Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Day 9 - Belem to São Luís, Maranhão

I really liked my time in Belem and I’m already thinking I should have spent longer there. At least, my timing was bad. It would have been better, with the benefit of hindsight to have spent Sunday and Monday in the wilderness of the Amazon, rather than in a bustling Brazilian city. See, on Sundays a lot of things close and Monday (bizarrely) most other things close too. Because I arrived late on Saturday I didn’t have much time to do anything anyway, on the Sunday I should have squeezed in a park visit (there were two I’d liked to have seen) and some boat trip (I did try for two, but failed, to be fair) and because final day there was Monday, I couldn’t do much then either. All the museums, parks, tourist offices, trips etc… Nada.

So, a bit frustrating. Looking at the positives, I did manage to take my phone to a Claro shop and they did make it better, I can now SMS without WiFi, although I still can’t get a data connection to the web. It's bizarre to me that Facebook messenger will work even when I can't connect to the internet. These protocol issues are beyond me. If only my son, Kes, was here – he’d have it fixed in a jiffy. Also, bizarrely, shops ARE open on Mondays, so there was some opportunity to replenish my clothing. Three pairs of new pants (far too small though, so they’ll be recycled later!). And, by the way, by “pants” I mean underwear, not trousers, right? I also got some cool shorts and yet another Brazilian football shirt – finally a proper black & white striped Botofogo top.
Estacios dos docas, and therefore Amazon Brewery, closed on Mondays
So, I had an aimless wonder around the vast markets and shops and did a couple of iconic Brazilian things like drinking coconut juice from a freshly sliced open coconut pod. Very nice, but it has to be the most ridiculously wasteful drink in the world. I mean these pods are massive and heavy but they contain really very little juice. So after a few sips you’re left lugging this huge thing around with you not knowing where to put it. I ended up leaving it at the Botofogo shirt seller’s stand – part of the deal!
It's really amazing just how many market stalls, shops and street vendors there are, and how many people are prepared to buy things from them. It surely shows a relatively healthy economy but I wonder how many of the non-food items are manufactured here.

Wandering around Belem aimlessly

The boat I couldn't catch

Theatre of Peace

Hot at the Market - Gave R$2 bottle of water from a street seller and he seemed genuinely grateful I didn't want the change.

Belem Street

Remo - a club in Belem

Coconut Juice from the pod.

Busy market scene. So many sellers, so many buyers.

Republic Square again - quieter this time.

Classic old gazebo

360 degree panorama from the centre of the gazebo

I then sat and had a meal from one of the street vendors. Naiara had mentioned Ticaca as a “must do” thing, so I ordered some. R$6 for a bowl of soup with prawns and this green cabbage-looking stuff. It tasted nice but the Ticaca, I think, is the vegetable and it tasted very strange to say the least. I think this featured in the “This is Brazil” documentary shown on SBS, when Fabiana(?) went to the Amazon. It kind of makes your mouth go a bit numb. Not really that pleasant. What you can't see in the photo is the slimy quality. When you lift a spoonful up - it's slimy!!! Nice!

I managed to eat all my prawns and had half the soup.
Stopped for a local bite to eat

Tacaca - the green stuff isn't spinach, it makes your mouth kinda numb
After that I headed back to the Poussada and checked out. Naiara had very kindly allowed me to use another room (with no extra charge) during the afternoon, so I could keep my bags there and then have a shower when I returned to cool off.
Then it was off to the airport with a taxi driver who was football mad. He made a very good point: In Belem there are three reasonably big teams and many fans who are football mad, whilst Manaus is relatively uninterested. FIFA should have used Belem, not Manaus, as a venue for the World Cup. Seems logical enough, the night before there had been a massive outpouring of noise (fireworks, honking of horns etc) after the local seria C team Paysandú (who I'd never even heard of, shamefully) won a critical match. So, another frustration – I would have gone to that it if I’d have known. 

Anyway, the airport is a modern one and it was a pleasure to have an hour to while away there before my flight.

After a few rather disappointing samplings of local cuisine, I admit I had an yearning for something a little more predictable. No yellow arches, but there was a “Bob’s Burger” place – which seems to be a big chain here. I couldn’t help smiling as I asked “Uma Big Bob por favour”. Not quite a big Mac, but it did the job. Then, whilst drinking two nice local beers (not from The Amazon Brewery this time), I had a surreal text conversation with my “nearest I have to a brother” mate in Kirkby, Jeffrey.

Sometimes all you need is a Big Bob
 The plane journey (8th so far) was fine. I had a window seat but it was too dark to see anything but the twinkling lights below.

At Sao Luis airport I was again met by a taxi driver. It’s really great and comforting to walk out into the airport and see, amongst the waiting throng, someone holding a card with your name on it. Manuel was an older guy and very friendly and reassuring. He told me Sao Luis was safe to walk around on foot but I must admit as we got close to the old city centre it didn’t look that way. It was dark, old, and there seemed to be a few people just hanging around in dark corners on largely empty streets. I did feel a bit nervous getting out of the car but Manuel confidently led me down a street closed to cars to the front door of the Poussada. Once inside I remembered why I’d chosen this one – for it’s rustic charm. Its very old and has been restored in an authentic way. My room is a bit of a disappointment after my “luxury pad” in Belem but hey ho. The bed is very confortable, the bathroom is fine and the air con seems top notch. The biggest frustration is there is no WiFi from my room, I think because I’m actually in a separate building, directly above a pizza restaurant. I can hear them down there right now, just  one sliding glass door to filter out some of the noise. I went there last night and it was actually very pleasant. I noticed quite a few couples walking in off the street so it can’t be that bad, right?
The Pizza restaurant below my room

Not a bad pizza, not a bad bottle of beer

Sao Luis Historico Centro is quite a dark and intimidating-looking place at night.
Ok, well that's all from your own correspondent for now. It's almost noon here now on Tuesday, 10th June and all I've done is eat brekkie, chat to Giovanni and written up this blog. Better get out there and do some algumas turisticos!
Sao Luis


  1. I see your waistline is expanding!

    1. Defo! I weighed myself in a chemist the other day but, obviously, couldn't strip off - but my max weight (fully clothed) is definitely up.