Off the beaten path

28 Feb

I left Salvador today to a low key island named after a monk who had been eaten by native Indians. The adventure was about to begin anew.

Except this time, unlike in Argentina, I found myself deep in the developing world, and with no language skills to boot. Despite significantly larger GDP growth, Brazilian poverty seems much more prevalent and I find myself much more guarded as a result.

I was able to find the bus station, which has a completely different name in Portuguese, and my efforts at telling the taxi driver I wanted a terminal, or bus, or autobus proved futile. I ended up getting out and took a city bus in, where an English speaker told me the word for bus terminal was Rodavoio or something equally insensible.

Some veteran travelers have said it gets old to constantly stumble around clueless and never be understood. Fortunately I’m still early enough on my trip where it’s still a lot of fun to spend 10 minutes just to figure out where the bathrooms are.

I arrived in Madre Deus with the sun already setting and the town seemed really cool. The buildings were colorful and the streets were filled with locals hanging out, listening to music and drinking beers.

I definitely stood out.

And the next few minutes were extremely uncomfortable as I had to walk through mostly empty streets to get to the marina.

From the looks I got, I don’t think many tourists have passed through this town. I wished so much I could strike up some conversations but I knew that would be impossible.

I got to the marina and it was getting dark. There was basically one pier, with a dozen small, colorful boats lining its sides. Most of the fishermen were going home but I spotted one boat that was going to Ilha dos Fabes.

Except the boat operator told me they weren’t leaving until tomorrow. Disappointed, I asked him if I could pay to have him take me today. He said yes, but it would cost 200 reals, or about 100 usd. Damn. But did I really want to stay in town?

I started to haggle and eventually they whipped out a piece of paper. It turns out the boat ride would cost 2.50 R. I had misunderstood them and the ferry ride would be less than 2 bucks, usd. Awesome.

And to think I was almost willing to shell out 100 bones.

I climbed into the dingy looking boat (hey it was floating, which means it works, right?) and took it all in. I was definitely going off the beaten path.

The water was silky black, like an oil ship had just crashed nearby. The boat was very low to the water and I made a note of where the life jackets were as we zoomed around large commercial fleets. With cranes and smoke stacks and sparking yellow lights, they looked like cities of their own.



It was dark by now and I wandered ashore to find a city not unlike the old city of Jaffa in Israel. Windy walkways uphill, no cars, open air houses with no doors or windows, and a very laid back vibe. Still, it was dark and new and I was at the uncomfortable end of many stares.

I found a room quickly enough and even though its filled with creepy crawling things and red ants especially, it has a most amazing view of the bay and serves up a personal hammock on my room, which is where I’ll be for the rest of the night, drinking a beer and reading a book.


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