Tag Archives: Atlantic coast of Brazil.

Off the Beaten Path/The Kindness of Strangers

The beaten path is referred to as  the gringo trail,  places that are listed in the guide books. Currently I’m working my way to the western coast of South America, heading across northern Peru. Chachapoyas, the capital of Amazonas named for the warrior people is  nestled in the mountains that are  dotted with their ancient ruins and monuments.  It’s listed, but I couldn’t find anything to tell me how to get here.

In Tatapoto I got up early,  packed, found coffee, and took my stuff to the corner where I could find a tuktuk to carry me to the bus station. As it turns out, no busses come directly here. My Spanish was not fluent enough in listening to understand details, but I was told by two clerks at major bus stations to go to Chiclayo (12 hours) and double back to Chachapoyas (another 9 hours). What??! Besides, the busses leaving wouldn’t depart until that evening.

Only an idiot would go for that. I dragged my muletta across the rocky , dirt parking lot to a hostel I’d spotted from the tuk tuk. It was a hostel/bus stop for Peruvians. A bus that one need only hold out ones hand and it stopped. the clerks told me that I needed to go to Pedro Ruiz and take another bus to Chachapoyas-to hurry the bus was loading, leaving in a few minutes. For 40 soles, about 11 dollars I got a ticket and jumped on board. Pedro Ruiz was not on my map nor listed in the guide book. I had no idea where it was, or how far it was from Chacha, but I was no the bus. I settled into the lumpy seat and relaxed.

Along the way, the bus stopped. The driver called a 15 min break so I got off to pee. As I was exiting the bano, the bus was pulling out. Yelling, I chased it down. I was barely in my seat, and he was in 2nd or 3rd gear. Suddenly he screeched to a stop. The woman and her son who had been sitting across from me climbed on. He was leaving them too. They had been eating when they saw the bus round the corner. We shook our heads, and laughed.

At Pedro  Ruiz, a man pointed me to the garage wherecolectivo busses left for

. I was walking down the street looking for it when another man, asked me where I was going. When I told him, he took my bag, and led me there. At the garage, a woman looked at me and said Chachas? Si. A few minutes later I was on a packed  bus with tourists, Indigenous folks, and locals going to villages in the mountains, heading in to my destination. Piece of cake.

 

 

 

imageimageDuring the summer of 2013 I traveled the Atlantic coast of Brazil. I began in Rio the same time that Papa the Pope was there, and during the manifestation: when the protests of the working class hit the streets.

Protestors in Rio

Protestors in Rio

On the way to Itaunas, they blocked the bridge in Santa Maria which forced those of us on the bus to meet each other and  I was  in Salvador when they blocked the streets. In Porto Seguro I met a few of the Paxatos Indians, who were almost extinguished by the greedy cattlemen who wanted their land. I sympathized with the protestors. Greed is taking over my country too; the rich are refusing to pay their share and forgetting that the chain is only as strong as the weakest link.   Still, In spite of all the protesting and frustrations in Brazil, the people were warm, helpful and very friendly; in spite of corporate greed and over development what remains of the forest and beaches is stunning and lush. I have friends there image, and I’m looking forward to returning.

Friends.

Friends.

 

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vibrant colors, time consuming, lovely vibrant colors, time consuming, lovely

Impending storm.  Stunning.

Impending storm. Stunning.

Pataxo-batalla
My guide book said that aside from standing on the beach where the Portuguese first landed in Brazil there was not much to do in Porto Seguro except  hang out at Passarela do Alcool, better known as Alcohol Boardwalk, They were wrong.

Grant at That Hostel in Itaunas suggested I stay at Residential das Araras. In my usual manner, I took the wrong bus and ended up along the main coast highway. I stopped at a nice hotel and asked directions. Three woman in the lobby conferred. One of them wearing a wrinkle free linen dress looked at me over glasses

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perched low on her nose, as if  I  were for sale. It’s the moment when grandma rover meets grandma high-end consumer.  “Nice glasses.” I complemented her. She smiled. “Thank you.” and proceeded to tell me where she bought them, and other details about their style. One of them called the hostel. Paul said he would come on his bike to meet me. I misunderstood the communication. There was no excuse this time as Paul is American. We speak the same language.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He finally found me wandering along the side of the highway. As we walked to his hostel he told me he was a Moonie. Now, I knew there were endangered cultures  in the area, but I didn’t consider the members of the Unification Church; I had the Pataxos in mind.

Actually, the Unification Church was declared by Moon to be defunct and the so-called cult is now known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (FFWPU), in my mind, a title difficult to argue with. Nevertheless, once a Moonie, always a Moonie I think, at pataxo womenleast based on my study of one.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Paul and his lovely, Brazilian wife whom he married along with 1,998 other couples in Madison Square Garden in l982, have two boys and two girls.The oldest girl is studying in South Korea and serving as a FFWPU missionary. The rest live at home. They could not have been friendlier or more accommodating.

The time I was there I was the only guest. Paul and I spent hours discussing life. One of his daughters had a series of seizures after her immunization shots as a baby and is now autistic,  We talked of special needs and the unwieldy System in the US that serves them. We talked marriage, death, and politics. We talked about  the indigenous Pataxos people who lived only a short walk away in a small part of the 10% that is left of the vast Atlantic rain forest. We talked about the greedy corporate people who want them extinguished-have wanted them gone almost since Vasco de Gama set foot on the continent.pataxo child

I looked up the history of these gentle folks. They have been systematically purged by white ranchers and miners, with the backing of the country of Brazil for decades. When they proved impossible to murder easily their water was poisoned, traps were set to maim and kill them, and small-pox infected clothes given to them. All for fat corporate purses.

On Sunday he took me there. Paul’s feisty Labrador dog ran ahead of us as we walked through the rain forest that is now mostly second growth, but at least it’s thriving for the time being. The first sight we came to as we walked through the gate that defined the Pataxos land was of a woman and children washing clothes in a clear creek. We all smiled, said hello, and kept to our business. A few minutes later, walking up the hill to the small village, we met a member of the community, on his way down in a truck, a long straight tree about 10″ in diameter dragging out of the bed. Paul introduced me in Portuguese. The man was  apparently an elder or tribal chief, but dressed in everyday clothes no different from what we wear. A few hundred feet further we came upon the village. Only 32 families live there now. They must divide up the community in order to survive. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A few dogs barked in the distance and we could hear children playing, but we didn’t see them. The huts, similar to palapas in Mexico, had palm frond roofs, and stone walls. No nails were used. The Joists were held together with intricate knotted vines. Everything was simple and clean. We looked at the nursery where they keep indigenous plants: for medicine and so they can reforest with flora that belongs there, and the hut of the shaman/ medicine man. The school, on vacation at the time, had posters on the walls, and words written in what I assumed was the Pataxos language the same as you would see in any school. I thought of the old Quaker tune. ‘Tis a gift to be simple.’OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve never understood how money can be more important than people’s lives, but my travels have convinced me otherwise. We’ve, and it’s been white people, my race if not me personally, that have systematically destroyed countless cultures, environments including our own, and its inhabitants for personal wealth.  If anyone fancies himself immune to this ruinous madness be aware, you are not.

When we left the village Paul took me to see the clay mounds.Undulating in the light they seemed to breathe. The sheer loveliness of them, and their significance for the Pataxos silenced me as  meditation does.These people don’t use harmful chemical compounds for all of their painting, including their bodies during festival days,  they use the natural ocher, magenta, blue, and red dyes in the clay. There’s a balancing act going on in Brazil and sitting on the heavy end of the see-saw are big-assed men weighing it down with  their money bags.  None of us are secure from the rampaging greed that is taking over our globe. It’s just that the folks who can’t defend themselves are always the first to go.

Paul believes in peace, harmony and grace. He translates for small tours to the  Pataxos village and explains their fragile existence to those who come to the Residential das Araras. I am passing it on to you.pataxos young man

The town of Porto Seguro has a good opportunity to get more space in the guide book than a  short paragraph that says to continue on after a night of debauchery on the alcohol boardwalk.

Note: the photos of the people were taken from public images taken during the UN Rio+environmental summit. I felt it would have been too invasive to have taken photos of them during their daily lives.-r

Third time is the charm.

Donkey cart on dunes.

Donkey cart on dunes.

 

So far I have lost three drafts, several photos, and have activated three themes on Word Press. I knew when I read a review that it was a site for A type brains it was not for me. Not ever close. I’m pretty sure I don’t have an A side to my brain. But, Blogger had let me down. Of the two other sites recommended on  PC Mag, one is already closed, the other I signed  up for took my  password and welcomed me, by name as if it knew me personally, to the site. First, though, before it let me in I had to go to my email and sign in with my new ‘handle’ and password. I did that. I was refused entrance. Apparently the info didn’t match. Within two minutes! Four days later I am still trying to post a blog on Word Press. It may be that I am not smart enough or, as my friend, Abby says, way too old, which in the world of technology is over twelve.

 

Paula, Grant, Peanut, Butter & Jelly at That Hostel (in the dog tent)

Paula, Grant, Peanut, Butter & Jelly at That Hostel (in the dog tent)

I left Rio in August after the manifestation protestors had been shunted off to jail, and Papa, had given his speech in a clearing that, rumor has it, over 100 old growth trees had been cut down specifically so he would have a safe place to expound his dogma. And then the rains came. image

I headed north along the Atlantic coast by bus. I traveled everywhere by bus. Brazil has big comfy Mercedes busses with working toilets. I found that buying a ticket, and finding the bus  was easy even w/o speaking Portuguese; but I do speak a bit of Spanish which usually made conversation  easier. 

Hanging out by the side of the road while the protesters block the bridge.

Hanging out by the side of the road while the protesters block the bridge.

 

On the way to Itaunas we encountered more protesters blocking the bridge we needed to cross. We got off the bus and hung out. I met Sebastian, from Argentina and Isabella, from Austria, who were staying at the same hostel I was-or would be when we got there and others who spoke some English. In Santa Maria a man who was undoubtedly in his cups boarded the bus and sat beside me. Disgruntled when I couldn’t carry on a conversation with him, he began to sing. Soft and low and on key he sang as if he were singing a lullaby to a baby. Big baby that I am, I fell asleep.  

The Manifestation
 People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

“`What goes around comes around.” The hostel where I am staying is two blocks from the governor, Sergio Cabral’s, house. It’s a three story glass house    

on a corner directly across from the beach in Lablon, the suburb next to Ipanima. Wednesday night the ground floor windows were broken by folks protesting his corrupt politics.

Policia in full riot gear blocked the streets going north and south in order to confine marching angry protestors to the main east / west street and the street that runs along the beach directly in front of his house. To hear Brazilians talk, it seems that just about everyone but the wealthy are disgusted with him.

As the crowd passed our hostel  

the protestors were peaceable: a few in a party mood. A woman who lives in a favela spied me and began a weird verbal exchange-the kind I probably invoke with my limited language skills here.

“You Cheecaago?’
” No. California.”
“Ah. I know Cheecaago. I know you United States.”
“Not all of them. Only some.”
“You fala Inglas?”
Finally she had me dancing in the street and posing.   

She was with a man and maybe a very pretty girl-maybe her daughter.
When she found out it was against the rules of the hostel to buy her a beer they left.

I walked to the beach and to where the protesters had gathered: to listen, observe, and learn.
The avenue along the beach was quiet. A woman did yoga, dogs were being walked, skaters and bicycles went by.

A few minutes later, while walking home I heard, Bang! Bang! Bang!Then the smell of tear gas stung my eyes, my nose. Fires burning photos of the governor were lighting up the next block. We could hear glass breaking, ambulances screaming down the street. Our street. Suddenly it was quiet. I went to bed. The noise started again. I put the window down.
I took my hearing aids out of my ears and fell asleep.

In the morning I walked among the carnage. Broken glass littered the street. A clothing store on the corner was completely open-I’m pretty sure looted.   

Now it is covered with black boards that have slogans painted on them. Most of the banks along the main street had been vandalized. The young, professional Brazilian woman I walked with said, “the governor is probably in Cancun on the beach. He doesn’t give a shit.”

At the governors’ men were measuring to replace the glass. Policia guarded the street. She was right about him being gone. He is still gone.