Current Date: April 2, 2003 7:15 p.m. (Belem)
Current Itinerary: Leaving on a boat down the Amazon on Friday. I have decided to stop in Santerem for a few days (3 days boat ride) and then move on to Manaus (2 day boat ride) on Tuesday or Wed. I will do a jungle tour and then fly out of Manaus to Brasilia around the 15th or 16th.
Note: Kudos to Lisette from my lab at BCM who answered my questions posed in my last journal with lightning speed. Of course, I would expect nothing less from her...here are the answers for anyone who cares:
And no, clams can't see.
Well, I know I will sleep better!
Monday, March 10, 2003
JP/Montreal had to head for the airport that morning...groggily said goodbye to him around 7. Aaron/Boston and I had decided the night before that we would move on to Porto de Gallinas. First, I needed to go to the airport, though, so I could get my yellow fever shot. Sebastian/Argentina had told me that we could catch a bus from there to Porto de Gallinas. I got up a bit early and ran to the internet place quickly. When I returned, Aaron was just getting up and there was another guy, Stephan/Germany that had just arrived at the hostel. He was coming from Olinda and looking to head towards a good beach. There was an island that he wanted to go to but we found out that it was much further from Recife than he thought. I told him we were headed towards a pretty good beach so he decided he would go with us. That's how it is when you are traveling freely...somebody has a good idea, you just go for it. It was partiularly funny for him because he checked in and checked out of the hostel in the same 20 minutes.
Anyway, the 3 of us caught a Kombi and headed towards the airport. (hmmm...next paragraph I will explain what a Kombi is) I remember that at that point that Stephan had only been in traveling for 2 weeks, and you could really tell he had not adjusted to the way of things in Brazil just yet. One tell tale sign of someone who is a bit wet behind the ears is that they still count everything in dollars or Euros. I was guilty of this for the first couple weeks...I particularly remember that in Paraty that I thought that 6 reals for a caipirinha was an okay price...that is pure highway robbery and I would NEVER pay that much now...but in reality it is less than 2 USD. It is dangerous to count in dollars though, if you do this, you will spend WAY too much and people will rip you off left and right. Anyway, a kombi guy tried to charge us 2 reals to get to the airport when we knew we could get it for one or maybe less. When Aaron and I turned down the first guy, Stephan was appalled that we cared about one real (30 cents). It really isn't the money though...it is the principle that they are trying to rip us off just b/c they think they can.
Okay...kombis. Basically they are these white vans (in various different conditions) that drive all over the larger cities here in Brazil. They are pretty much the equivilent of buses, but they are cheaper, faster, and go many places that the buses do not. Some cities have hundreds of them...guys just driving around the city in vans, and if they are going the way you are going, you just get in. You can get in at a bus stop, or just along the street...wherever you please. One guy drives the van, and another guy stands at the sliding door, leaving it open, and yells out to the people on the sidewalk where the van is going. It is really very interesting to see. Some kombis stop and try to pick up every single person they see walking on the street. They are a great, fast way to get around and I love them. The catch is that you have to know the areas of the city and what the guys are yelling out...it can be tough because it is fast, in Porteguese, and they often say 3 or 4 places.
Alrighty...back to the story...we got to the airport but I discovered I was too late to get the shot that day. I would have to return on Wednesday for it. We spent an hour checking out plane tickets from Manaus. I had decided that I wanted to stay in Brazil after doing the Amazon. I think I will hang in Brazil until the end of July or so...and then move towards Argentina as it starts to get warm. Who knows. I need to find work somewhere and the decision of where that will occur is completely up in the air. I am sort of leaning towards SP if anyone can believe that...but I happen to like the city, and you can make decent money teaching english.
Aaron bought a ticket to go to Fernado de Noronha, an exotic island off the coast of Brazil that supposedly has the best beaches in the country. I was glad he decided to do it, he had been agonizing over it for the previous couple days. I found out about tickets from Manaus to Brasilia...which I think will be where I will fly to.
It was a bit tricky, but we found where the bus was to get to Porto de Gallinas. One of the guys who helped us was this old guy, Aldo. He was really nice and was going to Porto also. What was funny was that his last name started with a "C" and he actually had on a ring very similar to mine that says "AC". Always good to meet another AC!!! I snapped a picture with him and our power rings!
Around 4 we arrived in Porto de Gallinas. I little history for you: The town was originally named Porto Rico. It was a major port into which slaves were brough into the that area of Brazil. After slavery was made illegal, many slaves were still brought into the country via this port. In the ships logs, they could not list the cargo as slaves so they listed them as chickens (gallinas in Porteguese) and thus the name was born. Bad history behind a great little beach town.
We searched for a good deal and finally settled into a hostel around 5, which did not leave us with much daylight to burn. Since Aaron only had one day before he had to return to Recife for his flight to the island, he wanted to try to do a quick buggy tour while in Porto de Gallinas so he could atleast see a fair amount of it. He quickly organized a tour with a buggy near the hostel, we changed, piled in, and we were off!
The time we had was short, but it was worth it! We first drove out of town to a beach just south of the Porto, Praia de Maracaipe, that was absolutely beautiful! I would say it was the second best beach I have seen on the trip, (nothing beat Praia de Sono!!) We cruised along the beach in our buggy. Eventually we passed through a tiny village where many people go to camp. Finally we ended up at this spot where a fresh water river meets the ocean. We waded in the water and watched the sun as it began to set. It was really nice out there!
We got back in the buggy and headed to another beach about 10k north of town. During the drive we weaved in and out of some stunning homes and resorts for wealthy Recife Brazilians that they use for weekend getaways. The second beach was not as amazing as the first but was still VERY nice!! We were very happy with what we had accomplished in the short time that we had been there.
On the way back to town, Aaron and I got to talking about living in Buenos Aires (he had been studying there for the previous 9 months before taking some time to travel). He recommended a really nice place to me that is cheap and centrally located. Sounds good...I hope to end up there at some point.
We got back to the hostel and showered up (that was potentially the worst/dirtiest shower I had seen on the trip...if you go there, pay the extra 5 reals and get a pousada). Then we went on a search for food, during which we were painfully reminded what the problem is with traveling to these small ritzy weekend gateaway towns. Everything is SEVERLY overpriced!! Internet in Porto is a WHOPPING 35 centavos a minute...this translates to R$25/HOUR!!! I would like to remind you all that I was paying R$2.50 in Recife...TEN TIMES LESS. No internet for me until the next town. Anyone going there, you have been forwarned...check e-mail before getting there.
We finally settled on a pizza place on the mainstrip. It was decent put slightly expensive. Afterwards we walked around, searching for something decent going on. It was a Monday, so there was not too much happening. I had been looking for a new necklace to wear for pretty much the entire trip so that night I decided to look some more. I ended up meeting a very cool group of hippies...one of which was from Uraguay and he specially made one for me right there on the spot. He was very cool. He had been traveling for about 2 years with his girlfriend and a couple of friends. They just slowly moved from town to town, making necklaces, bracelets, and other crafts to fund their trip. This is actually quite common down here. In fact, I had run into a guy from California the night before in the hostel in Recife. He told me that he had travelled with hippies for about 3 weeks during his trip and he lived on about 6 reals a day!!! That is less than 2 dollars people!!! He commented on how he never really knew how cheap he could live and what things he did not need until he traveled with that group. He also said it was one of the best experiences of his trip. No doubt. hmmmmm....sounds cool AND cheap. Hmmmmm.
Anyway, I bought the bracelet from the guy and I like it A LOT!! Only my second asset that I have acquired on this trip (first was the Tribalistas CD). Afterwards, we finally found a cool little restaurant bar and sat for a couple beers. We actually ran into the boyfriend of one of the Isreali girls we had met in Recife two nights before. That was weird. I swear, as you travel along, you really do see the same people much more often then one might imagine. Everyone tends to move in the same direction.
During dinner, a very cute waitress, Kelsey, came to our table and asked us if we were looking for something to do that night...and wouldn't you know it, we were! She told us about a bar that would have dancing that night. We ended up going over there and it was decent.
We danced for several hours...the music was great...and I took a few photos...the guys took off around 2:30. I stayed with Kelsey and her friends and closed the place around 4:30. Said goodbye and stumbled back to the hostel for some Z's...good thing, the next day I would need my energy.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Today was a GREAT day. One of the ones that you live for as a traveler...one you experience great new things in an exotic land. I went snorkeling for the first time in my life. It was an unbelievable experience that I'll never forget...but alas...I am ahead of myself. I must start at the beginning of the day.
Woke up around 9 for a few minutes as Aaron was leaving. Another great guy I have met while traveling...an amazingly bright guy who really seems to know where he is going. He has studied in Europe AND South America and is heading to Japan next month to spend several months there. All this and just 21 years old. I really appreciate that we got a chance to hang out for a few days.
Slept again for awhile, finally awaking from my slumber around 11:30. No fan problems this time...nice to have control of the ventillador again:)
Got dressed and Steven and I headed out to the by the kilo place nearby for some food. Had a couple papayas (surprise, surprise) and then we went in search of snorkeling equipment to rent. I was pretty excited about it...as I had never done it before. I must say, I probably would have done it at somepoint on the trip, but I don't think I would have done it that day if it was not for Steven. I definitely owe him for that one.
After a bit of barganing we ended up renting masks and snorkels for R$5 for the whole day. Not a bad deal...possibly the best 5 reals I have ever spent. I was not sure if I was going to be comfortable with the snorkel at first, been then I remembered, I have been breathing for pretty much my whole life...it really isn't anything new. And it wasn't. It took my about 5 min. to get used to it and then I was ready to explore. To tell you the truth, just getting my clear glimpses of the underwater ocean world where there was no fish was cool enough for me. I just had never seen the ocean from that perspective for a couple reasons...first, you gotta have some pretty clear water to be able to see anything...something that is not exactly readily available near Houston or any of the beaches I have been to in the States for that matter. (note: the water here at Porto de Gallinas is Secondly, I had always been so focused on the beauty of the ocean from the topside, that I never stopped to realize a whole different world exists below the surface. Boy was I in for a treat.
After I fully got the hang of it, and we had are fill of swimming around where there was no coral, we went to where the action was. Along the beach, about 30 meters out, there is a significant coral reef...and logically, that is where the fish hang out. We got over there and it was absolutely unbelievable what we saw. There were SO MANY different types of beautiful, brightly colored tropical fish. I mean, the kind you see in fish tanks in a doctors office in the States. They were swimming everywhere we looked. I felt like I was Jaques Costeau or something out there. I can truly tell you, it is one thing to watch this kind of stuff on the discovery channel, but to have it right in front of your eyes, and actually be there in the water is a unbelievable experience. It was so damn beautiful down there that I couldn't stop looking at it all. At one point, as we were swimming along, we became immersed in the middle of a HUGE school of fish. I'm not kidding, I am talking tens of thousands of fish, swimming all around us...so fascinating that I don't think I could do it justice with words. A whole army of fish that were so many in number, but moving as one. I was frozen there in the water watching them all sort of "dance" around us. It was so cool, it was seemed like you could just reach out and touch them, but as soon as you did, they would all move, but only just enough to stay out of your reach. There was literally a cirlce around us. Man, it was just too cool...Steven was saying how he had snorkeled many times in many places, including off the Southern coast of France, and Porto de Gallinas was the best snorkeling he had ever done. The water was so clear, you could see for a good 20 or 25 meters so it made the school of fish seem absolutely endless out there. I just could NOT get enough of it. We were able to swim pretty far of shore and the water was relatively calm because the waves were breaking on the first band of coral that was about 250 meters of shore. We swam all the way out to near the breakers, taking in the beauty of the underwater world. We probably saw about 40 different kinds of fish I'd say. It was just phenomenal. About an hour and a half in, we swam back towards shore...Steven got out for awhile but I just could not get enough. I played around with this little group of fish that was following me. Seriously, there was this group of about 20 little fish that started following me wherever I went. If I stopped, they would all just hover around my legs until I moved again. I still don't really understand it, but they followed me around for about 40 minutes. I also found a small little natural pool area in the middle of the coral that was cool and where I saw probably the coolest fish that I saw during my time in the water. It was a huge, bright blue fish that was swimming under one of the ridges of the coral. It was flat and sort of round like a circle with a mouth and tail. It was a great fish. I was so amazed...I eventually showed Steven when he got back in the water and he said that he thinks they are called "doctor fish". (if anybody knows what this fish is and it fits my description, please let me know)
Anyway, there was a bunch of boats full of tourists that were about 200 meters down the reef from where we were and it seemed that there was something interesting there so we decided to swim over. When we got there, it was pretty cool...there was a pretty large natural pool and it was full with hundreds of these beautiful large yellow white and black "puffer" fish. We had also seen several in the reefs where we were but there were more there. But there were also more people and it totally took away from it. Nothing like being out there on our own, so we decided to swim back. On the way back, we passed through another school of fish that seemed even bigger than the first. There had to be a million of them it was so huge. I'm telling you, I just NEVER got sick of it. By the time I got out, I had been swimming for FOUR hours straight. I don't think I have been in the water for that many consecutive hours in my life. I was a little brown prune by the time I got out of there. It was probably the coolest thing I have done on my trip so far and I was absolutely overcome with the beauty of the whole thing. I guess I was lucky to do my first snorkeling ever in one of the best spots in Brazil. I have to say that from that day forward, I knew snorkeling was going to become common occurence for me.
After we got out the water and we were headed to get some food, some guys approached us and asked us if we wanted to play soccer with them...as if we weren't tired enough already. We played anyway though and it was a blast. Of course, I totally sucked. It was probably the first time I can ever remember playing a sporting event, and feeling absolutely inept. I mean, usually I can get by on athleticism, but stepping into an impromptu beach soccer game with a bunch of Brazilians is probably like stepping into a pick up game at the West side tennis club (place in Houston where NBA players play pick up games in the summer). Some of those guys were just amazing players. It was quite humbling for me but I still played hard as I could and enjoyed it quite a bit. Our team won 7-3!! Didn't score any goals but I was integral...NOT!!
Finally we got some food and my body was ready for a little rest. Got back to the hostel for a shower...upon returning from the shower discovered our new roomate in our room. A very cute Brazilian girl, Marcela, from Belo Horizonte (you gotta love hostels). She headed out for dinner, I waited for Steven to return from the internet place. Worked on journals for a bit and talked with Steven and another couple in the hostel about snorkeling. I convinced them it was more than worth their while to check it out...they decided they would do it the next day...hope they enjoyed it.
Marcela returned from dinner and we talked for a couple hours. She was such a cool girl and great to chat with. She had been traveling for a few months and had actually stopped to work in Pipa for about 20 days...which was my next destination. She gave me some tips on where to go while there...specifically a beach called Praia de Madiero. We all went out to the restaurant that me, Aaron, and Stephan had gone to the previous night. Can't beat a place on the beach!!! We had a few beers and basically had a great english/spanish/porteguese conversation!! We discussed music for quite awhile and just had a good time. The same girl, Kelsey, from the day before gave us a tip on another party for that night. We checked out the place but it was empty...walked around town and found nothing so we headed back to the hostel around 1:30. Steven hit the sack and Marcela and I stayed up talking for awhile and listening to music. I played some Mana for her and of course some Arjona. It was cool. She hit the sack, I worked on journals for a couple hours and finally fell asleep around 4:00. My aching muscles were happy to finally get the rest they deserved from such a strenous day.
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