Feb 212008

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! πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜₯

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 πŸ™‚

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?”
“Thirty kilometers.”
“What?? And how far back to Trancoso?”
“About fifteen.”

I guess we weren’t walking that quickly after all. Maybe the 100-degree sun had something to do with it πŸ˜›

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…

  13 Responses to “Long Walk Down a Longer Road”

  1. It must be great being you.

  2. Hi!!!!!!!!!!! Do you remember me? hehehehe …”small red car with three hot girl…” eh??? hehehehehehehe Very funny! I laughed a lot! Its description was perfect! hahahaha [;)]
    I think it was the funiest day that i had back there in Arraial D’ajuda.. unfortunately, it was really fast… when u go back to the Brazil come to Santa Catarina… It’s a lot prettier… I promess that i will be speaking a better english.. hehehe… You need learn to speak Portuguese!
    Foi realmente um prazer conhecΓͺ-lo… “hot guy”!

  3. Holy shit, haha I didn’t know you knew about my site – embarrassing! 😳

  4. Hey Andy do you remember what kind of phone justin got? I am looking for a new one and as usual his choice represents hours and hours of research that I’d like to avoid having to do myself. πŸ™‚

  5. noz…..”HTC TyTN II, aka Kaiser, aka Cingular 8925, aka AT&T Tilt”

    Check this post for more info: http://www.justin-klein.com/wordpress/post347
    Or just plugging “phone” into the search bar at the top πŸ˜‰

  6. Thanks Andy… I thought he had posted about it but didn’t think it was that long ago. Also I never noticed his search bar.

  7. Noz – I recently had another friend email to ask for advice on whether he should go for a Tilt or an iPhone. For your reference, here’s what I told him:

    In my opinion, no question about it…don’t go with the iPhone. I wouldn’t even consider one. My reasoning is:
    • No 3G support, only EDGE. So the Internet’s much slower than it should be, especially if you want to use it as a modem for your computer – which I’m not even sure you can do.
    • It won’t work at all in Japan (or South Korea).
    • No internal GPS. This may not seem like a big deal, but I can’t even tell you how incredibly handy it’s been to have GPS in my pocket everywhere I go.
    • No hardware keyboard, and no supported external bluetooth keyboards. This by itself would be a dealbreaker for me.
    • No support for office mobile – so no editing word/excel documents on-the-go
    • No A2DP support, meaning you can’t stream high-quality music over bluetooth
    • And most importantly, while I admittedly haven’t spent much time looking into the available iPhone hacks, my understanding is that it’s not very versatile at all – it basically can’t do anything outside of what Apple intends it to do. Unlike like Windows Mobile, which has been around for a long time (under various names, but there’s a lot of backwards-compatibility for applications). This means that there’s a TON more Tilt-compatible applications out there than there are for the iPhone. And virtually everything I do on my Tilt is via third-party software.

    The way I see it, the only thing the iPhone has over the Tilt is a nice, quick interface – the screen moves around smoothly and seamlessly, and everything’s easy and intuitive to get to. And the screen’s a bit bigger and prettier. But as far as functionality, it doesn’t even come close. With a little work the Tilt can be turned into a tiny, albeit very slow, laptop replacement. In fact, it WAS my laptop in Brazil. And since it’s Windows-based, it ties in beautifully with other Windows PC’s. With my Tilt I have:

    • Full file browsing WITH network support, so I can connect to a mapped network drive on my main PC over WiFi and browse/copy/use the files.
    • FTP, so I can work on my website
    • Remote Desktop Connection, so I can login to and control my computer at home
    • Opera web browser with full flash support (it can also be set to identify itself as a normal PC rather than a handheld, so you can force “certain websites” to show you the full, proper version)
    • Hooked up a folding Bluetooth keyboard so it’s exactly as fast to type on as on a laptop.
    • Reassigned all the hard buttons to do what I want under various contexts – i.e. when I have mp3 player software running, all the buttons become mp3 controls “play,” “next,” etc – regardless of what software is in the foreground. That way I can use it as GPS or whatever, while still controlling the music without having to switch applications. When MP3 isn’t running, I assigned most buttons to various quicklaunches – take a photo (3MP), refresh my GMail, etc.
    • Full GPS, just like you’d have in a car, with routable maps covering all of North America, most of Europe, and chunks of South America and Asia. I was using it in the jungle in Brazil
    • Full Japanese support exactly like under Windows
    • Full photo editing, similar to Photoshop
    • A Media player that’ll play anything – divx, xvid, mp4, m4v, flv, mov, mpg, avi, etc – not just Apple’s “approved formats”
    • Wifi scanner for traveling – turn the screen off and have it notify u when u pass an open unencrypted network
    • MSN messenger
    • Torrents
    • ZIP, Rar
    • Skype
    • Nintendo emulator
    • XM Radio
    • Anti-Theft: I have a hidden program running so if it gets stolen, I can send it commands via text message to text me the phone’s GPS coordinates, wipe the drive, etc. If the thief changes the SIM card, the phone’ll automatically text my mom with its new phone number and SIM information so I can still access it (or contact the police if necessary)
    • Fully customized home interface, with easy access to shortcuts to enable/disable the Bluetooth, wifi, & phone radios; tabbed shortcuts to access common programs; dial-by-face for my outlook contacts; etc. And if you really like the iPhone interface, you can always just skin the Tilt to look like an iPhone πŸ˜‰

    And to be fair, the Tilt’s negatives:
    • I don’t like that it doesn’t have a USB host controller, because I can’t plug a hard drive, camera, etc directly into it – it can only be used as a slave device (very few PDA’s currently support this…and certainly not the iPhone)
    • I don’t like that it doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack; u have to use a converter
    • I don’t like that the speaker is on the bottom, so when you position it like a laptop the sound is a bit muffled
    • Windows Mobile can be unstable at times, especially the more third-party software you install. At times this can lead to slow performance and crashes. This is probably the biggest negative.

    I’m sure there’s more, but that should give you an idea of how crippled the iPhone is in terms of functionality. I may have made some mistakes above – again, I haven’t researched the iPhone nearly as much as the Tilt, because to me, it was never an option. But I think the general concept is correct: The iPhone is more quick and reliable, but that’s because it’s made for only one thing – to do what Apple intended it to do – whereas the Tilt can do anything.

  8. Dear “Hot Guy”,

    Buy a throwaway camera or two. It’s cheap and at least you’ll have some snapshots rather than none. Cheap camera photography is an artform unto itself.


  9. Justin- you rock

  10. Dan – I looked into it, but they were retardedly overpriced. Calculating it out, by the time I took about 190 photos with disposable cameras I could’ve replaced my digital camera for the same cost. And those photos would need to be scanned later anyway, resulting in much lower quality. No thanks – I’ll just travel with two digitals next time πŸ˜‰

    Rachel – Thanx πŸ˜› Would this by chance be Rachel Strauss? You used a different email than the one I know!

  11. I used to play soccer in my high school days. I was a bad player. Really bad. lol. I have 2 ankle injuries due to playing soccer. So i would advice you guys to take precaution of your safety. Trust me, it’s frustrating. Good luck =)

  12. oui

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