Feb 162008

When Peder and I proposed a stop in Morro de Sao Paolo on our way down South towards Rio, the idea was to spend one day here at most. It’s now been five. And I still don’t think any of us can bear to leave.

It’s impossible to describe just how amazing of a place this is. Brazil has been wonderful, but Morro de Sao Paolo is totally different. It’s got everything I could ever want: safety, friendly locals, lots of cool travelers, beach parties every night of the week, swimming-pool quality ocean water, jungle hikes, and nothing but flawless weather. Everywhere you look it’s like something you’d see in a postcard. Or better.

Peder has been virtually to the moon and back in his 31-year life of traveling, and to quote him directly, “This is definitely one of the coolest places on the planet.”

(Even as I’m writing this, he adds over my shoulder: “Also don’t forget to re-mention all of the beautiful women here…walking around with eyes the size of dinner plates, half-drooling, mouth open, our tongues scraping along the floor. I’ve never seen such a concentration of beautiful women. Anywhere. Ever.”)

I’ve found Heaven.

One thing I really love about Brazil are the fresh fruit juices they sell everywhere. It’s nothing like the juice you get in the US; super-fresh, and so sweet you’d swear they just added an entire bag of sugar. But they didn’t. You just watched the street vendor put five fresh mangos in a blender right in front of you.

Next time you’re in the tropics, try the tropical fruits. They’re awesome 🙂

Sometimes I really can’t figure out what these people are thinking.

When we’re moving around with our huge backpacks and spartan swords, it’s not surprising that we attract a fair bit of attention. I couldn’t even guess how many times I’ve heard shouts of “Hey, He-Man!” over the past couple weeks.

But the weirdest thing is when someone walks up, tries to take the sword, and says “Can I have it?”

Seriously, what do they expect us to say? “Sure, I don’t want it anymore, just go ahead and take it!”

This has happened more times than you may think.

After waking up Sunday afternoon (recall: I probably got to bed at about noon after our first Saturday night out in Morro), the group and I spent the duration of the day just relaxing at the beach. It’s exactly what I’ve been craving. Perfect.

Except that I was STARVING. Because on this particular day, everyone had simultaneously run out of cash. And the only ATM on the island was malfunctioning.

Since you can’t drink the tap water I decided to stretch the $5 I had left on as much bottled water as possible.

It sucked.

But at least we weren’t the only ones. There were about 20 other travelers crowding around the ATM trying to figure out what to do that day, and first thing the following morning it was up and running again. Now I’m fat and happy once again 🙂

(Side note: In addition to stressing my body with lack of sleep, I’ve also been stressing it with lack of food quite a bit on this trip. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s because the restaurants are so incredibly slow (1 hour minimum to sit, eat, and pay). Or maybe it’s because there’s so much I want to do, and it’s difficult to get everyone moving at the same time so I often sacrifice eating to try to get everyone to our destination rather than stop for a bite on the way and delay things further. I know it’s not good. It’s really gonna take some HARD lifting to get back into shape after this trip…)

I can’t even begin to imagine how much beer gets drank daily in this country. It seems like EVERYWHERE you go there are people sipping beers; a group of old men playing checkers in front of a gas station, construction workers on their lunchtime break, a group of college students sitting on the beach. People in front of restaurants or on their front lawns. Morning, noon, and night, beer, beer, beer. They aren’t getting trashed, they’re just sitting out on the street relaxing and drinking. I’ve seen plenty countries with street culture before, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place that so strongly ties it with beer.

Mmmmmm, beer.

Yesterday Peder and I hiked up to Morro’s lighthouse, overlooking the beach and town where we’ve been staying for the past five days. I don’t have to say that the view was one of the most picturesque things I’ve ever seen. What I do have to say is…”Lens Error, Restart Camera.”


For safety’s sake, I tried to minimize as much as possible the expensive electronics I brought on this trip. That means blogging from a cell phone and taking photos with a small pocket camera. No SLR, no lenses.

Well, apparently my little digital ELPH has finally started chugging to a halt. I’ve gotten TONS of value out of that thing so I can’t relaly complain, but I just wish it could’ve died NOT in the middle of a trip to tropical paradise.

The culprit: tiny bits of sand from my boardshorts pocket that managed to work its way into the lens mechanism. I spent about three hours completely dismantling and cleaning the camera, and actually managed to get it working again – dispite some unhappy-sounding grinding noises whenever I switch it on or off. The real sad part, however, is that at the VERY last step of re-assembly I damaged the part of the LCD that contacts the ribbon cables. Which means I no longer have a screen. No access to menus, no deleting photos, and no seeing what I’m photographing.

But I guess it could be worse. At least I can still take pictures. It’ll be interesting to see what I end up with once I get back to the US, as I really have no idea what I’m snapping at all anymore…

Revision: A few days later the lens stopped working again, and while trying to un-jam it I broke the cover mechanism. Again, I got it taking photos. But man, this thing is hanging on by a thread…

Revision 2: The underwater case leaked at the beach yesterday. This thing is getting more and more trashed every day…its probably been rebuilt 20 times on this trip by now. It works about half the time I try to boot it up.

Please just make it till I get home…

Immediately after repairing my camera lens (the first time) we headed out to a travel agent to reserve tickets on a boat cruise early the following morning. The agent was so stoned he could barely sit in his chair. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. He just couldn’t stop laughing. At one point he used a calculator to figure out how much we owed out of a 200 real package once we’d paid 150. His conclusion was that we owed 92 more reais.

Just for fun, I tried to see if I could trip him up a little bit. We gave him the remaining 50. Having now paid exactly the 200 we owed him, he started fumbling around with his papers, dropping them all over the floor. Then he looked up, at which point I said “…What about our 92-reai change?”

“Uh, oh yeah, right…”

So he gets out a business card and writes on the back “Antonio – 2 reai credit” and starts handing it to us before pausing, thinking for a moment, cracking up, and saying “Nawwww, you guys are just messing with me!!!”

Truly an employee to be trusted 😀

After getting the tickets in order, we headed down to Playa Segunda – Second Beach – for another beach party. After our all-nighter on Saturday I decided to hang back and get some rest on Sunday night while the others went to a party on the cliffs, so this time I was full of energy. Tonight the venue would be an oceanfront restaurant – which actually meant that the party was 50% in the restaurant and 50% spilling out onto the sand in front, surrounded by the usual stalls selling caipirinas, fruit juices, coconuts, and snacks.

We promised ourselves we wouldn’t stay until after 2, to ease the task of waking up at 8am for the next day’s boat ride.

We got to sleep around 5.

This place is just too much fun. And it’s cool how the venue changes daily. I wonder what tomorrow will have in store.

At 8am we all rolled out of bed and rushed down to the docks to catch the speedboat that would spend the next 8 hours taking us all around Morro de Sao Paolo. Since we arrived a few minutes early, we managed to secure all four seats in the very front of the boat. It was quite a ride – at times I thought I’d be thrown overboard as we ripped through the waves, flying several feet off the surface. What a thrill. It was especially cool that the driver didn’t sem to mind my standing up in the front, which definitely would’ve been an extreme safety violation in the US.

The trip took us past countless groves of coconut trees, patches of rainforest, white sandy beaches, and through several inland rivers. We stopped in two lagoons with crystal-clear water for snorkeling, one of which had a floating snack bar – a small handmade shack sitting on a barge, serving floating trays of coconuts, beer, shrimp, fish, etc.

Lunch was a two-hour rest at another isolated tropical beach as we waited for the tide to come in and allow us to travel upriver; during the downtime we waded out to a sandbar and got in a quick workout for the day.

The trip upriver, although much slower than the open-ocean portion, was equally interesting – what looked to me like deep, murky waters was actually very shallow…the driver had to weave back and forth to avoid striking the riverbed with the boat’s hull. After a few more hours through the jungle we stopped at one more floating restaurant – this time for fresh oysters – before our final stop at a small cobblestone village with a historical church. The church was alright. Much more interesting were the group of children practicing capoeira in the town square, who took an interest in Johnny and invited him out for a free lesson.

“Free” of course meaning “can I have some spare change?” after finishing up.

I’ve been learning more and more over the course of this trip that in Brazil, everyone wants something. You think you’ve made a new friend, but it isn’t long until they start asking for money. You think you meet a cute girl who’s genuinely interested…but it isn’t long before she starts asking for money in exchange for her company.

After the cruise I decided to hang back again while the others went to a party up by the lighthouse. I woke up early and spent a few hours scanning the town for wifi networks and catching up on blog posts, getting most of it done at a nice pousada with a fabulous ocean view. While working I happened to meet a group of 10 travelers who worked for Smirnoff – a group who travels the world, partying, blogging, taking photos, and making documentary videos about Smirnoff and all their worldwide events. Sounds like a decent job to me 😉

Then it was another lazy day at the beach and one last night out – this time at an amphitheater surrounded by jungle – before a mad scramble to make it south to our next destination: Trancoso.

Internet is getting harder and harder to come by. In reality this post is about two days behind – I leave Trancoso tomorrow morning.

Hang tight… 🙂

  2 Responses to “Morro de Sao Paolo”

  1. sounds awesome!

  2. Oh dear…you might have to start using…A DISPOSABLE CAMERA????

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