecto!

Here I am with my host family overlooking Salvador's beautifully restored art museum right on the water.  From left to right, our friend Adriana, Colin, Mainha, Zinho, and me!

Here I am with my host family overlooking Salvador’s beautifully restored art museum right on the water. From left to right, our friend Adriana, Colin, Mainha, Zinho, and me!

The Modern Art Museum of Salvador, with its spectacularly sculpted entry gate.

The Modern Art Museum of Salvador, with its spectacularly sculpted entry gate.

A village in the sky!


I loved my first hike in Chapada Diamantina so much that I decided to do another with another AMAZING guide, Marquinhos, who shares my love of rock climbing (I met him while exploring some boulders on a waterfall outside of Lencois).   I didn’t quite understand where we were going, so I was thrilled when after two days on the trail, we hiked right into the remote village of Igatu, on top of a mountain.

We started in the little town of Andarai, which is similar to Lencois, except it has much fewer tourists. Like most of the towns in Chapada Diamantina, it used to be a center for diamond mining and trading.

A church on the edge of the river that runs through Andarai

A perfect little waterfall in the hills of Andarai

Feeling awesome in the canyon of the Paraguacu River

We spent a couple hours walking across gorgeous smooth river rocks in shades of rose and tan

The valley is full of amazing hidden shelters, once used by diamond miners. We set up camp in this one, and I enjoyed the canyon view with my breakfast tea.

We climbed a steep ramp out of the canyon to reach this view!

While crossing the table top of the mountain, Marquinhos spotted these “potatoes of the mountain” growing wild in a stream. They are a bit like jicama, and made for a tasty and crunchy salad with our dinner.

I could hardly believe it, when I spotted these soccer goal posts. I thought we were miles from civlization, but we had hiked right into a little remote village on top of a mountain. Here is their soccer field.

The village is surrounded by ruins of old stone houses from the diamond mining years.

The famous church of São Sebastão in Igatu, like most of the houses in the village, is made from beautiful rose-colored rock.

The Byzantine style cemetary of the church of São Sebastão

The “California Waterfall” in the Vale de California, heading back down the mountain

The Vale da California is a rock climbers paradise, with tons of bolted routes and bouldering possibilities. We ran into some climbers from Switzerland and England on our way down.

Go climber grrrrls!

Marquinhos, who is an incredibly talented climber, demonstrates some of the possibilities offered by the visually stunning conglomerate, made from thousands of smooth round, fist-sized rocks of rose and turquoise quartz cemented together in sedimentary rock.

We hiked down along gorgeous water carved rocks, speckled with perfect pools for swimming and relaxing. We drank our water straight from the river the whole time!

Adventures on land cont´d, a partial update from one of Brazil’s most spectacular parks


Chapada Diamantina, where I have spent the last 3 days!

I was losing my mind a little bit by staying right next to the ocean and not being able to surf.  So…. I decided to head to Chapada Diamantina, one of Brazil’s crown jewels in terms of natural beauty.  Picture the land formations, mesas, and buttes of New Mexico, combined with tropical rain forests and waterfalls.

I have been here 3 and a half days and love it so much that I changed my bus ticket to stay another 4 days.  I brought my camera to the internet cafe hoping to upload some pictures, but am experiencing technical difficulties – so the big download is going to have to wait.  Thus far I have scaled a water fall the way people in

Fumaca falls, which I sat at the top of yesterday!

movies sometimes do, laid on the edge of a 400 meter cliff and looked down at another water fall, encountered a real live tarantula-esque spider, and walked up a dry river bed for many many miles in a tropical forest where we had to be quiet so as not to attract the killer bees.  AWESOME!!   Signing off from a little hole in the wall internet cafe where local kids come to play x-box, on a cobble stone street, in a town of painted pastel houses in the middle of a giant national park.

Adventures on Land, part 1 – Urban Tree


The other afternoon during a brief visit to the town center, I was walking back from the supermarket with my pandeiro slung across my shoulder and an overwhelming amount of groceries dangling from my person – bulging from my backpack, swinging from my wrists in shopping bags.

As I was heading to a friends house to drop off the groceries, and then to the gym for a class, I passed a little park in the middle of a busy street intersection.   The centerpiece of this park was a beautiful old broad meandering tree – a perfect beauty for climbing.  I imagined that at different times of day, the tree swarmed with frolicking little kids or served as a partially obscured hangout for transgressive teens.  But at this moment, its branches were bare.  Naked.  Inviting.  A monument of exploratory arboreal possibility.  To leave a tree like this unclimbed constituted a form of neglect.

But I was hurrying to get to a class at the gym.  It didn’t seem like the time to be dawdling.  The park was also public enough, and I am also grown enough, that a solo ascent of the tree with my bags of groceries and my pandeiro in tow, would designate me immediately as a public wierdo.

“You can come back and climb that tree later,” I told myself,  one evening when there is no one watching.

But as I walked by, I kept looking at that tree.  Not wanting to look like a weirdo seemed like a really bad reason not to climb such a beautiful tree.  Making it to my class at the gym was a noble goal, but did I really want to live in a universe where I couldn’t make time to stop and climb a tree, especially one as perfect as this?

I suddenly felt like if I walked by this tree, I would be killing a little part of my soul, and it seemed too early to start doing that.   “Screw it,” I thought – I am gonna be a weirdo and I am gonna be late.  And so I went back,  put my groceries at the foot of the tree, lodged my backpack and pandeiro in the first big crook, and headed up this sweeping grand dame of a tree.

This tree had sturdy thick branches, fat as telephone poles which extended almost horizontally out from her main trunk.  There were about 7 different routes you could take outwards from the central hub, walking on wide gray smooth branches, speckled with lichens and epiphytes.

For me climbing a tree is liking pushing a little reset button for my soul.  When I leave the ground, I leave my human self behind, and I can live for a moment as the spritely elfin monkey self of all my childhood dreams.  In the tree, there is only the feeling of branches under my hands and feet and the gauging of my movements to move through them.  The light is different, filtered through the crown of leaves that makes the tree a universe apart from the outside world.  When I am in the arms of a tree, it feels like the only worthwhile place to be.

I dawdled in the tree for a while, taking a couple snap shots to commemorate the experience, and no doubt providing some lively midday entertainment to the good people enjoying their lunches on the park benches surrounding me.

I landed back on the ground feeling lighter, with an extra kick in my step, relieved to know that I still had what it takes to be a wierdo, climb a tree in the middle of an intersection at midday, and keep my soul intact.

Confessions of a temporarily grounded surfer


OK — so I have a confession.  I hurt my shoulder (slight strain to Infraspinatus and Teres Minor, pictured below).  I didn’t hurt it bad, but I hurt it enough that I have missed about 3 weeks of surfing and have had to take it pretty slow as I get back into the water.  It’s a bit frustrating to be on a surfing adventure and not be able to surf the way I like to, just as I was really starting to make a lot of improvements in my technique.  But the world keeps reminding me that there are numerous ways to have adventures – big and small. So instead of feeling sad that I don’t have any surfing stories for my blog – I shall share some land adventures for now…

The last week and a half in video


So… a fun and important part of my Surfer Grrrls Brazil adventure is making music videos.  I have been writing raps, collaborating with some very special people, like my friend Dani, and working on some instrumental tracks.  I am also learning that all of this takes quite a bit more time than I planned, a big challenge is just getting everyone together to get all the pieces in place.  But it’s all happening!

In the meantime, I thought it might be fun to share some parts of my journey these last couple weeks in rough and ready video format.  So here are some highlights:

In the water with a world champion!


Another amazing moment.  So today I decided to head to Praia Mole, because it is just so pretty in the late afternoon.  I am on a 2 week program of “taking it easy” after an episode of doing too many pull-ups.  I probably should have kept walking to the next beach over, which had smaller waves, more appropriate for taking it easy.  But the waves on Mole looked so fun!  I made a promise to myself and my tired shoulders that I would take it slow, even if it meant not catching much (which is exactly what it meant!).  Sometimes, just being out there is a gift in itself, and today was one of those days.

But I had an extra treat in store.  As I was floating around amidst the other surfers, another woman paddled up to join the line-up.  And it was none other than Jacqueline Silva — who, for those who don’t know, is a super amazing pro surfer who is on the ASP WORLD TOUR!!  (you have to be one of the best 18 surfers IN THE WORLD to be on this tour).  That’s a picture of her on the left!  You can also check out her website here.

She paddled right next to me, and was so nice and friendly when I nervously and excitedly introduced myself.  Then she proceeded to SHRED like crazy just about every wave that came her way.  It was completely amazing and inspiring to see her in action, and also really cool to encounter someone who is SO damn good at what she does and still totally open and kind, and willing to talk to a random American stuttering in Portuguese in the water next to her.  Maybe I can get her to be in one of my music videos?!