Friday, June 28, 2013

Brazil. 2.

By the time we got back from Ilha Grande, the sands of change were shifting beneath our feet again. I had said goodbye to Jen but hoping I will get to see her in France in september. Livvy by this point had really mixed feelings about going home- remembering South Africa two years ago, I fully understood her point that it takes a month to settle into travelling, and then to go home when you are used to one way of life is a really big downer.

Saying goodbye at Books to Liv was really sad- at this point I thought I would be home mid October. It had been a great month travelling with her, I had not covered so much ground in so little time before and I still marvel over the contrast. She got on her flight with another Brit friend made at Books, and as his friend and I waved their taxi off, I suddenly felt pretty alone.
Though with this type of life, unless you are really socially inept, you are not stuck for long. I had already met three Aussies very drunk at a petrol station on the way to the favelas, Stacie and sisters Lucy and Bridget, and when they returned three days later from Ilha Grande, we became good friends.

They were on a totally different time schedule to me but on a similar route. Both parties wanted to get north, to the less well known towns of Jericoacoara and the national park of Lençóis Maranhenses and then to attempt to take on the Amazon and cross to Colombia. It was thirty hrs alone to Salvador and with the Aussies flying to Mexico on the tenth of July from Bogota, and wanting to see most places along the way, buses were no longer an option. So I broke my rule of not flying and flew to Forteleza with them.
This city doesn´t envoke nice memories for me, having got there at two in the morning and booked a hostel for 18 reales which smelt of cattle. It was one of the only places I feared for my belongings as well, being stalked by two girls of about fifteen who never took their eyes off us, in the bus terminal. Afterwards we laughed at the likelihood of a mugging from these two but we were glad to get out.

I felt pretty intrepid heading up to Jericoacoara. All other travellers I had met had not ventured that far north, it seemed a little big more origional than the classic gringo horseshoe and you had to get to these cut off town on buggies in the middle of the night through huge sand dunes. As we bounced along in the dark, swerving when coming across stray donkeys and admiring the moon, I felt incredibly happy.
The town itself had the same feel as Ilha Grande and even San Pedro de Actacama which I visited in late February. As it was a national park, there were no cars, just little dune buggies which churned up the sand roads between the little huts that made up the place. It had a huge amount of character, not least because of the dangerous gypies which hung around the beach at day and town at night. These guys were mainly from Colombia and Venezuela and we ran into the wrong crowd one night, who wanted to show us a good time with illegal substances. We met one guy who we nicknamed ´hannibal lecter´ because of the tattoo on his chest only visible in good light. Otherwise we would have avoided him at all costs. As we babbled away in Spanish, one Brit took me to one side and told me to leave because Hannibal Lecter´s tattoos showed he had committed serious crimes such as killing cops.

Aside from this, the tour we did of paradise lagoon and other beaches in little buggies was so much fun and make for some of my happiest memories of South America. It was sad to leave but we couldn´t get stuck.

Lençóis Maranhenses
This was a similarly beautiful place but bigger with a huge river running through the town we stayed in and several more lagoons hidden in giant sand dunes. One night, Lucy was convinced she saw Cayman eyes in the river reflecting light. Owing to the fact she spent three months volunteering in the amazon, we all believed her. The next day as we jumped onto the boat which pulled up at our hostel, we were promised adventure and we soon forgot that we all were pretty sick. The next installment consisted of going along the river then jumping off our boat, climbing a sand dune then ending up on a pastel white beach facing the roaring Atlantic. We ate delicious seafood too.

Sao Luis
The girls had a tip from a friend in Mendoza that Sao Luis was a great city to visit and it was also major enough to have an airport that allowed us to venture to Manuas and onto Columbia. Sao Luis had a beautiful historical centre, a great party vibe but we came away with little but bad memories from it. I have had the conversation many times before that its a shame when muggings happen because they can put you off a great place. Lucy and Stacie were robbed and threatened with a machete, and normally not girls to become paranoid, none of us felt safe crossing the street alone after that, owing to the fact we were the only gringos around and stuck out.
In addition to this, we could not fly to anywhere but Sao Paulo, right at the bottom of the country to get to Colombia cheaply. I was slowly burning through my budget with absolutely nothing I could do about it.

The final leg
We flew back to Sao Paulo, thousands of kms south, having wiped our foreheads for relief getting out of Sao Luis. I spent the next two days in Sao Paulo airport whilst we tried to get flights to get out of Brazil, for fear of spending money.  Stupid complications came up like restrictions on international credit cards on all flight websites and huge hidden costs, not to mention flights that went up by two hundred dollars in the time it took to click confirm. When we did book our flight to Bogota, missing out the Amazon completely, it was so expensive I cried in the airport. However, getting out of Brazil was an absolute must and having taken off on a flight that the Colombian football team were also on, I started not to feel so bad.

Right now I am in Bogota broke- the Aussies have left for Cartagena where I would have joined them but for the money. Essentially trapped in Bogota for a month but not worrying about it because the city has a great vibe and people are cool.

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