I’m definitely going somewhere today. Maybe Guarujá, across the estuary. I know there are boats leaving from the port… But then, once in Guarujá I still have to find both a bus and a beach. Sounds exhausting.
Okay, next option… Praia Grande is out. Yesterday’s pathetic attempt was enough—after two buses, I ended up in a giant shopping mall looking for a third bus to the damn beach and there wasn’t a pedestrian-friendly road in sight.
That beach my downstairs neighbour mentioned sounds lovely but completely out of the way.
Damn, I want to go somewhere.
After three days in Santos, I finally accepted that going places along the coast of São Paulo wasn’t that easy. Exploring the city isn’t an issue but travelling to other better, cleaner beaches is tricky. You basically have to go to other towns or cities, each with their own transportation system, bus terminal, etc. Despite deceptively short distances—15, 30 or 50 kilometres—there’s no quick way to get there. For example, Bertioga is only 65 kilometres from Santos but it’s almost a two-hour bus ride, and that’s from terminal to terminal, you still have to get to the beach.
Originally, I wanted to stay in Santos for a few days then check out another town for the rest of the week. Except that finding a “normal” Airbnb was mission impossible—either they were completely out of the way, either they didn’t have Wi-Fi, didn’t provide bedding or were very expensive.
So I’m staying in Santos, but I still want to get out of the city for a bit.
By the way, you should never ask Brazilians for travel advice. When I was in São Paulo, locals were recommending Belém, “stunning place!” I’m sure it is, but check the map—Belém is the gateway for the Amazon, completely across the country. It would be like me telling tourists in Ottawa to go to Nunavut for a bit. In Salvador, I was giving lists and lists “lovely” islands, but it would have taken a full day of travel and many boats to get to any of them. As much as I enjoy going off the beaten path, I still need public transportation, accommodation and basic facilities around. I’m not playing survivors here!
I started walking on the beach towards the port.
Maybe I’d take the boat across the estuary.
It was cloudy and stormy again.
Forty minutes later, I was in a better mood—walking on the beach in your swimsuit does that to you—but I still wasn’t sure what to do.
Okay, I’ll check the boat schedule.
On the way, I passed the “Escuna Mestre dos Mares,” one of these pirate-themed boat cruise—Brazilians are obsessed with pirates.
I slowed down.
I checked my watch. The boat was leaving in five minutes. Should I take the pirate cruise?
Fuck it. Hell yeah, I’m taking the pirate cruise.
I handed over two yellow 20-real banknotes ($9.20) and bought my ticket.
“How long is the cruise?”
“Like… 90 minutes. How many caipirinhas do you want?”
“Ahem… no thanks.”
Every boat needs a sober passenger. I’d be that person.
I climbed aboard. Nice boat with a corny plastic pirate at the front and a slightly out-of-shape crew member dressed as a pirate.
The music started playing, something about caipirinha, água de côco and cervejinha (found it! It’s Diogo Nogueira, “Pé na Areia”). Everybody but me was singing along. Lots of música popular brasileira—“MPB,” it’s actually a genre, post-Bossa Nova urban popular music.
The boat left the harbour and most passengers ordered another drink.
“So this is the Fortaleza de Santo Amaro da Barra Grande…”
I took my camera out. For a minute, I thought it was actually going to be an informative, sightseeing cruise, but next thing you know, the boat anchored in the middle of the ocean.
“Alriiiight! Now everybody jumps into the water and go for a swim!”
And we did.
“Ahem… was it a good idea? I mean, sharks and all…”
“Mommy, weren’t you scared of sharks?”
“What’s with you two and sharks? It didn’t even cross my mind!”
Surprisingly, I was the only one who went without the orange life jacket. I thought Brazilians were good swimmers, although it may have been a safer option considering ongoing alcohol consumption.
Suddenly, it was sunny and I was actually enjoying myself even though in theory—pirate theme or not—boozy forced merriment, tours, cruises and being stuck somewhere is my idea of hell.
Back on board, I got mildly excited when I recognized a song, but unfortunately (and inexplicably) it was Baby Shark.
“Wait… Baby Shark? Wasn’t it an adult-only booze cruise?” Feng asked later.
“Oh, there was a lot of booze. But a lot of kids too. And none of them went overboard, so hey, good parenting skills, I suppose.”
However, I had never seen grinding on Baby Shark and I don’t think I can ever erase the memory of Brazilian women making it X-rated.
Then came a Brazilina version of Gangnam Style—more very un-Korean grinding—and the Bee Gees—no grinding, more booze ordered.
We eventually made our way back to the port much, much later than planned.
The new game became waving at the giant cruise ships leaving Santos.
Sunset was amazing.
The pirate cruise saved the day—I had an awesome time.
In doubt, go for something you just wouldn’t normally try.