There are just some things about travel that we could do without. One is terrifying transportation, and the other is trying to live on food that is so far from what you’re used to, it almost makes you sick. Not literally sick, but just sick of it. At times, we find ourselves craving the comforts of home. For me, it starts with healthy food. As a vegetarian, travelling through Brazil poses a bit of a challenge. Unless, that is, you are willing to nurture yourself with deep fried pastries filled with cheese (aka deep fried fat).
The morning we were misinformed regarding boat times from Sao Luis to Alcantara was one of those times the food issue became amplified. We had a 2 hour wait, so what better way to spend it then to have breakfast. Yeah right. Breakfast in Brazil is akin to the Ontario bagel and cream cheese. Although, at least there is the option of whole wheat bagel and “light” cream cheese to give the illusion of a healthy choice – AND you can have a coffee with it that’s not loaded with 1/2c of sugar. Well, not unless you ask for it. A piece of fruit, some scrambled eggs and maybe some whole wheat toast… is that too much to ask? Apparently it is. We had to settle for café com leite and pão com ovo, which was the healthiest thing we could find. “Café com Leite” (coffee with milk)… which has an automatic addition of so much sugar, you don’t know whether to love it like toffee or hate it as you pretend it’s coffee. I miss my bodum. “Pão com ovo” (bread with egg) is a white bun soaked both sides in butter and put on the grill, add a fried egg and obligatory presunto (ham). Neither of these would be a choice we’d make at home, but when you need sustenance, you settle for “almost” anything. Dale gets extra ham on his because he gets mine.
Next…. the terrifying transportation. There are a few trips that instantly come to mind for me as “thank God it’s over”, ”lucky to have survived that one”, and “I will never do that again.” The boat ride on a Pirates of the Caribbean-type sail boat from São Luis to Alcântara fit into all three categories. I don’t easily suffer from vertigo, but I do get seasick. Knowing that, I dipped into the “vomi-stop”, Brazil’s answer to Dramamine, like clock-work 30 minutes before boarding. Good thing I did or things could have been much worse than they were. I didn’t get sick, but the pills didn’t rid me of visions of the boat tipping completely over as it rolled from side to side on the massive waves. Have you ever played the game of trust? You know that moment before you’re caught, the rush of fear you feel because your not 100% sure someone is going to catch you. Dale luckily doesn’t experience that feeling in the game, not did he on the boat. Mainly because he trusts, and in the case of the boat, he trusts the experts. He is secure in his belief that the boat wouldn’t be operating if it were dangerous or had a high probability of tipping. Me, on the other hand, I hang on for dear life knowing accidents happen and in a foreign country and environment where I have no idea what’s “normal”, I’m a little more on edge and less likely to trust. The difference between the game and this boat – in the game, once you’re caught you can relax, you feel safe. On the boat, we crashed on the down slope of a wave and for a split second as the boat begins its counter-rock we could relax, only to repeat it again for the opposite side of the wave…. Over and over again… for 90 minutes.
After being tossed around like a pancake for over an hour in the little sailboat, we were both happy to put our feet on solid ground with our packs dry as a bone. Ahhhhh…. More cobblestone. Excellent, maybe we’ll find a real breakfast here. No such luck.
The boat ticket across the bay should be advertised as a ticket to Colonial Brazil by means of puke-potential sailing. The village was a beautiful place. Walking up and down cobblestone streets, with ruins mixed among the local shops, houses, parks and lanchettes (snack bars), was a pure joy. Something else also happened… the over-sized Brazilians had disappeared. We figured this was because of the strong military presence. The food didn’t change much, but self-catering from the local grocery store, along with the backyard of our pousada where papaya, mango and avocado grew in abundance supplied us with more nutrients than eating out.
Our time in Alcântara was the perfect quiet for Dale to continue some course work for his upcoming exam, and a good change of scenery from São Luis. The boat ride back wasn’t nearly as terrifying. Maybe because we knew what to expect, or maybe because we made sure we bought a ticket for a bigger boat. Either way, it still rocked as much, but was easier on my nerves and Dale’s stomach.
Back in São Luis, we were disappointed to find out that our camera wouldn’t arrive for another week. This meant our intention to be on a small town beach with surfing for Christmas would be nixed. Staying a week meant for sure we needed to find a better place to stay than Pousada International. Just down the street, Cantaria Hotel was excellent. Because we were staying so long and over Christmas, we negotiated (in Portuguese) a good deal and use of their kitchen for free on Christmas. I made a trip to the local Cosco-like grocery store on Christmas eve, waited an hour and 45 minutes in line to pay, but made it back to our pousada in one piece with all of the ingredients to make us a Christmas feast; an all day feast complete with wine.
The day was memorable. Outside the streets were bare, in a Catholic country Christmas is a family day. We cooked up a storm together and had enough food to share with our front desk attendant and a friend of his. We had met Andy from France a few days prior. He didn’t make it to the market before Christmas, and there was nothing open so he joined us for some dinner. Along with Andy was a chef from a local Italian restaurant who had no access to money after fraud on his debit card, so we fed him too. No, it wasn’t your typical north American Christmas, but we spent it in the best way we knew how for where we were and what we had.
Another check at the correios (post office) for the camera, and again we came up empty. “Next Week”. Okay, now we were starting to get a bit concerned. So New Years in Sao Luis…..
It was a bit nuts waking up at 5 am on Dec 31st. The party from the night before (the 30th) was still going in the street. Wow, we thought, “if that’s how they party on the 30th, New Year ’s Eve is going to be nuts.” It was, but not in the way you are thinking. It was totally dead. One café on the street open, and not a soul around. Another family night? Who knows. Welcome to 2012.
A quick note on where we’ve been in 2011, before we move forward. We both left our careers of 10+ years, we got engaged, Arielle packed up and moved across the country, we planned a wedding, got married, bought some property, and began a trip through the southern hemisphere. From experience, life gets better every year, we can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store!
A few days later, we were happy to have our new camera in our hands. The two weeks in São Luis meant we had to miss the coast of Bahia in order to make it to the southern tip of the continent to sail to Antarctica at the end of the season. We changed our plan and flew to Belo Horizonto then bussed onto Rio. In Rio, Brazil changed.