Saturday, May 29, 2010


There was a lovely full moon setting at dawn when I boarded the plane in Porto Alegre.

I was pleasantly surprised by dramatic Recife skyline as we descended: the turquoise and marine Atlantic Ocean stretching out beyond created a postcard-quality snapshot. I took a later bus than expected to Maceió (mah-say-OH) due to... complications... but actually the delay turned into an advantage. Just as we departed Recife, headed south along the coast for the next four hours, the full moon was rising like a giant gold coin behind a cloudscape which perfectly played with its light, as did the silvery sea. What a treat! I couldn't help but stare at the moon the entire journey, happily accompanied by my iPod. And the little villages that peppered the route reminded me that I was (finally) in the Nordeste, but I found them more attractive and inviting than I had imagined.

Maceió has a population of about 800,000. There are a few highrise hotels and apartment buildings sprinkled along the seafront, but otherwise it feels like a suburb. What it lacks in cosmopolitanism, it makes up for in homeyness.

My first half hour in town was frustrating. I got in a taxi at the bus terminal and gave the driver the hostel address. He didn't (read: wouldn't) understand me. I gave him the paper. He didn't know the place. I told him the name of the bairro and general whereabouts. No dice. Como? The hostel is in a rather central location, among quite a cluster of hotels, two blocks from the beach, and in what is likely the second nicest neighborhood in town. But, umm, ok... "Well, how about with this map then, tchê?" and handed him a color-printed, X-marks-the-spot style aide. He took a quick look and shoved it back at me. He then held a conference outside the car with two other drivers, during which I tried repeatedly to offer the map and (informed) insight. None of them would look, none of them knew where it was, and all three old farts where really dismissive toward me. So when the driver drove me in circles for 20 minutes, refusing to call the hostel... arg!! When we eventually arrived (and the map was proven not only crystal clear, but completely accurate), I scolded him, shorted him a buck on the payment (which I have never done and, still, was generous of me), and stormed off.

Taxi drivers everywhere please note: I hold you responsible for knowing your territory well.
And in this particular case, in hardly-a-city, with a foreigner who can find it faster than a local, come on cara! [End rant.]

My subsequent experiences have been tranquilo e legal (relaxed and cool). There is a really sweet cleaner here at the hostel, Sylvana, who has been more informative than the desk staff. She gave me the lowdown on the jangadas this morning.

("Aqui tem Milagre!" risos)

A jangada (shan-GAH-dah, more or less) is a small, flat-ish, homemade sailboat. There are dozens of them on the beach and, for R$20 (US$12), they take you to the piscina natural about 2 kilometers offshore.

De lá...

Pra cá...

The water in the "natural pool" is very shallow. You can buy a beer, a popsicle, some peanuts, or some fish food from guys that wander the water with styrofoam coolers... a snorkel and float around the coral reef, watching the fish watch you...

...or just clownfish around!

My jangada-mates were a Paulista couple, Fernanda and Junior. We got along famously: more on them in the next post.

The sun has totally worn me out. I'm tucking in early with a book!