Maceio…famous, but not for good reasons
Stefano has a second Brazuka hostel in Maceio which was our next stop, about two hours south of Maragogi and the capital of Pernambuco state. Maceio is considered the most dangerous city in Brazil, and the third most dangerous city in the world. Apparently this is largely due to drugs in the favelas, but they still experience a high level of assaults here too. We did not feel unsafe or under threat in any way despite this status….and the manager Facundo “forgot” to warn us so we were blissfully unaware as we wandered around the streets at night time. By the time we arrived and dumped our bags, we were tired and hungry so we got some directions for somewhere cheap to eat and set off. Unfortunately when we went to return, we realised that we hadn’t really paid attention, and while we knew were close, we were definitely lost. We had no address details and after walking up a few streets and doubling back again, we had no choice but to ask for help. There was a family sitting out on the street chatting. Having passed them twice already, I asked them if they knew where the hostel was. They had a vague idea but rather than give us directions, the entire family got up to walk us back which was so lovely. We were astounded by their kindness, but in hindsight, once we knew how dangerous the city was, I’m not sure if they did this just to be helpful, or to make sure the gringo white girls, who were lost in a dangerous city, did not come into any trouble!?
While it is also on the beach, we weren’t as keen on Maceio – too big, too busy. However
that did not stop our planned one day, possibly two, turning into four. We spent Friday walking along the coast of Maceio to explore the beaches with the knowledge that Stefano and the two Argentinians were coming for the weekend to go out. Stefano had lived in Maceio so we could not miss the opportunity to go out on the town with locals and decided to stay just one more day. The night began with a quick walk to eat the best burger ever. The “shop” is actually a small van that sets up plastic chairs and tables on the street, super cheap and delicious. Back to the hostel for a few drinks then off to a very cool Argentinian bar to begin. Everything is so free flowing here, we bought beers on the street then poured them into cups to take inside the bar. After this we went to a Brazilian Forro club. The Brazilians LOVE Forro!! I pretty much love all music and didn’t mind it for a short time, but I found it very repetitive as the night progressed. The thing they love most about Forro is the opportunity to dance in couples. Why? Because it’s done up close and personal. I had a few dances and it is definitely close….glued to the guy’s front in fact, and because they are the lead, as a woman, you basically have no choice in the matter. Their knee is between your legs and they are running the show!
Given we were not in bed until the sunrise, the next day was spent sleeping off the cachaca in preparation for another night on the town. There was a free concert on the beach so we spent some time in the hostel drinking home made caipirinhas before heading down. Wow, what an experience. We were walking in from behind the stage and long before we reached the stage, the human crush began. We were seven people trying to stay together as we moved through, what looked like an impenetrable crowd. I had Tash by the hand and was literally dragging her through any gap I could squeeze through….whether she fit or not. I am the tallest of the two of us at 163cm, and while the Brazilians are not an overly tall race, we felt like children craning to see over the top of a counter. The body heat of thousands of people brewed from the ground up, to a degree that gave us both a few moments of concern. We pushed on and finally made it to some space. With the ability to actually see again, we discovered we could sit on the beach in the cool breeze with plenty of space, to enjoy the tunes. The walk back was along a non-crowed beach….if only we had known this in the beginning…but then we would have missed an experience.
It was our plan to take the overnight bus to Salvador on the Sunday night…but it seemed that the universe had other plans. I took a taxi to the Rodoviaria, Brazilian name for the bus station, to buy our tickets. Despite Facundo’s certainty that we could just rock up and get on the bus, I discovered the bus was booked out, so I walked away with tickets for the following evening. Although this was not ideal from a time perspective, it meant we could take a tour to some beaches we had been told about, just south of Maceio. Luis, a lovely Chilean guy staying at our hostel, had booked the tour as well so we ended up spending the day with him. While we stopped at a few beaches to take pictures, the main attraction was Praia de Gunga. When we arrived we were given a table on the beach which we shared with a mother and son on holidays together and kicked the day off with some fresh juices. Rita and her son Fabio were absolutely lovely. Tash and I are constantly blown away by the giving, sharing nature of these people. They gave us their drinks to taste, ordered lunch and insisted we share with them. I would like to think that they would have the same experience if they came to Australia, but I am not that confident. Although we are most definitely friendly, I’m not sure that Australians in general, would go to the lengths that we have found here, in order to help out a tourist, or to ensure they got the best experience while visiting our country. Despite being told more times than I could count, from multiple sources, of how dangerous Brazil can be, we have experienced nothing even close to danger. While I have no doubt it’s around, so far we have found these people happy, generous, accommodating and surprisingly helpful, especially when there is nothing for them to gain out of it. I often think how sad it is that people might miss out on these incredible experiences due to fear.