Peder and I left our pousada in Trancoso and started out for our day’s 30 km walk at around 11am. The plan was to follow the coast all the way to Arraial d’Ajuda, a neighboring town where “stone roads wind beneath large, shady trees atop a bluff overlooking the dreamlike beaches.”
It also contains Brazil’s largest waterpark which sounded pretty cool.
We barely made it ten blocks from our front door before the upper-class tourist restaurants quickly started to deteriorate into rotting bulidings and then mud huts. The cobblestones grew more and more unmaintained, and the town quickly started to feel overwhealmingly rural. Soon we reached the main road and turned right towards Arraial d’Ajuda.
The first 30 minutes or so were largely uneventful. A few buildings here and there stuck between grassy fields, construction sites, and bits of rainforest. We walked along chatting, baking in the sun, and soaking up our surroundings until a small red car with three hot girls pulled over in front of us. They asked for directions to some unknown beach. Peder tried to respond in Spanish and I tried in English, but communication wasn’t working. Plus we had no idea where the beach was, so we sent them on their way.
Peder turned to me. “Are you an idiot? Couldn’t you tell they already knew where the beach was, and pulled over just to talk to us??”
Sometimes I really wish I spoke Portuguese.
We kept walking. About five minutes later we passed a gas station on the left with a small red car and three hot girls in it. “This is our second chance!” We ran up to the car and tried to mumble out as much as possible in mixed Spanish and English. They offered for us to jump in the car and head to the beach with them.
Sounds good! 🙂
The adventure begins.
We continued in the direction we’d been walking for only a minute or two before turning off the paved road onto a small dirt sidestreet. In Brazil, it seems that only big cities and very crucial main roads are paved – local roads are almost always either cobblestone or dirt. Sometimes even the main roads are unpaved.
The trip down this road felt like something that should only exist in a movie. The pure definition of a “rural South-American villiage.” Handmade mud huts with palm-frond roofs, shops marked by spraypainting “BAR” or “SUPERMERCADO” on the walls of the tiny makeshift structures. I would’ve been shocked if half these places had water or electricity. Virtually nobody wore more than shorts; often only underwear. Stray dogs darted in front of our moving car, kids ran alongside playing soccer with coconuts, and little old ladies smiled toothless grins as we bumped along their small dirt road. Behind us a man burst through the car’s dust trail on a horse, carrying a crate of chickens on his back. Women walked along the roadside with woven straw baskets balenced perfectly on their heads. It was truly a scene to be remembered. Even our three hostesses, who we learned were on holiday from Southern Brazil, had to pull over to take a few photos.
I just wish my camera had been working 😥
Soon we passed through the villiage and re-entered the jungle, followed by a very out-of-place-feeling meadow with cows and donkeys grazing all around us. Then jungle again and at long last, the beach.
It wasn’t nearly as nice as we’d hoped. But the drive alone made it well worth it. We hung out for a few hours, went for a quick dip with our new friends (after changing into our boardshorts by wrapping ourselves in a nearby hammock – to their great amusement) and headed back. On the way out of the parking lot the driver accidentally backed into a tree denting the rental car. I tried to bring their moods back up with some Justin-style humor, and did manage to get a few good laughs, but they all felt noticably worse than on the ride there. I gathered they were worried about how badly the rental place would try to screw them upon discovering the dent.
When we got back to the main road we exchanged information and bid our new friends goodbye. They gave us their phone numbers, MSN, e-mails, home address, name of their hotel, and location of the party they’d be at that night.
I guess broken, languageless humor can work after all 🙂
Peder and I headed off on foot in the direction we’d been traveling once again, figuring it was about another 25km to Arraial d’Ajuda.
We went through our food and water accordingly.
The road was pure nothingness. A single house every few miles stuck among wide-open cattle ranches. It was like something straight out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Each time we got to a hill we’d say “I bet we’ll be able to see the town from the top of this next hill! But we never did.
Soon the sun started to set.
One more hour of walking.
Still nothing. I tried to get the GPS on my phone to work, but for some reason it kept failing to get a satellite fix.
Two more hours.
Nothing. Just endless road and open land.
Finally we spotted a house with a family sitting on the front porch and decided to ask if we were even going the right direction. Seconds before we reached the gate to their driveway a young girl let out a terrified scream, FLEW off the porch, and ran out the gate past us and into the street.
What the hell?
We went closer.
Then the father came out of the house with a huge wild snake dangling from a machete. The snake was pissed.
Slapping it on the head and taunting it with his machete didn’t seem to help. I’ve never seen a wild snake hiss and strike so vigorously. We decided to keep our distance, but the father thought it was funny as hell and put on quite a show for the two awe-struck gringos. And as luck would have it, my camera decided to be in a good mood at that very moment, rewarding me with the ability to document the whole thing for the archives. Sweet!
But the sun was still rapidly setting. Onto business:
“Excuse me insane snake-teasing guy, but do you know how far it is to Araial d’Ajuda?”
“What?? And how far back to Trancoso?”
I guess we weren’t walking that quickly after all. Maybe the 100-degree sun had something to do with it 😛
We decided our chances of making it anywhere with food or water would be best if we backtracked to Trancoso instead of getting ourselves lost even further, so we turned around and got started jogging. A few minutes later we saw a red car off in the distance. It flashed its headlights. Guess who.
“Did you guys really walk all this way?? You’re crazy!! I can’t believe it!”
We snapped a photo with my now-working camera and continued on our way home. The girls were driving the opposite direction and we didn’t want to be a bother.
My feet started to ache from jogging in flip-flops. We tried taping my first two toes together, attaching the flipflops to my feet, but it ripped off after just a few steps. The sky got darker and darker. Back through all those hours of nothingness.
Finally we reached a tiny bar we’d seen on the outbound journey; another mudhut with a spraypainted sign, two guys sitting out front, and a baby chicken wandering about. The staff was composed of a single old woman standing in front of a makeshift shelf with various bottles of liquor barely clinging onto the rear mud wall. We ordered two cans of Guarana and a bag of chips, asking if there’d be any busses passing by on the way to Trancoso. There were! The next was scheduled to arrive in thirty minutes.
We started back out along the road, and not two minutes later a pair of headlights appeared in the distance behind us. It stoped at the bar, drove a hundred more yards towards us, pulled over, and opened its doors. A bus to Trancoso.
Those nice two guys in front of the bar must’ve flagged it down and told the driver of our little dilemma.
Twenty minutes later we were drinking fresh-squeezed fruit juice and eating dinner one block from our pousada in Hippy Town Trancoso.
I just can’t believe how many times I’ve been offered drugs on this trip. Probably ten times more than the entire rest of my life combined. I feel like I need a Portuguese sign on my back that says “No smoke, no sniff, don’t bother!” Every single street vendor seems to have a stash to offer. Thankfully they aren’t pushy at all when it comes to drugs, usually responding with a smile and thumbs up when I send them away with a brief “Nao, Obrigado.”
One of the things that makes Brazil look so interesting are the bright colors on all the buildings. In every city I’ve been to so far you find wall-to-wall shops or houses painted hot pink, neon green, bright yellow, and sky blue. Window sills and doorframes are colored completely differently from the surrounding walls. Even when the buildings are old and deteriorated, the colors are so bright and contrasting that when viewed from afar, the streets look almost like rainbows.
It’s very cool.
My trusty little digital camera is finally 100% dead. I kept it just barely going for this past week, but it looks like I won’t be able to take even one more picture during my final week in Brazil.
It’s killing me, because some of these places are just so damn beautiful…