Carolyn Broadwell - Travel Tidbits - Dec 2003 - Jun 2004

Friday, January 23, 2004

Fortaleza and Buying a ticket...

I guess the last message was just before my 24 hour bus ride from Belem to here (Fortaleza). I survived it, and in fact almost enjoyed it, as the bus was very comfortable, air-conditioned, and stopped only a few times. But the road was pretty bumpy a lot of the way, and by the end of the trip, the toilet really smelled! Someone used air freshener a couple of times, much to my relief. I don't carry that...

I'm in Fortaleza because my travel companions from the Manaus to Belem boat were coming here to fly back to Buenos Aires, and it was easier to travel with someone I knew (if slightly) than to travel alone for such a long trip. Besides, I have had very good practice with my Spanish, and I'll need that before long.

This morning I bought my ticket to fly from here to the island of Fernando do Noronha. What an experience! My friends had located a travel agency on their paseo last night, and so I went there directly this morning. The proprietor was just finishing his breakfast, and came from the back room with crumbs on his unshaven face - but - he was gorgeous! (The best looking man I have yet seen in Brazil.)

I asked if he spoke English or Spanish, and he said no to both. So, I plunged in with miming and Spanish, and said, somehow, that I wanted tickets to Fernando do Noronha. He immediately launched into Portuguese, and I indicated that I didn't understand at all. So, with motions, etc., he told me to wait, and got on the phone.

After a long discussion on the phone, he hung up and gave me directions to a travel agency that dealt with what I wanted, and showed me on my map in The South American Handbook where the street was. I mimed that I planned to walk. After some back and forth - I can't really call it discussion, as there was a mix of motion and talk about taxis, etc. - he picked up his keys, locked his office, and said he was taking me there in his car (a KIA van). Which he did. And then parked and escorted me into the travel agency, sat down with me, and what a challenge we all encountered!

The travel agents (three of them) didn't speak Spanish or English either, but between all of us, we actually managed to do what I wanted! That was exciting enough, as parts of it were pretty complicated. However, because I had indicated that I wanted whatever was cheapest, it turned out that I could pay part of the amount with my credit card, but if I paid the remainder with cash, it would be a lot less.

It took a while to get that idea through my head! So, I charged what I could, then we (handsome agent and me) set off for the Bank of Brazil to get cash. Their machine was broken, but it took a while for us to learn that, and then we decided to try getting cash on my credit card at the exchange counter, but there was an incredibly long line there, which didn't move at all for the ten or so minutes we waited. At that point my agent indicated we could try another bank, and we set out.

At that point, also, it decided to absolutely dump water out of the sky. We waited a few minutes under cover, the rain looked like it might let up, so we dashed out. The other bank was many blocks away; I'm not sure how far, as there was so much rain, and so much water I felt as though I might have to swim. Luckily I had my walking stick with me, as I did a fair bit of wading, too.

Then when we got there, I used my Mastercard, and after two tries, realized I'd left my Palm Pilot, with my PIN, at the hotel, and I couldn't remember it correctly. Very luckily, my Visa worked, and I got what I needed! Then, it was back to the agency, and it was still raining, harder than ever.

I can't believe how wet I got! The water just ran off of every bit of me when we finally entered the agency again. At least with my very short hair, I didn't have to worry about my coiffure being wet and shapeless, as there's not enough to worry about. But all of my clothes were drenched, clear through, including my money belt, I imagine; I don't know, as I came directly to the internet after returning to the agency. I've been on the computer long enough, and the temperature is high enough, that my clothes are nearly dry again now.

The handsome agent also brought me back; the internet cafe is right next door to his agency (which is tiny). He did stop for gas, and asked me to pay 10 reais (less than $4.00) worth of it. Then asked if that was O.K.? That was after spending at least three or more hours as driver, translator, and guide to bank, and getting as wet as I did. I am assuming he made something on the deal with the agency, as they took his name, and gave him a copy of the flights, etc. And I know it would have been a lot more difficult had I gone in a taxi and tried everything completely alone, so it was a bargain all the way around.

Now I am nearly dry, and I imagine the Spaniard and Argentine are wondering how I've managed, so I think I'll end this, and head for the hotel, which is right on the beach, and find them, to have a beer.

As everyone here says, Ciao...(which is Italian, isn't it? But language here is as mixed as the population!)


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