How many sandunes are there in Brazil?

Trip Start Jul 15, 2004
Trip End Jul 15, 2005

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Tuesday, November 2, 2004

OK, I am actually not writing this from Belém, but decided to cut the next entry into two because so much happened.

Last time I was in Jeri and we were having some problems with our tour leader, which was resolved with a new leader, a cool guy from Canada who now calls Lima home. Funny guy, lots of interesting stories from his former life.

Well, Jericocoara seems a long time ago, and I guess it is. Our last nights in the town were fun, and the days were more lazing by the beach and just chilling out. I had a date...with a 12 year old boy called Julio. OK, let me clarify that, I was eating dinner (lovely spagetti) and noticed this stray dog who came over and looked pathetic and so I wanted to feed some of my dinner to it. Suddenly this kid (Julio) came over to me and asked if he could try to feed the dog. I said sure, but it turns out even skinny starving dogs can be fussy when vegetarian pasta is offered to them! So Julio asked if he could eat the rest could I resist after wanting to give it to the dog. He tried out his English on me, and I suspect once he is 16 he will be unstoppable with the charm. Hell, he charmed dinner and then a Coke out of me. But that isn´t all...I ended up buying him lunch on the beach the next day, and yes another Coke. I have been accused of being soft touch...

We had a big night the last night there, we met two guys staying at our hotel who like me had done the pack it all in and go travelling thing, from England and New Zealand. We all went out drinking and ended up at a local Forro bar, dancing to the attrocious Forro Pop that is so popular.

The next day we were to go to Paniama, and as Jeri is so isolated we were in a private jeep with a very nasty man driving us there. He was grumpy and I think possibly mentally unstable given the speed he was driving (120km per hour) versus the condition of the road (did I say road....lets call it small bits of bitchumen inamongst vast potholes). Once we nearly hit a vulture at above mentioned speed and we all screamed, which took as a personal afront to his driving abilities and began insulting us. We were happy to reach Paniama, perhaps displayed best by my hugging the tree out the front of the hotel. Ironically, the sign on the jeep says ´Speaks English´, I beleive a little extra needs to be added ´just not very nicely´.

Panaima isn´t anything to write home about, but we were there for a tour of Panaima Delta. We had a small boat, but the day was pretty relaxing and we saw lots of crabs and weird fish that ran on the water. I saw a woodpecker too which was pretty cool, he was really going for it too with his beak against the wood. We reached a point where we got of the boat and then walked over the sand dunes to a wide and very isolated beach. The surf was too rough for swimming, the others tried and all got really badly dumped by waves.

The next day we left to begin travelling up the coast. We had a bus to a place called Tutoia, and it was what can only be described as the ´Chicken Bus´´...we stopped everywhere, and were overloaded by about 40 people, we had seats, but only just....the woman in the aisle next to me decided her tactic for getting my seat was to sit on me. She wasn´t counting on just how stubborn or how bony I am! The temperature was also about 38 degrees plus humidity. Comfort is not a word springing to mind!

There was nothing at the town, just a quite stop over night, then another Jeep transportation to an even more isolated town Curibe. Our driver however was lovely, and a good driver. It took a couple of hours to reach the town in which time I sat in the back of the jeep and almost came to a nasty end. As it was, I damaged my the time it appeared to be broken, it still hurts but I think it was ligaments. Curibe is literally a small town (about 100 houses...maybe) on a patch of sand between the river and the see. Nothing to do but lie in a hammock and chill out. I went for a walk when I was finally feeling a little active and was joined by a girl called Conchita, who chatted to me for the entire walk. She was cute about 8 and very patient with my terrible Portuguese...I gave her a little koala toy I had, she was wearing it the whole night. The kids are great to talk to.

The next morning we again took to travelling, this time on a small power boat nearly two hours down the river to a town called Beirenhaus (and the spelling of this may currently be wrong..) So, in three days the transport had been varied! Again, not much in this town, it was so hot I thought I would melt and it was just a stop off because we travelling up the east coast is not such an easy thing. Unfortunately, Sze-Fei got really sick that morning, and got a lot worse. People who know me well, know I don´t deal that well with other people being sick...but I was not too bad, dispensing my only sound medical advice I have...´keep drinking water´, followed by ´my guide says that if it lasts this long you have to start taking the antibiotics´. Anyway, by morning she was much improved, but she really had me worried for a couple of hours the day before.

The bus ride to Saó Luis was on a very modern and fairly comfortable bus and we arrived in Saó Luis by lunch time. This is an old colonial town, with a heavy French influence. There were also lots of African slaves brought here, so like Salvador there is an African influence also. It too was intensely hot. We had two more days there, and unfortunately discovered that on weekends none of the museums were open, so in order to retreat from the heat, and with nothing else to do, we tracked down the ´Shopping Mall´if only to be in airconditioning. We found a big one across town, and were happy to find a release movies are always in English with we saw ´Jersey Girl´...and the next day, with the same dilema, we came back and saw ´Wimbeldon´. I hadn´t seen a film since Lima, this was a nice change.

That night we had our second last night bus, to Belem. All in all, a fairly straightforward trip except for the road disappearing sometime in the middle of the night and experiencing the bumpiest ride so far, since Bolivia anyway! Belém is a big town, a port city near the mouth of the Amazon. It is hot and humid and busy. But we have spent our days getting ready for the Amazon boat trip. Each day there has been a massive thunderstorm about 3pm, which cools things down for about 5 minutes. There was a holiday while we were here, All Souls day, and a big market was open just up from the hotel. One guy was selling this ink product that will let you copy any picture onto a t-shirt. This brilliant man demonstrated his producted using a tried and true method...the pictures he used were from pornographic magazines (you don´t have to look very hard to find them in this part of the world). There were a lot of men crowded round his table looking at his demonstration and parting with 5 Reais as quickly as they could. I am sure, there are many men in Belém who got home with 5 bottles of blue ink and can only remember it had something to do with naked women. Classic!

The lunch we ate at the docks was pretty cool too. We ate at the local open market. For 3 Reais (less than $1.50 AUS) I got a peice of fish, rice, spagetti, two salads, and beans. Very standard fair for this part of the world. It was tasty and cheap, and my stomach didn´t object so it was also clean.

So, with much anticipation we got ourselves organised for the Amazon trip....
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