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SOUTH AMERICA - THE "WAITIN' FOR THE BUS" TOUR

Sao Luis Postcard

SAO LUIS

"DECAYING BUT LIVING STRONG"

The boat docked in Belem at 7am.

Tall buildings told of a metropolis, manufactured steel and reflective glass. I lugged myself off the boat, disappeared into the crowd and hailed a cab, leaving the Challenger far behind.

In truth, we were no-longer talking.

In Santarem, while booking into a two-bed hotel room, he had taken the larger, better bed.

At the time I said ‘I didn’t mind’ but now, obviously, my actions spoke louder than words.

I was now on my own, not sure of the Portuguese language. I told the cab driver to take me to the bus terminal.

Sao Luis
Sao Luis

He did not comprehend.

I tossed myself and my backpack into the back seat and we drove off regardless, stopping off at the driver’s house to pick up his glasses. Somehow we made it to the terminal and I secured the third last ticket to Sao Luis.

I was visiting Sao Luis because of Tim.

He had told me it was a great place, flicking his right wrist three times, in a late 1970s funk hip-cool manner, to emphasise his point.

“Visit Sao Luis and Alcantara. Who needs the Caribbean!” he had told me.

As the only guy, I knew of, who had got laid during the time I had spent in South America, he was my idol. Even the Challenger, who was built like a slim Greek-God, had been going through a dry patch.

And so off to Sao Luis it was.

Alone.

If tonight I ended up booking a hotel room with two beds, I sure as hell was going to sleep in the larger, better bed.

 Sao Luis Buildings
Sao Luis
Sao Luis Buildings
Sao Luis

******

Alcantara Slave Bells
Alcantara

Sao Luis and Alcantara sounded like a smart money saving scheme. Close together, they were twins from the sugar and cotton field slave era and a days travel south.

The road was bumpy, potholed and scarred; the start of the South American leg, post Amazon River, southward bound. The company on the bus was courteous; passengers giving me their food, keeping me alive.

Occasionally I could feel the adrenaline, the downward spiral of chaos and uncertainty, followed by the human high, the obstacle of the Amazon having being overcome. The bus passed through flat terrain, sugar cane fields stretching into the eternal distance, one day to be burned, discarded into ash, then reborn.

Arriving late into Sao Luis, the old man taxi driver, blasting reggae on the cab radio, dropped me off at the Hotel Lord. A uniformed concierge greeted me and took my backpack to my room.

Alcantara Slave Bells
Alcantara

I must be dreaming.

Hotel Lord, a uniformed concierge, a shared toilet that occasionally flushed; two out of three.

Next day I took a boat, filled with local produce, to Alcantara. Docking, I was greeted by a bar; five beer bar stalls playing reggae music. It was the middle of a month-long reggae festival, relatively early in the morning and the festival was taking its toll – locals sitting around, zoning out and slowly drinking beer.

The guide book described Alcantara as decrepit. I quickly finished the obligatory tourist photos and went back to the dock for a beer. It was Dancing in the Streets without any of the dancing.

I slowly drank my beer, sitting by myself, keeping a low profile; it was hip to be cool.

 Alcantara Buildings
Alcantara
Alcantara Buildings
Alcantara