Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cabadelo and Joao Passao, Brazil

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 – Cabedelo and Joao Pessoa, Brazil

This is the most easterly point in Brazil/South America and they say you are closer to Senegal, Africa, from here than you are to the most southern section of Brazil. (Honestly, hard to believe…)

This is also the beginning/end of the Trans Amazonica highway – BR 230. We saw the mile marker “0”. Then we saw the map on where the road is SUPPOSED to be – it really weaves through the country and has been washed out several times and never finished in some areas. I can understand why.

Cabedelo is the port area (very, very stinky) with a nice small village with ferry service to several islands. It is a ½ hour shuttle ride to the city of Joao Pessoa, whose literal translation is John Person (what a name for a city?!). HOT and HUMID, we ventured off in the ship’s shuttle to Joao Pessoa’s historic center. But again, everything is closed for Carnaval. Out of ten+ churches, two churches were open. We hired a taxi for an easy drive around the hilly streets for the photo opportunities of the lagoon and mythical monument (Lagoa and Pedra do Reino, churches, art deco mansions of the Antenor Navarro Square (1933), the Sao Francisco Cultural center (1770), the Gunpowder House, and Globo Hotel set alongside the Sanhaua River, the Legislative Assembly, the 17th century Redemption Palace (government offices) and the Courthouse.

The big adventure today was getting on the bus back to the ship. J went on the bus to rest and cool off but Gene and I knew we had another 25 minutes before the bus left so we went to the monastery right next to the bus (Igreja de Sao Francisco). It is considered the most important Baroque complex of Brazil. The Santo Antonio Convent and the Sao Francisco Church are masterpieces of colonial Portuguese architecture begun in 1589. Upon exiting the monastery we saw the bus had left!! And our ID and bags were on the bus and J was alone. And then we met another friend whose husband was on the bus and she was not. So we explained the situation to the bus coordinator and after some discussion, he called the driver and they returned to get the three of us as the next bus was not scheduled to depart until 45 minutes later. What a mess; not supposed to leave until 11AM and they left at 10:45. And then we heard many other stories from passengers at the port TRYING to get to the city and they bus did not show. It is best to get out the door early so you can begin your day – you never know what will happen along the way.

We are now in the state of Paraiba, and Joao Passao is the capital. It is also the third oldest city in Brazil. The city was founded in 1585 as Vila de Filipeia de NS das Neves and was re-named Joao Pessoa, the governor of Paraiba who formed an alliance with Vargas to run for the presidency of Brazil In 1929. He was courted by opposing political parties and uttered “I refuse”, which is now given prominence in all Brazilian history books and is emblazoned in bold letters on the state flag of Paraiba.

After lunch, we hired a taxi to take us Praia da Camboinhas (beach) and we hoped to catch a ferry ride to the Ilha de Areia Vermela, an island (sandbar) of red sand that emerges off the coast at low tide. But the tide was already in and the island/bar had disappeared! So I sank my toes in the warm sand, took a few photos of the bikini-clad women (of all sizes), waded through the HOT water and enjoyed the moment. The beach stretches for 24 miles in this area and there are multitudes of restaurants with great views overlooking the ocean. To board the boats to get to the island, you walk in to the sea and board the boat – no jetty or pier.

Back in Capadelo, we walked to the Fort Santa Catarina (1589), the hospital (to get a prescription, which was given without seeing the DR, was free and we waited only 10 minutes for the entire process), to the pharmacy to fill the prescription, the supermarket, map of end of the Trans-Amazonica highway and plaque and the artisan market. We met the nicest people at the market and Gene bought me an off-white necklace made from fish scales (interesting, huh?). Sioba fish. I forgot to ask how fragile it is so I’ll have to be careful. There are also acai beads, natural colored, around the fish scales – quite interesting.

The Brazilian national economy now ranks as the world’s 5th largest.

The Cabo Branco Science, Culture and Arts station was designed by Oscar Niemeyer, same architect of the Rio museum in Niteroi – both are space station creations.
Dinner and Richard Gauntlett, a British vaudeville act, was the entertainer.

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” – Aldous Huxley