"Brazil 2001" story # 4

Porto de Galinhas, Pernambuco           March 23, 2001

I wanted to get out of the house to do something fun, but I didn't know what.
     So, the little animal in my head - I like to think of him as something ferocious, like a tiger or jaguar or bear, or squid - started tinkering, and he came up with a great idea. I wanted to call it "Day of Adventure." However, it was his idea, so I have to respect his wishes to call it ...
     "Squids Will One Day Take Over the World:"

     I began at Maracaiipe Beach, an arching strip next to Porto de Galinhas. There were no houses or people around, only groves of coconut palms. It was nicer than sleeping at Carmen's house, because stars hovered above me instead of mosquitoes, the rough sea sounded instead of a busy road, and the sand was soft.


     This adventure was out of my league. I don't know how people climb coconut trees, but I would think even Superman would have a tough time of it. The trees are tall and straight, and their trunks are in small sections like vertebrae of a backbone.
     My first attempt, I fell after climbing only three feet. I improved on this after a few minutes, but only slightly. By wrapping my fingers around the trunk, sticking my butt out (imagine that, girls!), and walking up the side, I reached a maximum height of twelve feet or so. My arms felt like they were about to fall off, and I realized that even if I did figure out how to climb the 30-foot tree, I definitely didn't know how to come down. I figured a brisk walk to the store was all the more adventure I needed before breakfast.

     After all, it was enough of a challenge just finding a spoon in Porto de Galinhas. My energy for the day came from 2-litres of ice cream mixed with Snickers and Oreo-like cookies.

     I stumbled upon a section of coral in deep water, where the reef stuck out at the top, making it cool to dive beneath these ledges to scan the white sand for lobsters and resting sharks.
     The prettiest scene I saw was of a small, black fish, as tall as it was long, which had thick, blue-outlined circles on its body and smaller white and red dots. I call that guy "Fish of the Cosmos," and he swam in front of a reddish-silver fish with tall, red eyes and spiky fins. I call this guy a "Squirrelfish," because that's its name.

     These items were just plain stupid.
     To reach the first place, I walked across straw-colored grass and past the occasional round bush. The water stretched for a kilometer, but it was never deeper than two inches, unless you counted the mud I sunk in. I imagine the squid sent me here because there were blue crabs running around, and he disagreed with my selection for ITEM 4.
     The second place was a pretty, wide brown river with no shore except mangroves. The water was too dirty for snorkelling.

     The road to Porto de Galinhas is filled with cyclists. The scenery is of huge, dome-shaped hills where young crops are sprouting. I had a cab-driver drop me off near one of these hills, and I waited for a Brazilian to pedal by so I could borrow his bike to descend one of the hills with.
     Ten minutes passed, and no bikers came. I left the road and walked up the hill, mapping out the route I'd take when I found my ride. There were only a few paths on the dome that didn't end in sharp drops at cliffs. The soil was hard like rock at times, which wasn't too comforting to consider in case I fell.
     I planned a path. I would start at a flat road at the top, launch myself down a short, 60-degree drop, continue to build speed as I bounced through a white flower bed and over the growing crops, plummet down a deep, 70-degree pit, shoot out onto flat land for a second, and finish with a steep ride twenty-five feet down into a comfortable patch of plants. My heart was beating fast. If I found a bike, it would be like something from the show "Jack-Ass."
     I considered the chances of a person getting seriously hurt on this ride at over 60%. But, confident in my survival instincts, I figured my chances of getting seriously hurt were 1 in 300. By seriously hurt, I meant breaking an arm or leg, having my head bust open, breaking my nose, or losing an ear. One in 300 is still a bigger chance than a person should want in a day, but I figured as long as I didn't freak out, try to stop abruptly, hit one of the many plants or bumps awkwardly, lose control, land with one wheel before the other, breath wrong, or do anything else imperfectly, I should have the 40-mph, helmet-less ride of my life and live to tell about it.
     If I'd had the bike at that moment, I think I would've gone, seriously. But, I sat for a moment, looking at my tiny, eenie-weenie backpack at the bottom of the hill. It was a loooong ways down. I spotted some bikers coming by. If I got up and ran down the hill, I probably could've caught them in time to utter my crazy request: "Posso usar sua bicycleta descer a colina?"
     To take the path I'd proposed, even on foot, at any more than one mile an hour would've been absolutely maniacal and probably would've resulted in a person's head getting cracked open.
     For this reason, I decided not to attempt the "Ride of Doom." And, more importantly, there wasn't anyone around to admire my stunt. Admiration for stupidity, without the admiration, is just plain stupidity.
     Man, I'd do some cool things if I had a travel partner.

     My search for adventure in the state of Pernambuco was coming up empty.
     There was only one item left, and it was a peaceful one. I was going to sit on a tranquil hill, where I'd be left to ponder my pansiness for wussing out on ITEM 8.
     The "Hill of Ruropolous" is the prettiest hill I've ever seen. It sits near the main highway. The hill is bright green, and it has only one tree - a huge, white one, which is bare of leaves and has only two thick branches, which curl off to either side at the top, so it resembles a big T. Behind the hill are more hills, and beside the highway is the poor village of Ruropolous.
     To reach the hill, I needed to descend from the highway to a valley, which was easy enough. I walked in the valley to a place where plants of wide, red-lobed leaves decorated the floor. I took two steps here and realized the plants were aquatic plants. I was to my knees in mud and gross, brown water.
     Eww! I wanted to turn back, but I realized this was the adventure I was waiting for. I had to reach that hill, even if I had to swim with my backpack over my shoulders to get there. I continued walking until the mud was to my knees and the water was to my thighs. With evey step, I had to struggle to have my foot and sandal back from the mud. I reached the hill, finally, and my feet were gray with thick mud and my green shorts were now brown. I was filthy, but it'd been fun.
     The hill was full of life. I chased a black snake into some tall grass. I saw an orange spider the size of a half-dollar, the fastest lizard I'd ever seen, and another lizard a foot long. At the bottom of the 60-foot tall tree, I even came across my brother's favorite animal: ants. This may seem like a modest favorite animal, but then, my brother's a pretty dull guy. (Just kidding, Brandon!)
     These ants were leaf-cutter ants. Found in Central and South America, they take apart plants piece by piece, sometimes leaving nothing of the plant after only hours. I observed the big, dark maroon ants, and, I must say, I wasn't too impressed with their efficiency. In five minutes, the only time I saw an ant actually take a piece of a plant, he dropped it far to the ground after only two seconds. Nevertheless, I did observe an assembly line-type process where five ants or more seemed always to be carrying leaf parts back to their home.
     I left the hill, where I ran into four female Brazilians who offered me the azeitonas (black olives) they'd just picked. But, I wondered, how had they gotten there? Did they know to walk a drier path than the way I'd come?
     No, they didn't. In fact, they were worse at traversing the muddy water than I was. It was pretty funny to watch, in fact. One of the women carried a young girl around her shoulders as they passed water, and they both ended up falling in past their waists. The little girl screamed in terror, and I snuck a quick photo.
     On our way to the highway, I befriended the Brazilians. They invited me to their house, where they cleaned my shorts and, finally, gave me a coconut to drink.
     We talked until the sun went down on the "Day of Adventure," er, sorry, "Squids Will One Day Take Over the World." I was introduced to a 77-year old man who'd travelled all of Brazil while working. He'd just had his latest child a month ago.
     "Tenho cuarenta e quatro filhos," he told me, proudly. (I have forty-four children.)
     "Filhos e netos?" I said, assuming there was a language barrier. (Children and grandchildren?)
     "Nao. So filhos." (No. They're all my children.)
     I wondered how many moms these kids had.
     I said good-bye to the family and took off. I'd found the biggest adventure in Pernambuco, and it was in the pants of an old traveller from Ruropolous.

Later, Modern Oddyseus

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