Two boats and a bus

Overland travel is not always as it seems here. We learned this the hard way, when the 4 hour trip from Salvador to Morro de Sao Paulo turned into a 7 hour trip. There are many options for making this distance: a high speed boat will get you there in 2 hours for about R$75 per person, a long distance bus to Valenca and a slow boat to the island is supposedly the longest option and will take 6 hours. We chose the middle range option, involving a ferry ride, a minivan ride, and a slow cargo boat to the island for R$30…and it was a long day.

On the first leg, the ferry ride, we were pushed into the lower deck of the boat. It was hot and muggy, and to top it off the sea was pretty rough. Sitting in between a man with an enormous bird cage and a couple bringing their dog back from surgery, our baggage was luckily the last thing to draw attention. After being pulled in twenty different directions by masses of minivan drivers at the ferry terminal, we set off on a journey to Valenca. The trip started out well, until we realized that the van operated as a commuter bus of sorts for locals. We stopped every few miles, picking up people and dropping them off. At one point there were 20 people packed into this tiny vehicle. I started to wonder if we would miss the last boat to the island and panic set in more than a few times. Then suddenly, our van pulled over again to the side of the road- this time they pointed at us and told us to get out. We were in the middle of a tiny town that was most certainly not Valenca. Not understanding what they were asking us, we obeyed and loaded off the packed van. Another man was waiting outside and grabbed Dave’s pack to walk across the street. We followed… Still confused. He led us to another van and told us to get on. Then we sat there… And sat there… looking around trying to figure out where we were, we wondered if it was better to get off the van and find our way on our own- acknowledging that we had made the wrong travel choice and should have done some more research. The man outside the van eventually made a call to some other onlookers. The empty van we had been waiting in immediately filled up, and off we drove…in the wrong direction. A few miles down this road, we stopped in front of a bar. The driver whistled. We watched as a bunch of men quickly finished their beers and walked over to us…. Oh, good- more people to pack in! Another enjoyable leg of the trip where we are pushed so tightly up to the person next to us that we can’t move our feet. And we paid a few Reals extra for the minivan opposed to the bus. Lovely.

Fast forward a few hours, and we get dropped off in…Valenca! We are in Valenca! We made it! One more boat ride and we are there… One more boat ride…

Dave -happy to be on the last leg of the trip

Actually, the last boat ride was the best and most entertaining part of the trip. We approached a bunch of guys loading boxes onto a brightly colored boat. ‘Morro do Sao Paulo?’ we asked…They stared at us… Then one of them nodded and we took that as our opportunity to jump on. The boat started pulling away before Dave was on and we had to scramble to make sure we made the trip together. But as if luck had been on our side all day, he made it in at the last second. The final 2 hours were spent cruising through a river and into the ocean, just us, a few people who had clearly gotten there on time, and a bunch of cargo… Toilet paper, pre packed cookies, electronic equipment… You name it.

The view from our spot on the cargo boat

It was on this vessel that we finally relaxed. We had made it, and no matter what Morro de Sao Paulo was like, we were happy to have a temporary home in our near future.

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