I Piss on Pipa
I can't get out of this town fast enough, and because of the weekend bus schedule I'll be stuck here for a fourth night. I want out!
I've given this place so many chances—more forgiveness than it deserves—and yet it continues to abuse me. Sometimes there are people (and cities) in this world that no matter how much you try, you'll never be friends with them—like magnets of the same polarity pushing against each other. This is my relationship with Pipa.
All I've heard (from both trusted and untrusted sources) is what a joy Pipa is—my most favorite place in Brazil; the best town in the north; I was stuck for a few weeks; swim with wild dolphins! Poo on those statements.
I think Pipa became a town by accident. It's really a district/beach (Praia da Pipa) belonging to the small town of Tibau do Sul, 8km to the north. It is truly a living, breathing, Venus Fly Trap. The honey is the dolphins—oh yes, swim with the wild dolphins…
I took the bait. I feel the jaws closing—I'm sliding down the stem—trapped.
The outlying areas around Pipa can be visually interesting, especially to the south. On my first full day in town I walked a paved road until it turned into gravel, and then into rust-red dirt. This road took me along a coast laden with cliffs of volcanic rock and sand of varying color.
It was a dozen or so kilometers before it ended at the next town, Sibauma, where cars and people were crossing the mouth of a river (emptying into the sea) by pole-pushed rafts. Fishermen on the nearby beach stood and patiently waited for the right time to toss their nets into the swift current, oddly emptying any successes they had into holes dug into the side of a dune behind them. I wondered why they didn't have covered buckets.
The afternoons are hot and dry here, and I would have prepared a little better if I had known I would be walking over 20km this day (without shirt, suntan lotion, or enough water). My shoulders were a bit toasty that evening.
Today I walked the 8km north to Tibau do Sul. But this was along the highway, and although it offered up the occasional view, it was spoiled by all the traffic.
The noise pollution from the vehicles here gets under my skin. Motorcycles, hoards of rental buggies, cars—most of them don't have mufflers, and the rest are blaring music at full volume. I nearly lost an arm to truck passing at fatal speed.
A strong wave tossed me off my feet and threw me against the rocks today. I cut up my leg and back while attempting to keep my little beach bag (containing my camera) from getting drenched. I was trying to get to the bay where the dolphins like to eat, but the tides are so high (because of the fall season or the new moon) that the shoreline is practically inaccessible.
The truth about the dolphins is that many people try and take a surfboard and paddle out into the sea with the hopes of spotting one. Sightings from the beach are generally rare. Just look for the tourist chase boats, one traveler said to me. The closest I've heard of an encounter has been about 10 meters.
The town is nickle-and-diming me to death. When a mini-market gives me my change back in candy instead of cents because they don't have coins low enough, it's the last time I shop there. When a supermarket charges me BR$2 instead of BR$1.90 (as the sign and computer both indicate), refusing to give me my change, it's the last time I shop there.
The (female) staff here at Pousada Vera My House keep giving me the stink-eye. They watch all my movements—tattling to the flamingly gay manager when they see something they don't approve of. The common space in this pousada is about the same size of the bedroom in my former apartment in Arizona—I can't escape their gazes.
I hate that there's a baby in this pousada during the day. I think it belongs to the 14-year old, and I'm sure they sense my internal scowl, and glaces of disapproval. I'm not comfortable.
I was going to leave early tomorrow morning, but the Sunday bus schedule won't work with my onward travel plans. Instead I will change pousadas for a partial-day, with the hope relieving some stress.
I came to a realization last night that this town is the collective combination of some of the most undesirable elements encountered in similar places. How to make this city as you would a cocktail—I'm calling it the Pipa Frown:
- Pick spot on an arid coastline with surf so rough it's uncomfortable to swim in
- Create (along a single, narrow, main road) a compact cluster of food, clothing, car rental, and souvenir shops
- Add pousadas of varying luxury in the surrounding area
- Add Europeans of various ages, the additudes and money they travel with, and all the chic fashion, fancy bars, and other elements found in Playa del Carmen, Mexico
- Add the vacationing surfer culture found in Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica
- Add the man versus machine pedestrian problems found on the island of Utila, Honduras
- Sprinkle in an occasional sighting of wild dolphins hunting for fish (and tourists on boats hunting for them)
- Lightly salt with the dried tears of disappointment
- Pick the price you'd normally sell this cocktail for, and double it.
I feel like Pipa keeps kicking me in the back, telling me to get out already.
Pipa to Belém Problems
I'm done with Brazil in more ways than one, and trying to get out of the NE and over to the Amazon is an expensive and time-consuming journey, coming down to two basic modes: bus or plane.
I won't bother recounting the majority of the pain and travel permutations I've worked out, but I will mention my current problem, and the big dilemma that had to be addressed.
Natal is closest big city to Pipa, receiving international flights from the UK and Europe. The best prices for all modes of onward travel require the BR$8.50 shuttle to Natal, taking two hours to reach the bus terminal or airport.
My best travel options are as follows:
- BR$230, 32 hours, bus from Natal to Belém
- BR$290, 18 hours, overnight bus from Natal to Fortaleza with a morning flight to Belém
- BR$330, 8 hours with layover, flight from Natal to Belém via Fortaleza
After a lot of considerations were factored in, I've decided to man-up and sit on the big bus journey. I've never tried to endure such a thing, but I might as well see where the personal line is.
Other than the BR$100 "saved," I'd have to book a flight that would require me to stay in Pipa or Natal for another two or three nights, which adds to my bottom line, and is just plain not something I want to do.
The bus departs Natal for Belém (via Lord knows what connecting cities), daily at 9:00 in the morning. The only shuttle that can confidently get me to Natal in time to make this connection departs at 5:00 in the morning from Pipa. This departure time does not happen on Sundays, thus the reason I'm stuck here for another day.
I keep thinking to myself, if I were to do it all over again, would I trade the experiences I've had in the last few weeks for a direct flight to Belém from Salvador after Carnival? I honestly don't know.