Beach bummin

Trip Start Sep 2005
Trip End Sep 2006

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Thursday, November 10, 2005

This is the first beach bumming part of my tour. Brazil claims to have the best beaches in the world, so we decided to go off and investigate....and just do nothing for a while. The Brazilians are quite passionate about beaches, everybody has their own opinion about which ones are the best. Most Brazilians seemed to agree that the best ones were up north, a bit nearer the equator where the sun always shines. Everyday, all seasons. We were sold. We'd started to get browned off with the cold weather and grey days in Rio, and were desparately where we could get sunshine, surfing, slip on a thong or just hang out. So we headed to up to the Recife and then headed south.

Like they said the sun shone everyday. And the beaches were superb. Something there for everybody. Sundays are great on the city beaches like Maceio and Recife. Everybody with a pulse heads to the beach. You'd struggle to see the sand there's so many people there. Hardly anybody has enough space to stretch out. So most just sit, have a beer,Bar-b-que, go walking, swimming, buying and selling stuff. The whole beach is just buzzing. They close the roads off so it can spill onto the promenade. Most of the beaches have natural swimming sections formed by the offshore reefs. Then when you go beyond this there's the surfing sections. I tried the surfing out. It wasn't that hard. It's not that difficult to stand up on the board for a quarter of a second. Though it seems to be easier if you've got long blond hair.

There was some great nightlife in the northeast cities. While Rio has Salsa, the Northeast has Forro. It's hard to describe what Forro is, as we saw lots of different people doing it lots of different ways. I'm no expert, but to me it looked pretty much like a cross between waltzing and dirty dancing, and you try to look like you can't really be bothered. One rule is that you only hold your partner with one hand and dangle the other at your side like you´re holding an imaginary cigarette. Or a bottle of beer if you like. Then you wriggle your bum really fast and press your groin into your partner. All the while doing a sort of waltz step with your feet. We sort of gate-crashed a community get-together Forro night. It was all ages, 9 to 90, all doing it their own way. The old ones did it more waltzy and the young ones more dirty. Gina and myself tried to join in. It really did feel like I was trying to do 2 dances at the same time. In the end I just gave up and stood their wriggling my bum-cheeks really fast. At least that way I could stand have a drink and not feel like the odd one out.

One thing that happened to us a few times up here, was that on the bus people would just turn round and start offering you food. The first time it happened they opened a brand new box of chocolates, took one each, then turned round to Gina and myself and told us to help ourselves. Even though at the time I thought it was a one-off we didn't rip the ass out of it. The next time was on a hiace-van bus to Mangue Seco. A guy on his way out there to sell jewelry pulled out a bag of fruit and passed it around everybody in the van. It looked like it was his breakfast too. It's a really nice custom but you feel a bit bad getting stuck in with nothing to offer back. He was also with a girl who never stopped talking. Never, ever. In a period of 90 minutes she managed to stay quiet once for about twenty seconds. She was also really loud, and laughed a lot at her own jokes. Noone else did. I was seriously tempted to take a piece of the guys fruit. A medium-sized apple would have done the job nicely.

The most pretty beaches are generally outside the cities. We went to Puerto Gallineos, which is offically recognized as Brazils most beautiful beach. Gallineos means "chickens",and it got its name from slave tradig. After slave trading was banned, they used to smuggle slaves in here, hence the nickname, and the seriously overdone chicken theme everywhere you look.

As well as a beautiful beach it´s just a really nice town with lots of craft shops, cool bars, restaurants with (decent)live music. Unfortunately it was a bank holiday there, and we arrived on a Thursday. The accommodation left was for the whole bank holiday weekend, so we had to skidattle. It was nice, but it wasn`t that nice. Too touristy for me. Being a fully fledged backpacker at this stage I prefer my beach towns a bit more gritty, the sort of place where you feel comfortable having a hot dog breakfast on the pavement and earn a few bob platting hair. We hit upon a few beaches that were a little more quiet but not THE one. One brazilian guy had recommended a place called "Mangue Seco" and showed us on a napkin where it was. (This is starting to sound like the script for The Beach). But it was really hard to get to. You had to take a bus or taxi to a very remote village, and from there you took a boat, if you could find one.

It was worth it. Once you got off the boat you walked into a really laid-back village, surrounded by sand-dunes and cut off from everywhere else. The only way to get to the next village, apart from boat, was by sand-buggy. So it was fairly free of tourists, and it was also out of season. The beach itself is another 1km trek through mangroves, and is cut off a high tide, unless you've got a sand buggy. Once you finally get there it's just miles and miles of white sand, and solitude. There's a little hamlet of hammocks, and a bar at the beachfront. Apart from us there was about 5 other tourists, a buggy driver and a barman. If you like your beaches quiet and idyllic this is the spot. Just make sure you keep an eye on the tide as it comes in very quietly. I was lying, there rocking myself asleep in a hammock, but fortunatley Gina noticed.

The boat back to the mainland was a game. It's hit or miss how you get one. We were having something to eat at a riverside restaurant when a boat came with supplies. So we scrounged a lift with the guys. He said he had to pick some empties from a bar down the river before we would be heading back across the river. So we jumped in anyway. When we pulled into the bay, I gave the guys a hand, and offered to do the easiest job. There was a fair few empties, but still plenty of room for Gina and myself. As we were heading back there was another bar along the route whose owner (and customers?)were calling to the guys to pick up a few more empties. After a lot of protesting the guys pulled in. There was loads and loads of bottles but they got loaded up, and there was just about enough room for Gina and myself to sit. Then all the people from the bar got on. Everybody knew that there wasn't enough room, and that the boat was way overloaded, so all sorts of arguments broke out about who should be getting on. It didn't really matter because they all jumped on anyway. Some of the women started blessing themselves and putting on lifejackets. Then when we were about to head off they loaded up an engine block. That really set the women off again. But away we sailed without the water coming in.

This was definitely the locals only boat, so gringos were a novelty. One guy who I'd noticed drinking in the bar was particularly chatty, and I couldn't understand one word. Brazilian is pretty hard if your spanish is crap. Then after a while he wanted the boat to pull into his village along the river. Another fight broke out with the women, shouting that it's too dangerous to bring the boat in close to the shore. So the guy and his mate had to jump out and swim home. When we eventually got to the other side there was no buses or taxis. So we had to negotiate a price. We didn't do too bad considering how weak our bargaining position was. We squeezed into a hatchback with giant haystacks, his wife and 2 kids. Fair play to him he even knocked the price away down in the end. Maybe he was just glad to get rid of us after 30 minutes of boys talk (football and beer)in my painfully bad portugese. Despite being really hard to get to and from it was worth it. You'd have to go a really long way to find a nicer beach.
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