I was a little more anxious for this trip than I had been in our recent “post-pandemic” travel. We had initially planned to go to Africa, which is the story of our travel lives. Why did we decide on Brazil, instead? We couldn’t figure out which country in Africa to go to, Brazil seemed a little less daunting, and, though Jenn has been there, she’s only been to Rio.
Like the last time we went to South America, we got a lot of advice about going to Brazil, though this time it was more advice than “Why are you going there?” But the questions and opinions were still tinged with concern, an awful lot of it. Multiple people told me Brazil was really violent or dangerous or both. One person, who has been to Brazil, many times, told me Rio was “a 90 or 100 out of 10” on the crime scale. And then people tried to tell me I could get ill, too. (The travel nurse told me about seemingly 10 different diseases that would kill me.) Though these people meant well, their advice sure felt like they were trying to gently talk me out of going. It was a little like when we went to Colombia.
So one reason I felt nervous is because I became sort of convinced that Brazil really was a place I’d have to be extra careful. (Even though I told these people “I’ve been to Colombia.”) Another reason was that it’s been nearly 4 years since I last visited another country where English isn’t widely spoken. But, whatever the reason, I spent way too much time worrying about this trip. There was a work reason for it too, but it was primarily for concerns about how I would handle it. And this was unfortunate because I love travelling and I’m usually pretty good about not anticipating travel too much, especially negatively. My biggest regret about the whole trip is my headspace, both before I left and in the second week.
I want to go back. For many reasons but one of them is to have an entire trip in Brazil in which I’m entirely happy to be there.
We actually technically left Canada on August 25th however it was already the 26th in eastern Brazil when we left Toronto. That’s because the only direct flight from Toronto is to Sao Paulo, once a day, at 11:05PM.
Our trip to the airport was fine but Pearson itself was a zoo, with as many people leaving Toronto at night as we think we’ve ever seen. Just so many people and so many people awaiting boarding as if we were in Latin America. It was horrible to move around so we got a beer in a restaurant and attempted not to move from there for as long as possible.
I tried to sleep, didn’t really, but at least spent much of the flight trying to sleep. When I finally gave up, there wasn’t that much time left so I watched 65.
Guarulhos is a huge airport. But we had lots of time to find our way. We had no issues with baggage, though some issue getting coffee/tea. (The tea was herbal and was my introduction to the fact that Brazilians do not like tea.) Eventually we wandered over to the other, more brutalist terminal to check in with our next airline and get food.
We found a “pizza” restaurant that was more flatbread than pizza (or, at least, extremely thin crust). But it was decent enough.
The 3 hour flight to Recife felt quite short in comparison to the original flight to Sao Paulo. But GOL doesn’t have TVs so I think I did crosswords and tried to sleep.
We landed in Recife and saw the sun was already setting. It was 5PM. Why?
Recife is in Pernambuco, one of the states in the extreme east of Brazil. It’s a little bit more than 34 degrees west. The 35th meridian runs through Greenland (as does the 34th). But Recife is on the same time zone as Halifax! Halifax is right in the middle of the time zone it should be in but Recife and the other cities on the eastern most tip of Brazil should be two hours ahead. So, instead, the sun just rises super early and sets super early. And because Recife is only about 8 degrees south, it’s near enough to the equator that doesn’t change much during the year. So these people live in this perpetual world of hot weather but no sunlight after like 5:15. It’s, um, weird, if you’re not from here.
We had pre-booked our ride to our pousada and the guy offered to take us on a bit of a tour of Recife. So he drove us along the Boa Viagem so we could see the city’s famous beach. And he told us about the sharks. (Everyone tells you about the sharks.) There have been serious shark attacks at this beach for years and so people don’t go in the water very far despite how big the beach is. Instead, they go to beaches south of the city, which we would have also gone to had we been here longer. Eventually we made it to our pousada in Olinda.
The pousada is in a nice old house that’s been renovated. Our room had a grand entrance with its own staircase, likely one of the two original main entrances. The pousada also has a grand courtyard and a nice (albeit small) pool.
For dinner we went to a restaurant the guidebook recommended, just around the corner. Just walking there we got a sense of why Olinda is a UNESCO town. The buildings are very distinct and every street is cobblestone. The food was quite weird and some of it was very good, especially the dessert. We sat with a view of Recife and the sound of a Brazilian cover band.
There’s a party seemingly every night in Olinda, but especially on the weekends. It was Saturday and the Four Corners were packed with people. There was some loud music nearby so we pushed through the crowd and encountered a frevo band, just walking up the street with everyone drinking and dancing around them. This is a thing that just happens in Olinda. They do it more intensely for Carnaval and other festivals but they just do it. And it’s normal. The Cops just slowly drive through the whole thing, as to the drivers foolish enough to try to drive through this part of Olinda at night. A really interesting (albeit brief, for us) experience and the closest I’ll probably get to Carnaval (since the crowds are not something I want to experience).