"Brazil 2001" story # 3

LONG WALKS ON THE BEACH
Porto de Galinhas, Pernambuco           March 9, 2001

Good news, all.
     As it turns out, Sula has been very sick lately with "grippe," or a common cold. That's why she didn't show up the last night of Carnaval.
     So, we're back together and hitting it off. I entertained her with a story recently of how, the night before, I'd entered the nearby big city, Recife, gotten lost, ended up in the middle of nowhere on a bus that had terminated its course, and had to sleep at the nearest beach, which wreaked all night of sewage.
     Sula laughed at my hijinks and asked, concerned, where I'd spend that night. "Vou dormir com Carmen," I said, meanind I'd sleep (sexually) with Carmen. This was a phrasing error I wasn't aware of until Sula's mouth dropped open and she looked at me shocked.
     I explained that Carmen was the old lady I stayed with and not to worry, and we laughed it off. I started to tell her next about a three-day, beach-walking trip I planned to take in order to snorkel along the Pernambuco coast. She said it sounded fun, but she wondered what I'd do at night.
     I said I might sleep on the beach, but, maybe, because the Brazilians I'd meet along the way would be very nice ...
     "Vou dormir com brasileiras." (Brazilian women)
     Sula sighed angrily and her eyebrows lowered.
     Oops.

I began my trip on a hot, sunny day at Gaibu, a beautiful beach south of Olinda and Recife. A row of coconut palms bordered the sand, and two dusty, rocky peaks challenged from the south. The water was as blue as Frank Sinatra's left eye.
     All right, I thought. Time to do my first snorkelling of the trip!
     I entered the wild waters. I only had time to put on one of my flippers, though, before I was hit by a 30-foot tidal wave! Not really, but the wave might-as-well have been that tall, because the results were devastating. The five-foot wave swept me to shore, and my beloved snorkelling mask was fumbled in the foam, never to be seen again.
     This was very sad news. Without my snorkelling mask, I was left with only one thing to do on my trip -the thing I hated: walking. Nevertheless ... "Press on!" I said and set off up one of the rocky peaks.
     I followed a path for a short distance, but it disagreed with me over which way to go. So, I pulled my backpack tight and jaunted into the off-trail forest. I had to fight through dense bush armed with sharp thorns to advance. After five minutes, I could no longer see civilization or beach - only hills of thorny bush - and I already was starving, thirsty, bloody, and I had to poop.
     The latter problem was of most imminent importance, because I was a little sick already from the Brazilian water. Luckily, I found some large, thornless leaves and did my business.
     For two hours, I scraped my way through. Finally, I erupted at a large, peaceful cove protected by a mile of exposed reef at the cove's mouth. A small town was built into the forest here, called Suape.
     At Suape, I met a bunch of 15- and 16-year olds, including Arolea, a Native Brazilian whose wide, cheeky smile seemed to cut her head in half like a cartoon jellyfish.
     Arolea was concerned I'd have to sleep outside in the rain. She introduced me to Cesar, a peanut-skinned, moustachioed midget who was concerned only in laughing at me.
     I told him I was walking to Porto de Galinhas Beach, and he busted out laughing. "'ce tentando andar sem um mapa!? Voce nao sabe que um rio aqui e voce vai precisar nadar por dez kilometras? Ah ha ha!" (You're trying to walk without a map!? Don't you know there's a river ahead that you'll need to swim for ten kilometers? Ha ha ha.)
     This wasn't the news I wanted to hear. I consulted the "Brazil Travel" book I'd been given as a thoughtful going-away-from-Florida gift from "Dates of the Week" II and XXII, respectively, Nathalie and Antje.
     According to the book, two wily Swedes had done the walk I'd planned. However, maybe these Swedes weren't the best people for me to be listening to. It seems, when the Swedes had gotten to Suape, they'd decided to cross at the mouth of the cove - which means they'd carried their bags across forty feet of water and then walked for a mile on exposed reef, hoping the tide wouldn't come in. When they arrived at the other side, they found themselves stranded at an Industrial Plant, with nothing in front of them but a ten-kilometer river. Ha. I bet Cesar would've loved to have met them.
     Presently, Cesar was finishing his tirade about the "tubarons" (sharks) and "moreis" (eels) in the river. When he finished laughing from this, he turned to a friend and said, "Ele querei caminhar a mergulhar, mas ele perdeu a mascara primera praia. Ah ha ha!" (He wanted to walk in order to snorkel, but he lost his mask at the first beach. Ha ha ha!)
     A friend of Cesar's, Tiago, let me spend the night at his place. But Cesar continued to make fun. "Ele caminhei s tres kilometras hoje. Mas, ao Porto de Galinhas CUARENTA kilometras! Ah ha ha!" (He walked only three kilometers today. But, to get to Porto de Galinhas is FORTY kilometers! Ha ha ha!)
     The next day, I took a bus past the river to Nossa Senhora do , a beach with water the color of peas if they were blue. I played in deep waters here amid huge waves, which gave me the feeling of being a ship in a seastorm.
     Later, I walked to a circular, rough beach at Maranguape. Here, the water was nearly the color of the sky, so that when I went for a swim I thought I'd fall off the side of the earth and when I jumped I thought I'd get wet.
     I walked all day, but my progress was slow. I stopped to apply sunscreen, to go for a swim, to re-apply sunscreen, to take off my windpants, to put on a shirt, to poop in the water, to re-apply sunscreen, to listen to music, to poop in the water ...
     So, you can imagine my shock when I inquired of a girl on the beach how much farther it was to Porto de Galinhas, and she said, "Voce j passou." (You already passed it.)
     This was getting crazy. I certainly should've brought a map. To make matters worse, it suddenly became apparent that I'd forgotten to apply sunscreen somewhere along the way, and my forehead and chest were dizzy and on fire.
     But, I was eased by the fact that my current location, a quiet bay called Serrambi, contained water as blue as an isosceles triangle. The girl I'd met at the beach was nice enough to let me use her shower and to give me a ride to Porto de Galinhas, although she wasn't nice enough to let me sleep with her.
     I slept for 13 hours that night at a hostel, but I still woke up ill from the sun, thinking "Vou morrer!" (I'm gonna die.) My chest was red and bubbly.
     I visited Porto de Galinhas, which I couldn't remember at all from the day before. However, the water was colored like blueberry pie on a blue jay wearing blue jeans. I didn't do any snorkelling, but I did get to observe a small school of tiny, grey flying fish.
     I took the next bus to visit Sula. She laughed when I said, "'to doente," (I'm sick) thinking I had caught her "grippe."
     Sula was still sick herself, but, by whining lots and being the bigger baby, I convinced her to take care of me. So, she made me six eggs for dinner, rubbed lotion on me, and made fried bananas wrapped in pancakes the next morning for a delicious breakfast.
     So nice to have a girlfriend.

Ciao, Modern Oddyseus


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