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How to Survive the Night From Hell in Ilhabela and a Chaotic Bus Trip to Santos

Is it the calm before the storm or after the storm? I never know.

Well, now I’ll remember.

Everybody on Ilhabela had gotten the memo—sunny day ahead, a rare opportunity before a rainy week. I was excited too, especially because it was my last day on the island. “I’m going to the beach,” I told myself. “Probably the last time…”

The thing is, like I explained, beaches are small and hard to reach in Ilhabela. Still a nice day but not the idyllic beach day I had in mind and by 5 p.m., it was cloudy again. Oh well.

I walked back to the Airbnb around 7 p.m., politely declined a bowl of estrogonofe de frango from the Brazilian family, offered them cake, cooked fish, veggies and pasta, took a shower, did a load of laundry.

And at 10 p.m., I was in front of the computer, waiting for Feng’s nightly call.

That’s when it went downhill, and fast.

Not between Feng and me, but with the weather.

Feng and I were discussing Airbnb options for São Paulo when the power went out and lightning tore the sky in half. I didn’t see it coming. Next thing you know, the entire house was shaking and rainwater started pouring down the hallway.

I quickly grabbed electronics and put them on the bed, then I put my backpack on a chair.

The Brazilian family next door was as shocked as me.

“Does it happen often?” I asked, meaning both the thunderstorm and the power outage.

“Na verdade… não.”

It was pitch-dark. We sat together at the door, watching water pouring down from the gutter, the roof, the sky.

I swear thunderstorms feel more dramatic on a small island, as if the entire piece of landmass is being rocked and battered.

Meanwhile, I was still trying to reach Feng to let him know I hadn’t been abducted by pirates. It did go through at one point. “POWER OUTAGE!” I shouted. “THUNDERSTORM!”

Feng told me to just go to bed early and pack in the morning. “Just go to sleep” is Feng’s top advice. Worried? Have a good night’s sleep. Dying? Just sleep on it. World collapsing? Get some rest first.

Honestly, I wish world leaders would listen to him, many wars and dumb moves could probably be avoided.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t quite ready to just go to bed, mostly because I wasn’t sure I could locate the bed and enjoy blissful sleep with rain pounding on the metal roof and the sky turning purple every sixty seconds.

I assessed the situation based on my very recent blackout experience. My laundry would eventually dry, even without the help of the fan. I could probably warm up my dinner bain-marie style on the gas stove. Showering wasn’t an issue, I’m familiar with all my body parts by now. Packing… this was a tricky one in the dark. And I’d better leave early the next day to catch the ferry, then the bus to Santos in São Sebastião.

The Brazilian family was bummed too, they had been watching an exciting football game and doing laundry.

Power eventually came back for a few minutes around midnight, then it was on and off the entire night.

None of us slept much. The next morning, the (young) grandfather drove me to the ferry terminal—no rain, but rough crossing. Then I walked to São Sebastião’s bus terminal where I was greeted by “sem energia” signs. Okay, so no power in the entire city again.

The 1:30 p.m. bus was on time, though, and we all boarded without tickets since we couldn’t print them out.

I fell asleep and woke up when the bus stopped. Lunch break? Nope. We were on an uphill road in the middle of nowhere.

“An accident, maybe,” the driver announced. “I was told to stop here.”

“Landslide,” a passenger said after checking her phone.

No shit. It was still pouring rain, water flooding the road.

I went out for a smoke. It was cold. I grabbed my emergency “help, the air con is on” blanket in my daypack.

Then because I had nothing else to do and something to report, I called Feng.

“Where are you? Did you pass Bertioga?”

“According to Google Maps… close to Maresias.”

“Holy shit, you’re barely out of São Sebastião!”

“I know.”

“Well… good luck.”

Indeed. It was supposed to be a 4.5-hour-long trip, so arriving at 5:50 p.m.

Two hours later, we were still waiting for the Defesa Civil or other skilled people able to clear the road. And it was still raining.

I texted my Airbnb host to announce I’d be late, really late.

Then for once, I followed Feng’s advice and tried to get some sleep.

The road was eventually cleared out and I woke up in Bertioga for a 15-minute coffee break pit stop. It was pitch-dark outside.

“How much longer to Santos?” I asked the driver.

“An hour… an hour and a half…”

“So we should be there around 9 p.m.?”

He shrugged.

We arrived at 9:25 p.m. I jumped into a taxi, met my Airbnb host, dropped off my backpack and literally run to the closest supermarket still open, good old Carrefour closing at 10 p.m., then to the bakery closing at 10:30 p.m.

I made it.

I unpacked, dumped my clothes in the washing machine, took a shower and ended up cooking dinner at 1 a.m.

It’s raining in Santos too but hey, no power outage… yet.

Perequê, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Perequê, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Perequê, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Perequê, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Perequê, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Perequê, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia de Itaquanduba, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia de Itaquanduba, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia de Itaquanduba, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia de Itaquanduba, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia de Itaquanduba, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia de Itaquanduba, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia de Itaquanduba, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia de Itaquanduba, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia do Itaguaçu, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia Engenho d'Água, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia Engenho d’Água, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia do Saco da Capela, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia do Saco da Capela, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Praia do Saco da Capela, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Praia do Saco da Capela, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Igreja Nossa Senhora da Ajuda, Vila, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Igreja Nossa Senhora da Ajuda, Vila, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Igreja Nossa Senhora da Ajuda, Vila, Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Igreja Nossa Senhora da Ajuda, Vila, Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
R. Nova Dois - Itaguassu, Ilhabela - SP
R. Nova Dois – Itaguassu, Ilhabela – SP
 Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
 Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
 Ilhabela - State of São Paulo
Ilhabela – State of São Paulo
Even coachroaches try to escape from flooded streets, Rua dos caranguejos, R. Caminho Perequê, Ilhabela - SP
Even cockroaches try to escape from flooded streets, Rua dos caranguejos, R. Caminho Perequê, Ilhabela – SP
Between two power outages, Rua dos caranguejos, R. Caminho Perequê, Ilhabela - SP
Between two power outages, Rua dos caranguejos, R. Caminho Perequê, Ilhabela – SP
Between two power outages, Rua dos caranguejos, R. Caminho Perequê, Ilhabela - SP
Between two power outages, Rua dos caranguejos, R. Caminho Perequê, Ilhabela – SP
Between two power outages, Rua dos caranguejos, R. Caminho Perequê, Ilhabela - SP
Between two power outages, Rua dos caranguejos, R. Caminho Perequê, Ilhabela – SP
Ferry Ilhabela-São Sebastião the next morning
Ferry Ilhabela-São Sebastião the next morning
Ferry Ilhabela-São Sebastião the next morning
Ferry Ilhabela-São Sebastião the next morning
Ferry Ilhabela-São Sebastião the next morning
Ferry Ilhabela-São Sebastião the next morning
Ferry Ilhabela-São Sebastião the next morning
Ferry Ilhabela-São Sebastião the next morning
Rodoviária de São Sebastião, R. Minas Gerais, 221 - Centro, São Sebastião - SP
Rodoviária de São Sebastião, R. Minas Gerais, 221 – Centro, São Sebastião – SP
Rodoviária de São Sebastião, R. Minas Gerais, 221 - Centro, São Sebastião - SP
“No power”, Rodoviária de São Sebastião, R. Minas Gerais, 221 – Centro, São Sebastião – SP
Rodoviária de São Sebastião, R. Minas Gerais, 221 - Centro, São Sebastião - SP
Rodoviária de São Sebastião, R. Minas Gerais, 221 – Centro, São Sebastião – SP
Stopped on the Rio-Santos around  Maresias because a landslide blocks the road
Stopped on the Rio-Santos around Maresias because a landslide blocks the road
Stopped on the Rio-Santos around  Maresias because a landslide blocks the road
Stopped on the Rio-Santos around Maresias because a landslide blocks the road
Stopped on the Rio-Santos around  Maresias because a landslide blocks the road
Stopped on the Rio-Santos around Maresias because a landslide blocks the road
Stopped on the Rio-Santos around  Maresias because a landslide blocks the road
Stopped on the Rio-Santos around Maresias because a landslide blocks the road
Stopped on the Rio-Santos around  Maresias because a landslide blocks the road
Stopped on the Rio-Santos around Maresias because a landslide blocks the road
Terminal Rodoviário de Santos, finally!
Terminal Rodoviário de Santos, finally!
Cooking dinner at 1 a.m. in Santos
Cooking dinner at 1 a.m. in Santos
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Zhu

French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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