For last week’s long weekend here in Brazil (Friday November 20th was off to celebrate black consciousness day), Marelise and I decided we needed some beach time. Although Santos is just a hop ‘n a skip away, it’s a port city and we weren’t too enthused with what we’ve heard of its beaches. Close by are Guarujá and Praia Grande but we didn’t really see any hostels or Airbnb places we liked. So we took a gamble and decided to go as far as we could on an ordinary city bus to a place with a beach! And man, we were in for a pleasant surprise…

Despite the morning heat, we braved the sweaty-crevice weather and made it to the bus station just in the nick of time. Lucky for us the bus ride to the coast goes through the gorgeous Serra do Mar State Park, one of the last major chunks of the legendary Atlantic Rainforest which today is a shadow of its former self, but more about that later. Since Marelise gets sleepy within 5minutes of sitting down almost anywhere, her drowsiness is sometimes contagious; I started reading my book and next thing I knew I woke up in Peruíbe two hours later. From the bus station in the SW of the city we decided to check out the place, strolled through downtown and eventually ended up on the boardwalk most likely drawn by the siren song of the surf’s break and falling waves.

Naturally we decided to plunker down with our books at a little cafe, have a few brews, and Marelise decided on a platter of fresh, fried shrimp. We let our worries from the week and classes slowly evaporate into sea foam and nothingness, gazed down the lovely coast, surrounding jungly hills, and passed a couple hours in a comfortable silence. With dusk approaching we decided to go a meet up with our CouchSurfing hosts who Marelise had been in contact with. They were very easy to find downtown and Robinson & Natalia and their daughter Luna showed us around town. It’s a calm enough, small enough town that even a slow stroll down the main street was a relaxing ease into the rhythm of the weekend. They welcomed us into their cozy abode, a comfortable house just 6 blocks from the shore. Robinson also teaches English, and Nat Spanish; they both moved from SP to Peruíbe to escape the hectic city bustle for somewhere a little calmer where they could offer something more to their daughter. One of Marelise’s and my CS traditions is to cook for our CS hosts one night if we have the chance, so we spent most of the night chatting, cooking, drinking some caipirinhas that Robinson mixed up, and we ended with a nice Açaí dessert they made which is like a watery sorbet made from Brazil’s most famous, purple, energizing berry.

One interesting thing we came across while we wandered down to the beach is a mural on a pousada wall showing a group of indigenous people sharing the selfsame Peruíbe beach with a handful of typical, egg-head blue-green aliens in a very familiar way… like they are used to having their respective kids do play dates together. Turns out that this sleepy little town is Brazil’s Roswell complete with alien conferences, “regular sightings” and true believers.

The sweltering weather on Friday made us set our sights on the Garau beach, just on the other side of Jureia Park. However… we enjoyed our breakfast under a grey sky, heavy with clouds and a slight drizzle that had started up in the wee hours of the morning. We were undeterred, determined and already on our way: instead of sunblock we were wearing rain ponchos, but that was a minor detail. All five of us got our wet asses to the wet beach (it’s all water, right 😉 via city bus, through the gorgeous Jureia. It’s always green and verdant in Brazil anyway, but this deep foresty theme always seems magical and mysterious… We even got a good chunk of wave-time in before we retreated to our misty beach towels. This is the kind of beach that reminds me of my childhood holidays, rolling in Durban waves: soft, sandy beach and real waves that can knock you on your tush.

Unfortunately our retreat to cover was not temporary – the rain lashed down and drizzled in turns but never really left us in peace. There was no more swimming on Saturday, but people still seemed happy to be out… Especially when the local bar band had finished their setup and started playing some familiar Brazilian songs. I must say, we were starved for some seafood. São Paulo is actually not very far from the coast, but because of traffic (a considerable problem) and transportation costs I can really only recommend seafood from the more well-established restaurants, places that are willing to shell out for the fresh or have their own ways of acquiring it . So, being in view of the ocean we made full use of the opportunity – shrimp on Friday, calamari on Saturday and a side of landlubber’s fried mandioca. It was delicious!!

Both Natalia and Robinson are sociology majors and still doing research alongside their full-time teaching jobs and as such they are philosophically-minded people – discussion and debate are usually the territory of the social sciences – so we continually had a lot of interesting topics being bounced around. Robinson is specifically interested in educational systems, particularly alternative forms of managing learning. Natalia works with women’s health in general and more specifically with domestic violence, which is sadly still a bigger part of the culture than it should be. So yeah… deep people 🙂 and they are avid readers, like us. ^^ we really hit it off with our hosts right away and kept discovering things we had in common.

After lunch it took a while to get back to their place, I think the bus was trying to avoid muddy sinkholes on the way back, but we enjoyed a hot, refreshing shower and waited (again) for the rain to subside just enough not get get absolutely soaked. Our hosts went to a birthday party of a friend of Luna’s while we ambled downtown and had hot chocolate and pastries at a typical bakery and read the night away…

Unfortunately Sunday was the day we had to leave this tranquil paradise. We still had time to wake up in a leisurely fashion, Robinson made some awesome Yakisoba to see us off, and we walked off in a slight drizzle to bus terminal.
The ride back was interesting, since we were actually awake for it this time. The bus went up the coast, from Peruibe to Itanhaem, to Praia Grande and then veered inland, back through the Serra do Mar park. The closer we got to Praia Grande, the more neglected the buildings looked, the more the cities looked like they were falling apart from the inside… I don’t know any of these towns between Peruibe and SP, but it looked tough :/
The scenery changed abruptly and almost shockingly passing through the Serra do Mar – Ferngully evergreens all both sides and the odd waterfall visible in the valleys between hills, trickling down little baby steps or cascading into pools below. Beautiful, but tragic, these two realities so contradictory and stark. That’s Brazil…