"Hi." My friend, Luciana, greeted me when I arrived in her hometown, Fortaleza.
This was a joyous moment for me. Luciana's tall (for a Brazilian), sandy-skinned, with long, dark hair, and when she tells you something she's excited about, her face and speech light up so much you can't help but be excited yourself.
She'd studied university with me in the past, in Florida, so my time in her city of two million people was more visit than travel. Luciana represented the wealthier part of Brazilian society. I won't bore with details, but I received a much-needed pampering.
Luciana and her mom pampered me by giving me a spacious room of my own with a garden view, clearing out a closet for my stuff, inviting me to party with Luciana's goof-off friends and get humiliated by them in Portuguese board games, having me to Easter dinner with my own chocolate egg, letting me watch baseball on their satellite, washing my clothes, employing two maids who spent much of their time making me rice, meat, and homemade ice cream made from a juicy, strawberry-like fruit, buying two beds for me to sleep in, and introducing me to a guitarist who played a fusion of jazz, samba, and flamenco that spoke to me in a wonderful, new language. It was a pretty thorough pampering.
So, you might consider me crazy for leaving. Especially considering I left to hitchhike in a country where everyone emphasizes "Cuidado" (Caution!) and tells about the crime.
I had to do it, though. I had an appointment several hours inland in Souza - one that I was 350 million years late for. I was going to see dinosaur tracks.
Aquiraz, twenty minutes on bus from Fortaleza, was my starting point. In this nice, small, proud town, everyone could tell me who founded the town (Sao Josef) and the exact date 302 years ago, but hardly anyone knew where I could buy an envelope today. Then, when I found one, the post office had begun its hour and a half lunch.
My impending lunch date, meanwhile, was with a diplodocus. So, I stuck out my thumb, and a timid guy with a flat face stopped for me. He enjoyed talking to a foreign hitchhiker, mostly about poisonous Australian animals. He dropped me off twenty minutes later, without robbing me.
I hitched my next ride in the back of a very tall, lumber-carrying truck. I lifted myself up and stood, holding a wood railing, eight feet off the road. A moment later, I had the pleasure of being joined by a fellow hitchhiker, an old, dark Brazilian with a bundle of sticks. Wind blew our hair as we passed grassy fields, lakes, simple cinder-block homes, and the occasional ranch. I was on top of the world. This was why I hitchhiked.
After this, however, I became faced with the impossibility that is Brazilian hitchhiking. This was because most towns here, even small ones, are serviced by public transportation in personal kombi vans. The next three drivers to give me rides wanted money, and it could hardly be considered hitchhiking.
Tropical Brazil's wet season began to earn its name at about four o'clock. I'd spent nearly two hours in vehicles, or so I'd thought, so I checked a roadside lunchonette to see how far I'd come from Fortaleza.
"Noventa e dois kilometras," the lady said.
I couldn't believe her answer. I hadn't even come fifty-five miles in four hours of hitchhiking!? Things were especially looking bad for my rendezvous with the apatosaurs.
Sadly, I opted to abandon my hitchhiking plans for the day. If my triceratops friends had waited through several epochs, they could wait patiently for one more week, for pete's sake! I wouldn't have said that to their faces, of course.
Canoa Quebrada, a touristy coastal village, was where the buses were going. There were no animals here as long as six buses, but I did manage to hitchhike a ride here on the brachiosaur's distant cousin, a horse.
This occurred one day on the beach, beneath cliffs of orange sand. The short, dark-skinned equestrian welcomed me aboard. Her face was shaped like a resting football, and she was missing teeth. Thus, I was especially horrified when my ride, like so many others I'd tried hitching in Brazil, came with its price: she forced a stegosaurus-breathed kiss on me. Yuk! That was the first-ever time I'd kissed someone unwillingly; perhaps it was dangerous hitchhiking in Brazil. The worst part of the whole thing was that the ride she gave me was even slower than those I'd received while going to Souza. Her stupid, lazy, slow horse moved about as quickly as a megalodon fossil.
Two slow days passed in Canoa. I spent the days sleeping and the nights learning to dance forró with an older, but pretty, Canoe I'd befriended. This dance, popular in the Northeast, is a simple but fun step. A girl and guy dance closely to quick or slow music, shuffling two steps to the right and two to the left, led with the hips. Actually, I should say that the forró step is simple IN WRITING. I never got the hang of it in practice, but it was fun.
Later, Modern Oddyseus