"Brazil 2001" story # 14

Parque Nacional da Ubajara, Ceara           May 20, 2001

I might just be the first person to graduate from college without actually knowing for sure he's graduated. I still haven't heard from my college.
     However, all of this hardly seems to matter when you've already begun celebrating on one of Brazil's ten best beaches, Jericoacoara.
     To the south of Jericoacoara village, there sat a long, light yellow beach with gently approaching waves. Inland, long, colorless dunes lumped about between palm trees and patches of grass. Above, the sky was a thick blue with some square clouds. The scene reminded me of the Desert Worlds of Super Mario Bros. 3 and, to a lesser extent, Super Mario Bros. 2. The flat beach made for the perfect place to relax on or stomp goombas.
     On my last day in Jericoacoara, I was lucky enough to make some friends who could hang out with me and match my maturity level. They were Antonio, 11 years old, Zac, 12, and Marcelio, 13. Their skin was milk chocolate, and their hair was dark, except for Antoninho's, which had been bleached a grayish-blonde by all his time playing in the sun.
     They led me to a shady brown swimming hole. We began playing tag, and the game evolved into a classic.
     The swimming area was a little bigger than your average backyard pool, and most of the chases took place under the murky water's surface. Whoever had been "pegou" (tagged), pursued the others, who would dive under the water and swim away. Despite my greater above-water leaping distance, I started to be "it" more than the others. Soon, I noticed why.
     The kids, when beginning their underwater swim, jumped up, gulped a deep breath, and sunk out of view. They gave no clue as to where they were headed, and they re-surfaced in a completely random spot. Meanwhile, with my long dives, I was giving away where I was going. The little strategicians had pulled one over on me, but I learned to play their game.
     Within the palm trees, it was fun to watch Antonio and Zac staring each other down from five feet, jumping up, sinking down, and appearing twenty seconds later, right next to each other or on opposite ends of the swimming hole. We also had fun trying to scare each other. When the "it" person came across another in the brown water, the other person was usually clue-less. One time, I jumped up like a monster behind Zac and gave him a bear-hug. Another time, Antonio grabbed my leg so abruptly I jumped.
     "Ha, ha," Antonio said, "Ele achava foi uma cobra!" (He thought it was a snake.)
     Even with my new-found strategy, I was "it" most of the time. Those kids must've been able to see underwater like otters. It got quite exhausting, but every time I got tagged anew, the kids yelled, "Valeu!" (I translate this to "Game's on!") And we all sunk underwater again.
     After the game, our eyes stung. Zac said I looked like a "vampera" (vampire). We set off to wander the rolling sand dunes. We picked açerola fruits, drank sweet coconut milk, and took some huge jumps and back flips down the dunes. The kids said they sometimes rode their bikes down the dunes, which seemed like it would've been a blast.
     Those kids were fun. I regret I left town that night, before I could challenge the boys to a Sand Dune Olympics.

But, on the next day, my plans included the Ubajara - Can't Use A Car-a - Piripiri - Don't Get Weary - One-Day - Nacional Parque-A-Thon.
     My bus dropped me a hundred kilometers short of the Nacional Parque de Ubajara. Desperate for time, I hitched a ride with a trucker who looked like the Joe Pesce of Brazilians. We passed through fields of big-leafed trees and ascended a steep plateau.
     Ubajara was atop the plateau. Cool air felt nice after the normal Brazilian heat. The park's guide showed me a view overlooking the valley below. Long, brown cliffs, a huge rock triangle, tall waterfalls, and dense forest marked the descent.
     I walked a stone-paved trail to the bottom. The path was pretty; at times, rock walls to the sides of the trail, coupled with the bits of light filtering through the forest, made me think I was in the halls of a cathedral.
     Other highlights of the walk included: piles of marble-like boulders, a rock wall you could lean against and feel a cold waterfall spilling over you, and a spot where a river flowed like rapids over the smoothened rocks.
     At the river, I explored options of sliding down the rapids. Sometimes, I would sit and the river wouldn't even budge me. Other times, the river would send me bowling over the slick rocks so quickly that when I got scared and tried to stop, I only succeeded in turning my position so I faced away from where I was going. Whew! I reached some high speeds and got shot into quick rapids I definitely wouldn't have slid into on purpose. Each time, my body rocked back and forth through the gushing cracks and splashed to a stop in a small, rocky pool. And, each time, I checked to see if I'd broken any bones, gave my worried guide a thumbs-up signal, and ran to try a new spot.
     My guide must've thought I was crazy, but I enjoyed swinging on the vines, looking under roots for snakes, and nearly killing myself on the rapids. Towards the end of the hike, we came across some animals I'm sure my guide would've recommended I hang out with to have my maturity level matched: macaco-pregos. Monkeys.
     They had black faces and legs, and their body was grayish. They were hopping from cliff ledge to tree branch, looking down on me and rocking up and down in a "V" motion. Unfortunately, I'd broke my camera in Jericoacoara taking self-taken action photos, so I couldn't take a picture of the first wild monkeys I'd ever seen. Also, I didn't have time to go up and play with them.
     So, I checked out the five halls of the orangish Ubajara cave, took a cable-car up to the park's entrance, and caught a bus to Piripiri.
     Two hours later, the bus-driver woke me up with some bad news: I'd gotten on the wrong dang bus! Instead of going west to Piripiri, I'd accidently returned east to the same city I'd tried so hard to hitchhike out of that morning.
     Rats! The Ubajara - Can't Use A Car-a - Piripiri - Don't Get Weary - One-Day - Nacional Parque-A-Thon came crumbling down due to one stupid mistake. Piripiri's Nacional Parque de Sete Cidades (which has baffling rock ruins that resemble seven ancient cities) had to go unseen. I'd made up my mind to leave the Northeast that day, and I was sticking to it. I bought a 24-hour bus trip to Belém, at the mouth of the Amazon River, and fell quickly asleep in my seat.

On the bus, a friendly, nice gentleman helped me get rid of my broken camera problem.
     Actually, he wasn't so much friendly as he was whimpering and pathetic. He wasn't so much nice as he was pure evil. He wasn't so much a gentleman as he was a lying, despicable, drugged-up crook. And, he didn't so much help me as he bit me in the arm while making his get-away. But, when he was done with me, I certainly no longer had the problem of owning a broken camera.
     When I woke on the bus in the morning, his hand was between my legs. It came from under my seat, and it was going through my blue backpack. I should've stepped on his hand right then and pulled until his head was stuck beneath the seat, but I only got up and shoved him around a bit.
     The greasy little weasel, about 35, short, and with a drugged look, claimed he was searching for his bag. He motioned to a black bag in back. Being the trusting guy I am, and seeing nothing missing from the pocket his hand was in, I believed him.
     Obviously, this guy was the stupidest thief in the world. The black bag he pointed to, it turned out, belonged to another lady on the bus, who noticed it'd been taken from her.
     "Oi, más eu nao pegei nade da sua bolsa," he said, whimperingly. (But, I didn't take anything from your bag.)
     I checked my bag. Sure enough, my camera was missing. I pushed him around, screaming that he return my camera. He responded in whimpers, and a struggle ensued. I contained the shrimpy slimeball. He sunk his teeth into my wrist (leaving a mark that's still there today) and tried to push his way out of the bathroom window.
     The police came for him. Everyone knew he'd taken my camera, but the a**hole wasn't talking. We couldn't find it on him or on the bus. I screamed in his face some more and even faked like I was going to hit and kick him, which the Brazilian plice allowed (and, in this instance, I don't see a problem with that).
     I watched the policeman hit the guy a couple of times. (The guy had snuck on the bus - he didn't even had a ticket, and he claimed to be destined for a city we'd stopped at four hours ago.) I returned empty-handed to the bus, which was due to leave.
     In the aftermath, I learned the villainous cretin had also lightened my wallet of thirty-five Reals ($17 - but he was nice enough to leave my credit card and i.d.).
     The third thing he'd taken from me, interestingly enough, was one of the transplanted soles of my six-year old shoes. I don't know what on earth he wanted with this? Everybody who knows those raggy shoes has been insisting I throw them deep in the trash for the past four years. The guy obviously wasn't a mastermind.
     I arrived in Belém without taking my hand off my backpack once. So, I'm now strolling (awkwardly - as one foot is an inch higher than the other) in the Brazilian North, which includes the Amazon and its many animals, such as lots of monkeys. I might play tag with them, but don't expect many pictures.

Later, Modern Oddyseus

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