The overnight bus takes us away from Uruguay and over the border into a Brazil. Suddenly, in our sleep, a new country, a new currency, a new language – all those Spanish phrases out the window and now a guttural Portuguese that we have to try to speak and understand.
We are tired and sweaty when we arrive into Porto Allegre where we’re staying to break up the journey, eager to brush our teeth and shower, snappy and short fused. The joys of travelling. We have some lunch and chill for a bit then head out to the city centre. Many Brazilian cities received funding through the World Cup a few years ago and had a revamp but it’s still clear where the cities are crumbling and people aren’t paid. It’s a bit grubby in Porto Allegre and lots of graffiti, homeless people under the arches. We pass a woman on the phone then hear her scream a moment later as something – her bag or her phone – has been stolen right out of her hand. We tuck our things away even more.
In the double height central market we wander around the stalls piled with bright fruit, salted fish, sacks of loose tea, bags of dog food. In the middle there is a long line of people waiting to be blessed by women in white, touching them with mint leaves and tying red twine around their wrists.
That night we go out for dinner near our hostel; the bars are busy and there are people out eating and the sunset paints the sky pink. We share pizza and a jug of very bad wine but good chats. It’s definitely different to genteel Argentina, and the next day the driver tells us in Portuguese that it’s very dangerous around there: “worse than Africa, Kabul” he says gesturing to the buildings. Great, we thought, as we headed for the bus terminal.
In Florianopolis we arrive in drizzle then navigate two local buses with all our luggage, trudge down a track to find our AirBnB, put our raincoats on and head to the supermarket. It’s not quite the sunshine paradise we’d envisaged. We’re staying in an AirBnB owned by Laura, a German woman in her 30s who is sweet, divorced from her husband and tells us her life story within ten minutes of meeting her.
On the last day of the year, the skies are blue and the sun hot. We head down to the beach to swim, sunbathe, jump around breathless in the big waves, read out books, eat sandy sarnies and crack open tinnies.
We find a beach bar made of container units which had just opened that day, with smiley friendly staff who serve us pints of very strong caipirinhas. There is a lovely pregnant lady behind the bar who hugs me happy New Year as we leave.
Afterwards we try to find somewhere to eat but everywhere is closed so Davo and I trudge back to the supermarket, cook food and open a bottle of fizz in the flat then head down to the beach.
It’s amazing. Everyone is wearing white to symbolise peace and the beach is full of families and friends out celebrating. There are fireworks in the dark sky and we open a second bottle of fizz, countdown to midnight then jump in the sea over the waves seven times for luck. Davo falls over lots and we walk back laughing and holding each other’s hands.
On the first January we wake with sore heads and I force myself to go downstairs for a swim in the pool. We take a while getting ourselves together but head to the beach to blow out the cobwebs. It’s a windy day and we sit with the wind blowing off the water and feeling the warm sun.
It’s an incredible end to an amazing year and a great start to a new one; I can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring 🙂