After a long flight from Wilmington, North Carolina, I
finally arrived in Recife. I felt ready to go to bed and take a nap, but when I saw Erin
and Chris waving to me I quickly recharged my batteries. They both looked well considering
they have been on the road for 3 years and 6 months. After all this started out as a
15-month journey. They had purchased a helmet for me because now I'm one of the riders, or
as I say OPB'ers, which means other people's bikes.
My first impression of Recife was through foggy eyes, but realized it was a very busy
city with lots of new construction going on. I read where they were trying to obtain the
title of the third best place to visit after Rio and Sao Paulo. We stayed at the Hotel
Pousada Aconchego, which was pretty comfortable, with a nice pool, dining room and lounge,
which looked very comfortable, with big cushy leather furniture. I never saw anyone
sitting in there. The hotel also offered a safe place for the kids bikes.
That night after enjoying a typical large portion of chicken, rice and vegetables, with
a tall bottle of cerveja (beer). So now I'm full, relaxed and ready to go. WE drove to a
motorcycle meeting held every Tuesday at a large parking lot next to a Ipiranga gas
station. Well, you can't imagine the bikes, all kinds, and even three wheelers. But Erin
and Chris's bikes were the main attraction. Everyone wants to see the bikes, the stickers
from all over the world and listen to the stories etc. One young man proceeded to
demonstrate his ability to do wheelies on his bike and even did a wheelie with fire coming
out the rear (muffler) of his bike. I hope to have the pictures of that in the next few
days. Well, after a few hours hanging out with the guys and some very attractive girls, we
drove back to the hotel. Chris had to get packed for his trip to Budapest the next
morning. He was flying to Hungary to surprise his grandmother who is 95; I told him he has
to be careful surprising us old folks.
The next day Erin had to have some work done on her bike so I was turned loose. The
beach was about three blocks from the hotel and the weather was warm and I just struck out
on my own and walked toward the beach. All along the beach are these new high rise condo's
which in most cases were not ready for occupancy but would eventually have terrific views
of the ocean and beach. I walked along the beach where there are kiosks where you can
purchase drinks, but the drink of choice is coconut. The taste is unusual at first than
you realize it's quite refreshing. I wasn't ready to jump into the ocean yet and had read
in my Lonely Planet guidebook that the beaches around the city aren't the best.
Sanitationwise that is. So, this will have to wait.
Erin returned later that day and now I was pretty rested, so we walked to the Mall.
Yes, I'm only in the city one day and am going to the Mall. Close friends and family will
appreciate this because I have a reputation to live up to. The walk was about 2 kilometers
at one point going over a small bridge, with a canal that had an odor none could describe.
I'll leave this to your imagination. I couldn't believe the size of this Mall, two levels
with hundreds of shops, I think 90 were of bathing suits, yes the thong one that is. We
enjoyed a quick meal and went to see the movie Possession with Gwenth Paltrow, including
Thurs. we are finally ready to hit the road. Erin had mapped out the route we were
going to take along the eastern coast toward Natal. Our first stop was to be Itamaraca,
about 50km north of Recife, the island is pleasant with pristine beaches, Forte Orange
that was built by the Dutch in 1630 and was in the process of being excavated. The first
day we just kicked back and walked to the beach and enjoyed a nice fish lunch, walk on the
beach and enjoyed a cool glass of cervaja.
The next day we walked to the Forte and took lots of pictures of the excavation which
university students were doing. Since the day was young we also took in the Centro
Peixe-Boi which is run by IBAMA for studying the endangered manatee or sea cow. Pretty
interesting and got to see four sea cows, one of which was huge and quite old about 15
years which is a long life for them. Since this was about all to see in this town we got
to bed early in order to get on the road for Tabatinga, an area which is known for it's
long stretches of pristine beaches. Also where you can find nude beaches if you so desire.
We stayed at the Pousada Catavento which we later found out was owned by a family who
live in Joao Pessoa which is about thirty-five km from the pousada. The first night I
think Erin and I were the only guests and enjoyed a quiet meal just outside the kitchen
door of the owners house. We had chicken, rice, beans, salad, I had orange juice and
Vodka, and I was not use to drinking beer so thought I try something else. Well, was I
surprised, the owner actually squeezed the orange juice and gave me a jug which was huge
and ask just how much vodka I wanted in the shot glass! As I was finding out the people
here were extremely friendly, generous and willing to help you in anyway. Thank heavens
Erin was able to translate for me, since she and Chris had taken Spanish lessons in N.Z.
they were able to slip almost effortlessly into Portuguese.
After dinner Erin and I were playing Gin Rummy and this young boy came out and started
talking in Portuguese, Erin understood him and said he wanted to know if we wanted to play
a game of cards. His name was Pedro, and was ten. We played a game called Uno with Pedro,
his grandmother and eventually his Mother who I mistook for his sister. Pedro understood
more English than he could speak because he told us they were learning English in school.
This pousada was very comfortable, on the second floor, with a balcony and of course a
hammock -- Which Erin and I had to flip a coin for every night.
Every morning we would get into our bathing suits and walk the beach, this area is
where three of the ten top beaches are located. Carapibus, Tabatinga and Tombaba. Huge
cliffs, coconut groves and long stretches of soft clean sand surround the beaches. The
color of the water is bluegreen and very clear. The occasional home is what looks like
white sandstone with red clay roofs. In this area it was difficult to find many homes.
Mostly untouched beaches.
We only stayed here for two days, the second day we drove to Ponta de Seixas, which is
the most easterly point of the continent. It consists of a sign and a lighthouse, which
was pretty plain. We ran into a man with his son taking video and he started asking Erin
questions about her bike etc. Well he said that he was a professional photographer and
would she mind taking pictures of her bike. Well, we were wondering if we would actually
make the news on TV. But not to worry, this was Election time and everywhere you looked
were signs with the candidates, cars driving around shouting over loud speakers, and
people waving flags.
After this quick stop we drove to Joao Pessoa which is the third oldest city in Brazil.
We stopped for lunch at an outdoor cafe and enjoyed another fine chicken dish. As we were
eating our lunch cars with people yelling and waving flags would go by, we later learned
that the new President is a man by the name of Lula.
Erin wasn't comfortable driving around the city since it was like any other city,
congested, busy and confusing with all the one way streets. I thought driving in Boston
was bad. Well, we'd seen just about everything we wanted to see in this area and were
ready to get back on the road. I have never been a passenger on the back of Erin's bike,
only Chris's, but have to mention I had the most confidence in her driving abilities and
after three and a half years she is quite confident and skilled.
Between the quaint towns we had to drive some long stretches of nothing but sugar cane
fields, which like anywhere can get pretty boring. They also were burning this time of the
year and can imagine the smell. Not pleasant. As we passed through the villages I realized
the level of poverty and what kind of life these people must live. The houses were in many
cases no bigger than my garage, with the table and chairs outside. I later learned they
almost do everything outside because there's no ventilation inside and only went inside to
sleep. The sanitation was the worst I've seen in years, they do there clothes washing in
rivers in many cases, hanging the clothes on limbs of trees, fences anywhere they could
find. At one point I saw an elderly man bathing in the river while women were washing
clothes. I had to remind myself that this was a third world where the only two classes
were the very wealthy and the very poor. Makes one think just how good we have it in our
Monday, Oct. 28 We left Pousada Cataventa and headed North towards Natal. We arrived in
Ponta Negra, which is 14 km south of Natal. We located the Pousada Free Willy which is listed in my guidebook. It
turned out to be the best lodgings yet. Right on the beach, within walking of many
restaurants, and shops. From our room overlooking the balcony we could view the whole
beach down to the Morro da Careca which is a monstrous sand dune. The dune actually goes
right into the sea. Our room actually had both an air conditioner and an overhead fan.
Wow, we really were living it up. This room cost 60 reais a night, which averages out to
be US$ 16.00 a night including a very nice breakfast of fruit, rolls, scrambled eggs,
juice and coffee. Can't beat that. I could have sat on the balcony and just enjoyed the
Humberto, one of the managers's suggested we take a snorkeling trip north of Natal. We
let him book us a trip the next day, but today we were anxious to hit the beach. This
beach has a boardwalk that stretches for at least 2 miles and everyone seems to enjoy just
walking and enjoying the views. All along the beaches are vendors selling crafts from
pottery, jewelry, sunglasses, and music. You name it you can purchase it. The first night
we ate at a restaurant recommended by Humberto. We enjoyed a delicious meal of fish, rice
of course, and Erin had a great looking pasta with a cream sauce. We sat right at a table
along the sidewalk and enjoyed some people watching. I noticed that most women wear low
cut tops, tight pants and high heels. I realized that most women I saw were very
attractive, thin and had beautiful olive complexions. They also looked great in thong
bathing suits. Which is definitely not for everyone as Erin and I found out the next day
We again took the advice of Humberto and took a trip snorkeling north of Natal to a
beach called Maracajau. We ended up waiting for 4 hours for the tide to come in and than
the guides who ran the excursion had all of us, total of about 50 people walk out to the
boat. After about a 6-km ride we dropped anchor and were given our final instructions on
the reef and what type of fish we would see. Regrettably, this was the beginning of their
summer, the water wasn't as clear or calm as it would become later in the season, and the
visibility was poor. So, we ended up taking this trip only seeing about two types of fish.
Oh, well, sometimes you win sometimes you lose. We still enjoyed the boat ride, and the
The next day we took the bus to Natal, which was pretty much like Recife, tall
buildings with lots of traffic, noise, and lots of people. We caught a taxi to Forte Das
Reis Magos, which dated back to 1598. The Portuguese began working on the fortress in
order to fight against the French. The Forte was taken over by the Dutch in 1633. The city
of Natal actually grew from the Forte dos Reis Magos. The tour only took about 1 hour so
we headed back to the city to try to locate the oldest church in the city. After much
walking and inquiring we finally found the church. We were unable to enter and just took
several pictures and headed back to Ponta Negra. As we got nearer to our pousada we
noticed movement in the trees. Erin pointed out three Marmoset monkeys. We were able to
coax them closer in order to take a few pictures. All the while a cat laid beneath the
tree ignoring them altogether.
October 31st. Today we left Ponta Negra heading back towards Recife with a stop in
Pirangi where the largest Cashew tree exists. The root system spreads out over a
kilometer. Amazing. We also learned that the fruit of the tree is edible but not the nut
itself. The nut could actually cause some serious damage to your stomach is eaten raw. Our
next stop was Pipa. A beautiful town set off the beaten path, along the beach with huge
cliffs surrounding the town. The town is dotted by many restaurants, shops, and very nice
pousadas. We stayed at the pousada Oasis which was very tropical looking, a small pool
with lots of lush green foliage. Our room had a little patio and of course a hammock. We
enjoyed this town so much; we stayed three days and tried our hand at kayaking into a
mangrove with our guide Farme who was at one time a pharmacist with varied experiences.
From being a pharmacist, to hiring on as a mate on sailboats in the Bahamas. Lots of
interesting stories to tell.
The next day we took a boat ride along the coast and were able to sight three dolphins
not too far from shore. The captain dropped anchor but we were not able to actually swim
with the dolphins. I think all the splashing and orange floating devices scared them away.
That night after dinner Erin and I encountered a group of young people dressed in what
looks like judo clothes. Both young men and women were in a circle doing what Erin
informed me was called Capoeira. This started out as a technique of fighting by the
African slaves against their masters. As recently as 1920's it was officially ban from the
streets, but in 1930, Mestre Bimba established his academy and changed the emphasis from
fighting to an artistic form of dancing. The movements are physical, but very fluid and
graceful. During the dance/fight you will hear spectator-musicians singing and playing an
instrument called the beribau, which resembles a fishing rod. This dance went on for quite
awhile and we could still hear the music long after we left for our pousada.
Sad to say we had to leave this sleepy little town the next day and head back to the
big city of Recife. It wasn't long before you realized your back into the city with the
noise, car horns honking, and of course the never-ending loud music. We had to catch up on
our laundry and prepare for Chris return from Budapest -- landing on Nov. 5, his
Well, we had the whole thing planned bought the cake, candles, and balloons and were
ready to surprise. Well, we were the ones getting the surprise. Erin was to drive to the
airport to pick Chris up and I was going to catch up on my reading and maybe a nap but I
heard a knock on my door and there's Chris. He surprised us by coming into town by taxi.
I'm sure he was pretty tired from his trip but we managed to keep him up for a nice
Chinese dinner, and of course, some last minute shopping for me. I needed to head home, I
was shopped out, had some calluses in places I can't mention and I'm sure Erin was ready
to rest as well.
So after a delightful visit with my daughter, I say tchau to Brazil and safe journey to
Erin and Chris. Thank you for allowing me this chance to share my experiences with the
many readers of Erin and Chris' journal.