We are beginning to get used to overnight buses. This doesn’t mean we sleep well, we’re just used to sleeping like garbage. Bonus on this boat-minibus-bus combo from Algodoal to São Luis is that we met Ama and Joseph from France. They had just begun their travels, spoke Spanish and French and were happy to find us speaking Portuguese to help navigate and find food. Pão com ovo (bread with egg) goes down really well at 7am when you’re absolutely starving, even if it is bus station food.
Our city bus ride to the historic centre didn’t reveal the real São Luis to us. In fact, that bus ride is a good way to scare tourists away. Outside the centre, the city of 1.5 million resembles the other large cities in northern Brazil… broken stone and sand sidewalks lined with garbage and hordes of people waiting for buses or just sitting around. But once you hit Centro Historico (the historic centre) the charm of cobblestones, original Portuguese architecture, little shops and less people make it a much easier place to spend a few days. Our plan, check the post office to see if the camera we had shipped from the US has arrived, if not, then when it will.
We were able to navigate the Portuguese well enough to find out from the post office that the camera would be at least another week. Ok, so we spend a few days then head across the water 30km Alcântara and come back to continue on our path south down the east coast. Easy – or so we thought. It was all business our first day as we had been without contact to the “outside world” for over a week. Sometimes, you just have to take a moment to organize your stuff, do laundry, chat with family and have a look at what the next few weeks might entail.
After a day of info seeking, our dinner with Ama and Joseph at La Pizzeria was excellent. Good pizza, excellent company and our first decent taste of wine in South America. Though we can both manage ourselves in French, we found it extremely challenging to move into French, having been speaking Portuguese for the last few weeks. Luckily, we were able to revert to mostly English with Ama and Joseph.
Dale waking up with a cockroach on his leg in our bed, was an indication we needed to hunt for a different place to sleep our second night. It was futile. We were in the cheapest place around. The stairs were falling apart, and the concrete ceiling beams were so low if you didn’t watch yourself, you might end up with a mild concussion. Our bathroom had no light. And, did I mention the cockroach? We decided to stick with it out for two more nights.
Our self-guided city tour, by local bus took us to the north side of the city; across the bridge. We knew we may have to be here for a while, and thought we might find a place to stay along the beach when we needed to come back to get our camera. Again, the search for something even moderately priced was impossible. Although, the beaches were beautiful. The whole area reminded us of Southern California or Miami Beach… roaring beach surf, light sand, high rise hotels opposite the beach with a bar every 10 min steps away from the ocean. All at triple the cost of where we were staying. We didn’t find a place to stay, but we did enjoy walking along the boardwalk, people watching and noticing the difference in the culture as compared to the Amazon. Here, there is definitely more affluence. And another thing changed. There were no more stray dogs. We had gotten so accustomed to them that we didn’t notice until there were none. Instead, there were cats. A nice change.
After Joseph and Ama left for the south, we met up with couch-surfer Ana. What a delight to meet someone local, have dinner and a few drinks and learn a bit about the area.
By day 3 it was time for Alcântara and the wildest boat ride yet.