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Around Brazil: Porto Seguro

By Ricky Skelton
Some people may have happy memories of the place. I don't. Like food, some places in life just don't agree with you. It's like an allergy or a bad reaction. Some people have it with fish, I have it with Porto Seguro. The city claims that Brazil was born there 500 years ago when Cabral arrived from Portugal, tactlessly ignoring the people who had already been living in the area (and still do) for thousands of years. Still, at least we didn't have to stay there. First time around at least.

Arrayal D'Ajuda is a far prettier place to stay but out of season it felt like every night was Tuesday night. It's a pretty town and you can walk for miles along deserted beaches backed by cliffs of all shades from white through orange to crimson. The white part is argila, a cement-like substance which is very good for the skin (especially cellulite) when mixed with fresh water. There is a fresh water lagoon where people go to collect the powder, mix it into a paste, and apply it to themselves and each other. I could have stayed for hours, watching two girls cover each other with mud, but I was dragged away. We only found out afterwards why the beach was regularly deserted. A little later than our visit, a group of four girls were attacked by four men while they were washing the mud off in the lagoa. The men came running down the path from the top of the cliffs and jumped into the water after them. One of them even had her havaianas stolen, along with the usual items of bags full of cameras, money, hairbrushes, lipstick and all the other things a group of Brazilian men might want to steal.

So there were a few of us experiencing the Porto Seguro area without being able to take photos of it. Of Arraial and its coloured lanterns, of Trancoso and its coloured houses (all connected internally so that the townsfolk could run and hide in the church when their houses were attacked by invaders), and of Corumba with its coloured cliffs. There were enough decent places nearby to keep us occupied while waiting for the wheels of Brazilian bureaucracy to turn in Porto Seguro.

We spent many, many happy hours there wandering the streets between police stations, bus company and lawyer offices, and banks, but only one actual night in the city. That too was memorable. We had to return for an early meeting and arrived too late at night to be worth making the trip on the ferry over the river. So instead of our beautifully appointed Arraial pousada with lighted pool (from where we'd watched a huge meteorite light up the sky on its way to land in a Bahiana field), huge breakfasts, incredibly friendly staff and clean, fresh smelling bed linen, we stayed in one that had none of that and much less.

The lack of a camera meant that I couldn't take a photo of one of our pillows. It was officially The Worst Pillow In The World - a worn-out grey sack half-filled with smelly hard sponge bricks. It looked like a bag of building bricks for kids. If that made us laugh, the shower made up for it. It nearly took my arm off as I stood in the pool of water and touched the metal tap. Shamefully, I didn't mention it because I was too embarrassed about my bad choice of room. Inevitably, it happened to Blondie as well. We sneaked up to the slightly more expensive room upstairs. It had windows, so was worth paying the extra for, even if we didn't.

After a prisoner‘s breakfast (Coffee without milk? Or coffee? In Brazil?), we refused to pay the price he'd stated at the bus station. We needed the extra to pay medical bills after the shower. He said he would call the police. We told him, truthfully, to go ahead because that was where we were headed anyway. We invited him to come with us, calling his bluff. Just outside the police station, we heard angry shouting. Our man was running up the road after us, demanding his towels back. Now, I have to admit, it wouldn't be the first time a hotel towel had miraculously crawled from the bathroom, across the room and packed itself neatly in my bag when I wasn't looking, but not with these ones. The towels he left for us were of similar comedy quality to the pillow - grey and strange smelling with ancient holes connected by even older stains. They made rice-paper look thick. We were frankly insulted that anybody thought we might try to nick them. We told him they were upstairs in the other room. We'd had to take a shower there because ours was so dangerous. His demeanour changed instantly, from anger to relief at not having lost his towels. They were probably family heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation. He smiled and told us to have a good day, then returned to his pousada, leaving us to enter the police station more baffled than ever.

We should never have gone back.

You can visit Ricky's blog at http://redmist-redmist.blogspot.com/

Previous articles by Ricky:

Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil - The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo - always a bad thing?

1/2/2007


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