Days 26-28 Walk Down Memory Lane by Carolyn Sauck

Trip Start Nov 28, 2007
Trip End Feb 15, 2008

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Monday, December 24, 2007

I was super excited to take Erin to one of my favorite childhood vacation places... Algodoal (Owl goo doo owl).  Algodoal is a small village of 3000 people on an island in the Atlantic where my grandfather used to have a beach home.

We left the bus station in Belem on Friday afternoon on an un-air conditioned bus to Maruda.  We thought the ride was going to last 2.5 hours (as Eric stated), but it turned out to be 4.5 hours since the bus seemed to stop every 400 feet to pick up somebody and every 100 feet for a lombada (giant speed bump).  We arrived in Maruda safe and sound, though Erin got closer to the general Brazilian population than she ever wanted.  I chuckled from my window seat as a man's shirt flapped into her face in the hot armpit wind, woof!  She also had the pleasure of the ticket collector sitting on her shoulder for 10 minutes as she got tickets from the people jammed in the aisle.

At the Maruda port, we were quickly ushered onto a boat to Algodoal (we chartered the boat for US$10 since it was after the last regular boat had departed).  The moon was nearly full, and it was a nice but choppy ride across the bay to the island.  A pousada (hotel) was recommended to us, and a friendly villager showed us the way there.  It was a decent hotel, better than the last one we stayed at for sure, but since the air conditioned room was an extra $30/night, we opted for the ceiling fan only room since we're on a budget.

We had a nice dinner by the pool and went to bed.  Erin woke the next day with 21 bug bites on her right leg and 19 on the left... she thought they were bed bug bites, but I think they were mosquitoes, and she decided to sleep in her new hammock for the next 2 nights.
But I get ahead of myself.  After a complimentary breakfast of cous cous, tapioquinha, papaya, bread, and the best eggs Erin has ever had, we grabbed our body boards and ventured off to Praia da Princesa (Princess's Beach).   There's a canal between the village and Praia da Princesa, and since it was low tide, we thought we'd try to cross by foot.  That's how the crossing started anyway.  About 5 steps in, Erin thought the sand was too soft and muddy with too many rocks, so she jumped on her body board as I fought the strong current and pulled her to the other side (WIMP!).  It took 10 minutes to cross the 50 ft channel.  We found out later that 3 nuns had been swept out to sea and died when trying to cross at the same location, but they did it at high tide.

About 30 minutes later, we crossed the point to Praia da Princesa.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and mega windy.  The beach was pretty much deserted, full of empty bars, and lots of sand.  There were probably a dozen or so other people with us on the 7 km beach.   We hit the waves to try out the new body boards, swam, and sunbathed all morning.  It was hard to stay in the same spot in the water because there was a strong long-shore current, but we stayed in shallower water to be safe.  At high noon, we got out of the sun and headed to one of the bars to have lunch and wait out the low tide.

There weren't any menus so I ordered a fish appetizer and a beer.  While we were waiting, a hippie girl came by to sell us earrings and bracelets.  Who'd have thought that hippies in Brazil look exactly the same as they do in the US, only much tanner.  When the waitress brought us the beer and appetizer, I asked how much they were, and the meal was much more expensive than I remembered (apparently, Algodoal has grown as a tourist attraction since I was last here).  We ended up having just the appetizer cause I hadn't brought enough money with me... Oops.


We caught some more waves and hiked around the dunes after lunch, then headed back to the hotel before sundown.   

We took a small canoe across the channel back to the village since it was high tide. We thought we'd try a different place for dinner, and chose what looked like a local favorite to save a couple bucks.  It was cheaper, but we learned the following lessons when choosing a dining establishment.

Rule 1: If the male to female ratio is 10:1, abort.
Rule 2: If no other customers are eating, abort.
Rule 3: If the loudspeakers made the crumbs on the table shake, abort.
Rule 4: If old, drunk, smelly fishermen are winking and blowing kisses at you, abort.

Nuff said.

The next morning, we got up early to hike to Fortalezinha, the supposed place to be and hot spot for young people.  The day prior, a man on the beach told us that he would pick us up in the morning to guide us there on foot, but that would equal money, so we bought a map and decided to find our own way there.   The first challenge was the bridge.  Apparently, the locals would rather remove planks to use for firewood than repair it, so it was in shambles.  Check out the pictures... 

A part was so bad that we had to walk a plank down to the muddy mangrove floor, walk across another board about 20 ft, then climb back onto the bridge. , the supposed place to be and hot spot for young people.  The day prior, a man on the beach told us that he would pick us up in the morning to guide us there on foot, but that would equal money, so we bought a map and decided to find our own way there.   The first challenge was the bridge.  Apparently, the locals would rather remove planks to use for firewood than repair it, so it was in shambles.  Check out the pictures... One part was so bad that we had to walk a plank down to the muddy mangrove floor, walk across another board about 20 ft, then climb back onto the bridge. We had to carefully place every step and it took us a while to cross.  Just before getting to the other side, a hand full of locals were walking across in the other direction as if they were on a 4 foot paved sidewalk.   One women who had to be at least 60 years old, speed walked over it with a basket of fruit on her head! 

Once we made it to the other side we celebrated with water and then continued hiking.  It was getting very hot and the entire trail was sand.  According to our (not to scale) map we thought it would take us about 30 minutes to reach Fortalezinha... after about a hour of hiking we started wondering where the heck we were but continued to follow the trails...and as guidance, the electrical poles.  We passed a few houses here and there and rarely saw people.  Other then a few houses it was deserted.  Finally after about 2 hrs of walking we saw civilization and asked a young boy where to go.  We we just about 5 minutes away and finally had made it!  We learned another lesson and that was not to use brochure non-scale maps for hiking.  Luckly we brought lots of water and sunblock!

Once we got into town we found what looked to be a bar/restaurant and we were quickly greeted by the woman owner.  We had a Guarana and asked that she watched our packs while we head down to the beach.  The tide had gone WAY WAY out so we had to walk a ways to get there. Before getting to the sand area we had to cross a 10 foot streamlike area where the local children were playing.  There were a few rocks on the bottom so Erin crossed slowly while I led the way.  In the 10 ft crossing she managed to lose a sandal that I saved a few feet down stream and also her dignity....when the local children laughed at her for being such a pansy about crossing.

We walked for a while to reach the water and go for a quick swim.  The fisherman had many nets/traps set up in the water and we collecting there fish.  Erin came in the water for about 1 minute since she was still being a pansy and I swam for a little bit.  We both were getting hungry so we headed back to the bar for lunch.  Once we arrived back at the bar we were greeted once again by the bar owner.  She had moved our table to a shady spot under the tree and brought back our goods.  A few of the usual old drunk men were having drinks and arguing about someone's mama....I guess even poor Brazilian fisherman tell yo mama jokes!  haha

Anyway, we had fish for lunch and it was delicious!  We also had the pleasure of watching a caravan of ants pick up and carry rice and farofa that Erin spilt all over the ground below our table.  We also got to chat a little bit with the bar owner (a 40+ year old widow from southern Brazil living with a handsome 30 year old native).  She said that she used to have a bar in Algodoal, but ended up moving to Fortalezinha when Algodoal became to "crowded, commercial, and touristy".  She also mentioned that the locals hike up the prices on the foreigners whenever they get a chance (being that Erin doesn't exactly look like a native, I had already sensed that).  She had asked us if a younger guy wearing a hat had offered to guide us to Fortalezinha (he had)!  When we confirmed, she said it was good we had not come with him.  He would have charged R$30 (the same price as a boat ride from Algodoal to Fortalezinha) to walk with us to Fortalezinha + his lunch + his drinks while we were there. 

Anyway, we decided to head back because we knew high tide was going to be around 6:00 and we wanted to catch some more waves at sunset.  On our way back, our over-priced-would-be-guide ran into us and was surprised that we had made it the whole way by ourselves.  I told him that it was pretty easy, and that we just stayed on the main trail (that happened to be wide enough for a donkey and cart to go through).  He made up so BS story about how it was important to have a guide because an older couple had gotten lost and ended up in the wrong city, but we just wished him a pleasant afternoon and went off on our way.

We got back to Algodoal and stopped at the hotel just long enough to pick up our boards, and head out to catch some waves.  This time, we went to a beach between Algodoal and Praia da Princesa, that had big waves and no long shore current (a huge bonus), and we had fun catching waves until nearly night time. 

We got back to the hotel exhausted after a full day of activity, ordered dinner (a little more expensive for a lot more peace of mind and no drunkards), and went to sleep.  We had to catch the 6 am boat the next day to catch the 7 am bus to the city to help with the Christmas Eve preparations.

Note:  We're going to be uploading some body boarding videos as soon as we get to a place with a cheaper and faster connection, otherwise it's going to take forever!
Slideshow Report as Spam


starlagurl on

Busy Busy!
Wow you guys are busy. I especially enjoyed your tips on how to recognize a quality restaurant. Heehee!

snowblows on

I feel like I'm reading a book about someones life...I am but its not a book but it can be. Its very interesting to here about the trails and bridges and how people try to rip you off and how you could have died crossing at the point you did! My god you guys better come back alive with all your limbs!!!

In the mean time, we just a shit load of snow and I'm freezing my ass off.

Take Care now...buh bye!! Keaner

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