Return trip – boat
The nightly boat trip from Atins to Barreirinhas was one to forget quickly. We had to wait until midnight, when the tide was favorable enough to have the trip back to Barreirinhas. Fortunately, an older local helped to guide us, in the dark, to the boat. There was a full moon, her silver white light gave us just enough light to find the trail between the shrubs. Fortunately, I was able to orientate myself quite easy in the darkness, and I was able to warn others for stones and branches on our path. We had to walk for about twenty minutes. At twelve-thirty, the boat departed, for a boat trip of more than four hours! The moon was swallowed up by the clouds, and we could see numerous stars in the cloudless parts of the dark sky. That was fascinating! But we were too tired to enjoy that view for a long time. The bare wooden benches were not inviting for a relaxing position, to sit or lie down. We sat there, in the compartment, for four long hours… Finally, at five am, we arrived in Barreirinhas. We quickly went to sleep, because our bus trip back to São Luís was scheduled at nine am, for a journey of three hours.
Return trip – bus
I was not surprised at all, that at nine am, less than half of the travel companions had arrived at the bus stop. Also the bus driver was not surprised. He joined me to a LAN house, where I had my first pictures of this trip burnt on a CD.
Unfortunately, the computer was not fast, and it lasted more than twenty minutes to empty the 1 GB memory card. The bus driver returned to the bus, and I returned much later, when the CD was burnt, finally. For only six reais. Since almost everyone still had some aftereffects of the uncomfortable boat trip and the ultra short night, it was very quiet in the bus. I made my pictures of the landscape that I was observing. IT was an interesting landscape, along the foothills of the enormous dune landscape of Lençóis Maranhenses. The humble little houses and huts, sometimes made of trunks, filled with clay. The foothills of the Amazon forest, which has its boundary near São Luís. More than enough to admire and to photograph.
Wide view from the island of São Luis
We arrived in downtown São Luís at one pm. The bus was not able to stop in front of our hotel in the historical center. Therefore, we had to walk a few blocks, with our luggage. For some among us, it was almost a via sacra, with heavy suitcases that at least must have contained half a bathroom, and a complete summer closet. For this reason, I offered some help, to carry another bag on my shoulders, which already carried my two bags. The rooms were divided abong us. Rooms for three to four people. Mixed rooms. The rooms were not that clean and organized as in Barreirinhas, but we could not complain too much about the price: 12.5 reais a night, about 5 euros. That included breakfast, which consisted of fresh bread rolls, cheese, ham, fruit, fruit juice, and coffee of course. The staff was very friendly and helpful. They made no problem, when we knocked at the main door at three or four am. They was a TV in the entrance hall, which was attached to a wall. When we had to wait for the ladies (who took their time to prepare themselves!), we enjoyed live flashes of the Pan American Games, which were held in Rio de Janeiro. Flashes of soccer, basketball and volleyball. There were also flashes from São Paulo, where the temperature did not exceed ten degrees centigrade at ten am. For us, this news was reason for a broad smile. We had escaped these wintry temperatures…
One of the colorful facades in the historical center
We started to feel hungry, and we asked the staff where to find a cheap restaurant for a simple meal. Fortunately, there was such a restaurant, only two hundred meters away. We ordered a simple menu of rice, beans, salad and meat, for only 4.50 reais, less than 2 euros. The food was of a good quality, our stomachs appreciated the welcoming nutrients. The majority of our group decided to lie down for some time and take a nap. ‘Some time’, in the eyes of Brazilians, may be extended to a few hours even. Therefore, I left the hotel at three pm, accompanied by Simon, and started a walk around the hotel. We walked at random, we lacked a city plan. There was a lot to see in the historical center of São Luís. The city, founded in the seventeenth century, had experienced turbulent times with invasions by the French and Dutch. Curiously enough, there are no visible traces in the city that remind of the Dutch period. The Portuguese had destroyed everything of what was Dutch, when they conquered the city upon the Dutch. Only the name ‘Avenida Holanda’ reminds of the short Dutch period in the city.
On 3 December 1997, São Luís was added to the respected UNESCO World Heritage List. According to the UNESCO, São Luís is a good example of a Portuguese-style colonial city, which had excellent adaptations to the tropical circumstances. Due to economic stagnation in the past century, many buildings of the colonial era are preserved. And that’s why we also could enjoy the cultural richness that is found in the historical center. Buildings in the Portuguese colonial style, plastered in bright white or pastel shades. Stately buildings, as souvenirs of the former wealth of the rulers of São Luís.
Vivid portrayal of the miserable circumstances
of slave life.
Símon and I continued our walk, we were still walking at random. We arrived at a cultural center. There were many people. We were curious and joined the line. There was a theater presentation, a general rehearsal of the theater academy. Simon was very interested in cultural events and has a broad knowledge of Brazil’s history. He gave me a short description of the story that was presented. The story was about the colonial era, the Portuguese domination, and the slavery. The group demonstrated the harsh circumstances of slaves. In sharp contrast with the noblemen, the local rulers. There was a quarrel among the noblemen about the fate of the slaves. These slaves reacted fiercely against any altercation. One of them was condemned to be hanged. He showed no fear; instead, he challenged his masters. To big astonishment of the slaves the executioner kicked the chair away from under the condemned slave… The actors received at the end of their performances a thunderous applause.
The slave that had to be hanged…
It was already dark, when the theater show was ended. We returned to the hotel, and refreshed ourselves with a warm shower. It was our intention, as a group, to discover more of São Luís that night. We had to wait for the others, and we had to be very patient…. Only at eleven, everyone was ready to go out. Unfortunately, the performances in the cultural center, some blocks away, were already ended. Maybe we would have more luck the following day. At random, and again without any city map, we walked into the center, in the search of any amusement center. We found a lively center with many bars and restaurants. There were many terraces in the streets, since no one will stay inside when the air temperature is about 25 degrees centigrade. We suddenly heard reggae music. It was played on a small stage in a street. These musicians played swinging music, the street became crowded with reggae lovers. For those who did not know this: São Luís is considered as the Brazilian Capital of Reggae.
Swinging in the street with street live reggae!
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom