March 17, 2007

I Piss on Pipa
Pipa, Brazil

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 Good

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.

On the road to Tibau

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 Bad

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.

Cut up

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.

The Ugly

Pipa after dark

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:

  1. Pick spot on an arid coastline with surf so rough it's uncomfortable to swim in
  2. Create (along a single, narrow, main road) a compact cluster of food, clothing, car rental, and souvenir shops
  3. Add pousadas of varying luxury in the surrounding area
  4. 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
  5. Add the vacationing surfer culture found in Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica
  6. Add the man versus machine pedestrian problems found on the island of Utila, Honduras
  7. Sprinkle in an occasional sighting of wild dolphins hunting for fish (and tourists on boats hunting for them)
  8. Lightly salt with the dried tears of disappointment
  9. 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:

  1. BR$230, 32 hours, bus from Natal to Belém
  2. BR$290, 18 hours, overnight bus from Natal to Fortaleza with a morning flight to Belém
  3. 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.

Comments:

Brazil

Craig | travelvice.com

March 18th, 2007

I had packed up my things, rudely had the BR$60 paid for three nights in a sweat-box snatched from my hand, and was happily on my way out the gate when one of the female staffers at Pousada Vera My House barked to me that I still owed her BR$3 for using the kitchen.

I thought she was kidding, such an absurd comment, turning my attention to the little gay manager to confirm — she's joking, right?

No, the little man replied.

I tossed my backpack on the ground in an exaggerated motion and walked over to them — Show me, show me where it says using the kitchen costs $3, I exclaimed.

We walked into the kitchen, and written on a poster advertisement with a drying permanent marker (partially over the text of the poster text and in the white space) it said "Tariff of $3 for Kitchen."

Two days ago I had cooked BR$0.50 worth of rice (and nothing more), and it was asinine to think that I'd actually pay a poorly disclaimed kitchen fee for such a thing.

Several expletives left my mouth, intermixed with words regarding the topic of kitchen use and payment.

I flat out refused to pay them; they wouldn't get a cent. They weren't dealing some newbie that didn't know better or wouldn't put up a fight — This ain't my first rodeo, as a friend of mine would say.

What could they do — nothing. I scooped up my backpack and walked out, hoping to never see their faces again for the rest of my days.

If I could have told them in Portuguese (as confidently as I could in Spanish) to kiss my tanned ass, I would have.

A Sigh of Relief

Less than 50 meters up the street from Vera is Albergue da Rose. Rose typically charges BR$25/night for a bed and sizable breakfast, but earlier in the week I had chatted with her, easily getting a reduced rate of BR$20/night if I planned on sticking around for a week.

I didn't even have to ask for a discount for tonight's stay, which will find me leaving several hours before breakfast (thus dropping the rate to down to BR$20).

I have never seen a Brazilian smile as much as Rose; she is a gem. At her warm and friendly establishment I am staying in a spacious room in a double bed, and am in the company of four outgoing travelers (sleeping in other rooms).

Security, plenty of hanging hammocks, a second-story breeze on the terrace, and a quite and clean environment — pleasant memories to take with me on a long bus journey away from Pipa.

I give Rosie and her little hostel a big thumbs-up (with photo illustration included, for proper effect).

Brazil

Craig | travelvice.com

March 19th, 2007

36 Hours. 36 Hours, the man in the ticket office just told me. On a bus with no food service or televisions playing bad movies (but at least something to stare at).

Factor in the 4 hours from Pipa with wait and we're talking about 40 hours of travel to Belém, plus another hour or more to get to the pousada.

I must be out of my skull…

Anon

March 19th, 2007

God speed!

Andy HoboTraveler.com

March 24th, 2007

Hello Craig, I enjoyed this post, and I am sad Pipa has become a tourist trap.

This comment was great.
"man-up and sit on the big bus journey"

I took three 30 hour plus bus trips in South America.
- Valdivia Chile to Punta Arenas Chile.
- Rio Gallegos Argentina to Buenos Aires.-
- Rio De Janiero, Brazil to Maceo Brazil.

Here in Togo, West Africa the travelers complain about getting in a collective station wagon taxi for three hours. They normally are driving a big 4-wheel drive vehicle and thinking they are "Man-Up."

Argentina was empty when I visited before the Peso crash, all the travelers hated the place, now it is trendy.

Why am I in West Africa? I am tired of places like Pipa, Koh Mak, Playa del Carmen, and do not even get me started to think about Europe, it is not a tourist trap, it is a tourist hole.

The "stink-eye," I am tired of this, the blank, the I do not give a crap, I am tired of tourist looks on the planet. People are not a full of love bunch and the more tourist the less love.

The truth is, if someone told you about a place, it probably too late. If you can find it on the internet, than too late. It is like the book the beach, this is the essential advice of the beach, the great beaches on the planet, people give maps too, then they become tourist traps and are destroyed.

I listen to the wind, the small noise of people who came from isolated places, I listen for the places where for some reason, a person visited, and everyone said,
"Why would you go there?"

I hear this phrase about West Africa, why go there, and this is why I am here, because I know whenever the person that said, "Why would you go there?" it is the reason why I go here.

Kpalime, Togo West Afria
Andy of HoboTraveler.com

Katie

March 25th, 2007

Good luck traveling the Amazon, don't get eaten!!

FYI, Your little monkey friend is a Common Marmoset…I went to the zoo last week.

Anonymous

April 2nd, 2007

I am a personal friend of the owner of "Pousada Vera My House", believe it or not her name is Vera. I met her when she was looking for an English teacher several years ago. I live in England where Vera spends the summer months with her husband, who is also English. She has asked me visit them in Brazil on many occaisions and I was thinking it is about time I did so, having retired. However, Craig has made me think that Praia de Pipa is just a tourist trap, without any redeeming features. Has anyone else any comments about this place - good or bad?

Anonymous

April 13th, 2007

piss on ´´Pipa Pisser´´.
Craig you should perhaps stay home and watch the discovery channel. if your report is all you got out of Pipa, I píty your sence of travel. I have been in pipa for the last month and have never had a problem with transport in and out, any day. You just need to ask about ´´óther-than-direct´´ rides from Pipa, you´ll never get trapped. As for Pipa people, I have met none but friendly locals and travelers, made dozzens of friends with internationals, business owners, brazilian and argentine vacationers, and expats. It is a holiday destination, certainly the Lonely Planet did not decieve you. Had you used a few phrases in Portugese and opened your eyes, your experience could have been the total opposite, as is mine. It saddens me that some lame excuses like "Í scraped myself on coral. Ì didn´t see any dolphins. I bioled rice and it cost me 3 reais, I was short changed .10R ( 5US cents), the bus doesn´t run with my whims, too much traffic, the tides didn´t work for me" would give you an excuse to dramatize a Piss on Pipa on the internet. I have been traveling for 7 years continuouse, circumnavigating on my sailboat, places like Pipa are what they are, short vacation destinations, alive and vibrant on the weekends, tranquility during the week. Pipa is not like Playa del Carmen, hawkers are not in your face like Ko PiPi, or full of backpaking binge drinking kids like Utilla. Your an embarrassment to other american travelers, go home, the discoverchannel is made just for you; clean, convienient, a fixed price down to the last cent.

ben edelstien, US Sailing Vessel Gypsy Soul, gypsysoulsailing.com

Andy HoboTraveler.com

April 15th, 2007

Congratulations Craig,
I think you have captured the Gay crowd of reader and then proceeded to made one of them angry. Getting angry comments means your traffic is growing.

This is just too funny.

You was in Brazil, close to Carnaval time, one of Gay travel destinations of the planet. Then you went on to say in a post you like to sun bath nude.

Someone searches for this and finds your blog.

Sun bath naked, sun Bath with no clothes. I am adding some words, to help you make sure the Gays return to the page because of all possible ways for them to find them is there. Then the Gay Brazil people are on you page, and not mine.

You got to go and read his journals, it has the word “Ciggy” in it, then sunshine, this guy is telegraphing to the boys.

Quote:
“Some weeks back at Carnaval, about midnight, having just bought a beer from a street vender, hands full unlit ciggy, I felt a quick pat at my pants front and I turned to see a kid in sprint crossing the street”

Now the Mom Fixation, he starts his journal with this, he does not seem brave enough to allow someone to post comments or this would have bee no his page.

His MOM journal, from Gypsysoulsailing.com (Soul)

Quoted from the starts:
Hi Mom, I hope this email finds you on as beautiful a Texas spring morning
Hi mom, All well and loving Brazil. Great people, great food, great music
hi mom, just a quick note: I´m sailing the coast of Brazil aboard Cisnicito
Hi Mom, Arrived safe this morning. Back in the WESTERN HEMISPHERE!

Gay Brazil

Gay Sailing Brazil

I remember being in Natal and asking some Norway guy why he did not go to Carnival again.
He said,
“You seen one Gay guy dressed up in girls clothes, and you’ve seen them all.”

I went and was looking over his pages, I am always curious as to why a person would take the time to attack another persons page when you did not provoke him.

I liked Pipa, but I was with an Argentina babe, and eight years ago and maybe before all the Swede Charter Flights into Natal maybe turned it Gay, or Key West made it way down there.

Congratulations, Ciggy has written, you have captured the Gay Travel market.

Ok, the solution is to turn on the moderation and do not publish these post, delete his and mine.

On the other hand controversy sells, I just delete, or non-publish these type of angry post by a person that can just click and go away.

Andy in Togo, West Africa
Andy of HoboTraveler.com

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