I will apologize in advance for the brevity of this blog and for not writing more during the cruise. During the boat, it was simply a question of money, but now, I am having computer problems. As I’m writing this, I can only open the laptop to a 45 degree angle, which makes it very uncomfortable to see and thus to write. If only the TSA agents hadn’t confiscated my mini scissors, I might be able to fix it!
Without further ado, here’s our Brazilian beach story……
Our first stop was Fortaleza. We were taken by cab to an amazing beach bar, where we sat in comfortable chairs in the sun while we were served liquid refreshments. Vendors were constantly stopping by in an attempt to peddle their products to all the eager tourists. They offered everything from DVD’s to table cloths. We only opted for some fresh lobster (that was fantastic, by the way) and some cheese on a stick that was cooked right in front of us on metal pot with hot coals. There wasn’t a bit of trash or a single shell in sight, for as far as the eye could see, in each direction. The waves were rough which made for good surfing, as we witnessed. After this wonderful experience, we were extremely excited for the next stop.
Stop two; Recife. This beach didn’t quite live up to our expectations. The drive to get there went by a few too many favelas, and the beach was littered with signs that warned, “Danger! Bathers in this area are at a greater than average risk of shark attack!” Needless to say, neither of us ventured in that day. We capped off the evening by trying some authentic food with our friends, Oline and Francesco. It’s a good thing that Francesco is a chef and likes to try new dishes and always feels obligated to eat all of it, so as to not offend the kitchen. We had some mushy brown goo, stuffed inside crab shells for starters. That was followed up by two massive trays consisting of black-eyed peas, onions, some bread-crumb potato dish and ten massive chunks of salty meat. I suffered through some of it, but Megan opted to eat crackers later.
Maceio was the stop that was rumored to have the best beaches in all of the country. If they did, we sure didn’t find any of them. The first cab tried to drop us off in a shady part of town, telling us we needed to take a boat to the beach. None of us felt comfortable getting out there, so we instructed him to take us to a “nice” beach. We were let out at an empty shoreline that stretched for miles. Upon further inspection, the plethora of trash littering the sand was probably the reason. At long last, we finally found a decent beach that turned out to be a five minute walk from the ship! The water was a little smelly, and our moods were starting to sour.
We were hoping that Salvador Bahia would redeem the last two stops, but it didn’t. This time we asked people who had been before to recommend a beach to visit. After a 45 minute cab ride, we were dumped at what smelled like a actual dump. It was so bad that we couldn’t even stop to ponder our next move. We simple headed for the road and flagged down another taxi. This time, we were actually taken to a beautiful stretch of beach. We were given the table and umbrella, and a perfect spot to people watch. This was reminiscent of the service we received in Fortaleza. We were starting to think that the day would end up all right after all. The water was wonderful and we were entertained by a local beach soccer match while we sipped our drinks and enjoyed the sun. Megan got a beautiful necklace and wrap (that she shrewdly bargained for via drawing prices in the sand). It wasn’t until we were ready to leave that the day really turned bad. Upon receiving the check, we expected it to be similar to the one we received in Fortaleza, if not less. When I saw it, I flipped out! It was four times the other bill. They tried to charges us a table fee of $50 and other underhanded expenses. Of course I refused to pay it and started arguing with the guy whose English was not all that good. It got to the point where I had to threaten to get the Police involved, to which he said, “No, no….no Policia!” I gave him what I thought was fair and walked off. Our friend Francesco added some more that brought it to about half of what he originally asked for.
Rio de Janeiro was our last hope. We started out by visiting the statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain. Up until just a month ago, this was the tallest statue in the world of Jesus (thanks Poland for ruining the record). It was very foggy when we arrived, and for a minute, I didn’t think it would clear enough for us to see the sculpture, much less the views of the entire city. Just as I was thinking this, a breeze blew in and slowly revealed a massive replica of our Savior, as if he had descended directly from Heaven. It was an amazing sight to behold. This was definitely an exceptional experience. From there we sunk, both literally and ethically, off the mountain to the famous Copacabana. To be honest, I don’t know what the big fuss is all about. It was another long stretch of an average looking shore, lined with drink stands and sand volleyball courts. There was a nice sidewalk and jogging track, but the fumes from the six lane roadway would probably dampen the experience. We explored around for a few hours, probably just because we felt like we had traveled so far that we owed it to ourselves and the town to hang on for as long as we possibly could.
Getting off a boat had never felt as good as it did the next morning (albeit with an hour delay due to some glitch in the immigration process). We hailed a cab to take us to Sao Paulo, which was surprisingly a beautiful drive. We felt like a weight had lifted off of us once we stepped in the airport, knowing we were hours away from leaving Brazil. Of course our flight was delayed, but we finally made it to Buenos Aries around midnight.
As Christ redeems mans’ soul, we can only hope that Buenos Aries will do the same for our opinion of South America.