So this is it, the final post on our adventures, we are now back in Sao Paulo, the last days were a bit more hectic, so here is where we went:
The 2,800km round trip
The trip looks pretty massive, and over three weeks it was quite a big drive, but i think its good to compare our drive, the whole of Brasil and the UK together to understand what a tiny piece of the country we actually covered in our adventure:
Brasil and the UK to the same scale
All good things must come to an end and thus after a long day of driving we ended up in Petrolina. That’s all I need to say about Petrolina.
Ok, there is one more thing worth saying about Petrolina, its the only place in the world where the climate is so perfect, they can grow grapes, and have to harvests of graps in a season! Unfortunately the last thing the world wine industry needs is more grapes, but its an interesting fact in itself (ok maybe only interesting to Greg – but its his blog)
The drive to Petrolina was pretty amazing, as well as the “bandit advisory” route, there was another national highway that had a “badly maintained” advisory on it, but as usual we thought, it can’t be that bad and made straight for it, turned out it was that bad, it was so bad it was amazing, most of the highway was so worn out and potholed that it was actually faster to drive along the verge, which is what all the locals were doing! To be fair it was in the process of being fixed, but there was a lot of work still to do. The quality of the roads on our trip ranged from “autobahn” perfect, to “afghanistan” bad, the good bits were great, the bad bits were definitely the worst roads i have ever driven on!
The border between Ceara and Paraiba states, one definitely makes good roads a priority and the other is Ceara!
Okay, so 800km north east from Lencois, was Sousa. To be fair, we were just looking for a halfway point between Joao Pessoa and Petrolina and we found Sousa. The guidebook mentioned that Sousa had “dinosaur” footprints… hhmmmm…. So we like Dinosaur’s, Ross from Friend’s was OK, and the first Jurrasic Park was pretty good, but I was sceptical that such a world treasure would be in such a sleepy country town, so we went out for a look.
OMG! It was great. It started off in literally a tin shed, a sign that was about 50cm long, which read “Dino Pe” Dinosaur Footprints…. We found a really nice old bloke, and a guy called Fernando who was about 25… We did the tour, so cool. Yep, they were definitely footprints, so close, so big, so real. I couldn’t help but mention that perhaps it would be promoted a little better? And then he explained that Petrobras are about to invest R$1m into it, starting from next month and start charging people an entrance fee… yeah I can understand that! So, then three guys showed up and Greg and I got our 10 minutes of fame. Photos, names and comments were taken, and apparently we are going to be used for publicity for the renovations…
Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but giant 60,000,000 year old dinosaur foot prints!
Raptor claw print – perhaps the only Brasilian footprint on record that is not wearing Havianas
Ok, probably only Ross would think this was funny, but we did!
That night we had yet another churasscaria experience, you may remember our £7 all you can eat motorway experience, we followed that up in Salvador with a £75 each luxury churasacaria experience at the always good Fogo de Chao, then on the road between Petrolina and Sousa we had a small town lamb and goat churasscaria experience – just awesome, but our fourth experience was probably my favourite. Its specialisation however was Bode (Goat), all for the whopping sum of £4 each!!!
At our hotel in Sousa we asked the football watching receptionist for a recommendation for dinner, he suggested a place called Sao Vicente – which was just down the road, so we headed down. Now lets paint a picture of Sousa, its in the middle of Serato – the semi desert area of the north east where things are pretty barren and life is pretty tough, it’s the kind of place where life is so tough that even the motorbikes have bull bars. Its really an area a lot like outback Australia where men are mean and sheep (and goats in this case) are afraid.
So we drove into town and tried to spot the churcussario.
We did so, actually it wasn’t that hard… three quarters of the town were there, along with 3 dogs and 1 cat to match every human. This is what always amazes me about Brasil, the locals are genuinely interested to know your name, where you are from and seriously getting very excited if you respond in a little Portuguese.
As an aside, if anyone is thinking of coming over I would seriously recommend at least 100 hours of Portuguese lessons just to cover the basics. My only regret from the last 18 months is not investing the time to learn this beautiful language. Still, life ain’t over yet, and I have every intention of continuing to learn in London. For a decent Portuguese teacher in Sao Paulo, it costs at least R$80 (£26) per hour, this compares to £18 in London. If you happen to being learning English in Sao Paulo, this costs only R$40 per hour, definitely one of those cases where the Paulistano’s know their market … so be warned!
Anyway, the beach was calling us again and it was time to head back east … off we go to Joao Pessoa.
The drive from Sousa to Joao Pessoa was about 430km. In total on this trip we travelled through six Brasilian states / provinces, plus we have also driven in three other States. It’s fairly clear that each State applies different levels of petrol tax and this has a correlation (very unBrasilian-like) to the state of the roads…
Woooaahhh… The state that definitely wins “worst roads” (drumroll) has to be Ceara, with a very close second going to Bahia. Unbelievable. For the first time ever, we suffered a smashed hub-cap and dented rim… I don’t think were the first with the number of Barrocharias (tyre changes) on the side of the road. So we toddled off to one, thinking we would pay Gringo prices, nope, not up north! We had to buy four more hubcaps (for a total of £13) and then have them all refitted for … £5 total. Road kills numbers included a couple of chickens, one bird and god knows how may bugs / critters…
So were relieved on this dirve that most of the km’s were in Paraiba which is priding itself of building dual carriage way highways, it almost felt like we were cheating after the previous days travels!
Joao Pessoa was lovely, but completely focussed on being a beachside town, and when the weather is rainy and windy, well you get the picture… We stayed for three nights, not doing a great deal but reading & chilling… aaaghhh the bliss.
So now we are on our final day, we got up early (yes another 7am departure!), en route to Recife but via Olinda. For those who may not be that familiar with Brasilian history, Olinda is the “oldest” city (by Portuguese standards) in Brasil. Similar story to most of the northern cities, settled by the Portuguese, overtaken by the Dutch, taken back by the Portuguese, all built on the sweat of slaves taken from Africa, and never quite recovered from the downfall of commodity prices (sugar, cotton, coffee).
Olinda’s buildings are brightly painted, rustic, protected by UNESCO, but however construction still is underway as there just aren’t the resources to adequately preserve these treasures.
So alas, we are now flying back to Sao Paulo, for our final two nights in Brasil.