April 22, 2009

The 'Sliding Doors' effect

You're no doubt familiar with the 1998 hit movie Sliding Doors – if not for the thought-provoking storyline, then for Gwyneth's much-coveted short, blonde crop (you know you wanted it!). For the pop-culture retarded among you: Girl misses train, gets mugged and lives a miserable existence with her cheating boyfriend, but if she makes the train, she gets home in time to catch out said cheater, gets a fab break-up 'do and falls in love.

When it comes to travelling, Craig and I like to play it on the safe side, leaving as little to chance as possible – our bus tickets are bought in advance and our hostels are always booked for arrival. But for our journey from Ilha Grande to Florianopolis, we took a deep breath and decided to wing it – this was partly an act of bravery and partly because we didn't want to give the rude bitch at the Ilha Grande bus ticket office our business.

Our journey began with a 90-minute ferry ride to the mainland town of Angra doe Reis, which was refreshingly uneventful. However, once we arrived in Angra, we realised we hadn't done any research as to where the hell the bus terminal was (I stupidly assumed we'd step off the ferry and it'd be across the road or something). So we lugged our backpacks around town, asking someone every couple of blocks where the Terminal de Omnibus was, we didn't understand anything they said, but kept walking in the direction they pointed. Lucky for us we ran across a random who spoke English, we ended up jumping in the random's car (not something we'd ever normally do, but we were hot, tired and totally lost), and it's lucky that we did – the bus terminal was at least a half-hour walk away.

Then, in true Amazing Race style, we ran into the bus terminal and got the ticket guy to run out and hold the already-late 12 0'clock bus for us – who's 'too hot to handle' now, Charla and Mirna?*

Nine hours later we arrived in Sao Paulo and booked our bus to Florianopolis later that night – so far so good. Once our bus parked at the terminal at Florianopolis 12 hours later, there were still two local bus journeys to go until we reached our final destination – Barra da Logoa. There was another backpack-hauling couple on our second bus, and once we got to our destination, I asked them if they were heading to the Backpackers Share House, too?

'Nah, it's heaps expensive. But it's over there,' replied female Aussie. 'Yeah, it's ridiculous,' chimed in male Aussie.

They were right, at $38 reais each for a dorm bed, it was set to be our most costly accom for the trip. We were going there purely off a recommendation from a fellow traveller in Rio. As we headed towards the hostel, we started to question our decision... 'Yes, it is insanely expensive. Let's go see if we can find something cheaper.'

Check this – the first place we walked into was a small pousada about 20 meters back from the beach, they offered us a double room with our own private bathroom for $20 reais each (half that for a dorm in the hostel) and after we'd dusted ourselves off from falling over in shock, we turned around to discover that the Aussie couple were in the room next to us.

The next five days were filled with beach and buffet by day – for $12 reais each, Craig and I would stuff ourselves silly with lasagnas, meatballs, crumbed chicken and salads – and then drinking and talking shit with Alex and Geoff by night.

As if the deal wasn't sweet enough, the owners of the pousada then invited us to a barbecue on Easter Saturday – this was done by them pointing at us, and then them miming eating. Huge racks of ribs were covered in salt and slow-cooked in the courtyard for over eight hours, and Craig hadn't been this excited since he had a super steak land on his plate in Buenos Aires. We now have half a memory card filled with ribs from the side, ribs from above, Craig smiling with ribs, Craig pretending to cook ribs, Craig with ribs and man who actually cooked ribs...

That night, after we salivated all day, we feasted on nothing but meat and bread. The meat was juicy, the meat was salty, the meat had succulent little fat pieces on it, the meat was awesome! And even though we spoke no Portugese (well our entire repertoire consists of 'hello' and 'thank you') and they no English, we all shared a common bond – a love of salt-covered, slow-cooked ribs... and we were all wearing Havaianas.

Now, you may recall a few paragraphs ago I was going on about some old Gwyneth Paltrow movie – clever writing technique, you see, I'll now make it relevant to our story and tie it all together like this: If we hadn't met the random chick who drove us to the bus terminal, and if we hadn't ended up catching the exact same local bus as Geoff and Alex, then we would've ended up at Backpackers Share House, and we never would've met Alex and Geoff, and we never would have had the awesome experience of being invited to a Brazilian family barbecue... makes your head hurt just thinking about it.

* Craig has kindly pointed out that not everyone is an Amazing Race fanatic like myself. How it is possible that the entire world population doesn't religiously follow and then discuss the ins and outs of each series is completely beyond me. But, for those of you who have yet to discover the joys of Roadblocks, Detours and and Fast Forwards, Charla and Mirna were a team from Season Five, comprising of an attorney (Mirna) and her dwarf cousin (Charla), they provided many entertaining moments during the season, and wore matching T-shirts that read, 'Too hot to handle'.