11.03.2010 - 17.03.2010
Wow, time is passing fast! After racking my brain to decipher the day and date, I realised that it has been 6 weeks already since I’ve been travelling. Although I am trying to move to Argentina sooner than later, because Brazil is expensive and I am worried I will spend all my money here, I made a snap decision on Wednesday to backtrack to Arrail do Cabo (3 hours north of Rio) to do my Open Water Diving course. It is something I was planning to do somewhere in South America, but had no specific plans as to where. But after meeting Lance, an Australian who ran the hostel where I stayed in Rio (called the Mango Tree – thanks for the reccommendation, Mel), and hearing about the possibilities for diving in Arrail, I started to think it could be a good place to do it. Lance also did his open water ticket there and reccommended a school to me. He even went out of his way to organise it all for me from Rio, managing to get the necessary medical assessment waved so that I could start straight away. Figuring that a reccommendation from an Australian was probably the best quality assurance I was going to get in South America, I decided that Ilha Grande could wait a few more days. So after hiking up to see the famous Jesus statue and incredible views of Rio, followed by a night out in Rio checking out some live samba with Eric at the Rio Scenarium, a 3 storey high nightclub filled with an ecentric Carioca´s collection of rare antiques and kitch belongings (another great reccommendation, Mel), I hurled my hung over self up north (again).
It is now my third day in Arrail and I have completed 2 days of the course. On my first day, my instructor didn’t speak English, so I had a 17 year old Dive Master in training translate everything to me in very average English. Despite the odds, this seemed to work OK. There was no starting in the pool, however, it was literally straight in the deep end to complete all the essential exercises. Fortunately, I had completed 2 one-day introduction dives before, and one at a very good school in Indonesia, so I had some idea of how to dive. Otherwise, I think it world have been a bit overwhelming.
There is a lot of practical information to take in and being the only student on the boat has been a bit difficult at times, but overall it has been fine. The good thing about doing all the theory in the ocean is that I have been able to do a dive every day and have checked out heaps of the marine life here. So far I have seen loads of turtles, and lots of colourful fish and sea snakes.
There are not many International toursists in Arrail do Cabo, other than those from Argentina and Chile, and not many of the locals speak English. And while my survival Portuguese is enough to get by with all th essential things, it has made me realise the limitations of not speaking the language in the country I am travelling, and motivated me even more to pick up Spanish once I get to Argentina. But one other English speaker is sometimes all one needs to feel at home, and Kenneth, a guy from Belgium doing his instructors course here, has been that person for me.
The beaches of Arrail do Cabo are georgeous! I have to eat my former words about not being impressed by Brazil’s beaches as they are truly magical here. With the thin white sand and turquoise water, it is almost like being in the Whitsundays. The town of Arrail do Cabo itself is a bit of a dive (scuse the pun), but at least retains a not overly developed or touisty feel about it, which means the beaches are not too crowded and nobody hassles you.
Yesterday after diving, I hired a bike and rode to the other side of the peninsular to watch the sun set over Praia Grande (Big Beach). The sunset was spectacular and I was filled with a serene sense of freedom and happiness. I slowly rolled back without a care in the world, picking up my daily dose of ‘acai with granola’ on the way (the unbelievably delicious gelato made from Amazonian berries) and arrived back at the hostel satisfied with the day’s events.
Tonight I am heading out for Japanese with the dive crew. I think it should be fun though I am secretly hoping my social lifeboat (I just can’t help myself with the sea metaphors here), Kenneth, will be there, not because I fancy him, but because we can actually have a real conversation. Everyone needs a buddy, and not just in diving!
However, despite feeling relieved over finding another English speaker, I am truly loving travelling alone. It is amazingly liberating to feel such freedom to go or do anything without worrying about anyone else, and it feels empowering to feel so at peace with being alone and confidently being able to handle any challenge that comes my way.
Just now I was speaking to two Israelíes from my hostel who are both at the end of their 9 month long travels in South America and have hit traveller’s burn out. They are now just haning out, watching TV all day, and basically waiting to go home. I wonder if I will feel the same in 6 months time. At the moment, I cannot imagine feeling that way and think I could travel around the world for years, but I am sure that at some point I will start longing for home, and in fact, I look forward to that feeling when it comes.
But enough about the future, right now it is all about chilling out on the beach and going with the flow (oh, and learning to dive, the theory of which I will have to catch up on tomorrow).
Dinner with the dive crew was delicious. My nervousness about not having anyone to talk to was totally unnecessary with the group speaking English for the majority of the night. I got to know Paulo, one of my instructors and the owner of the school and his family. He and his wife have the most adorable 7 and 9 year old boys who also provided great entertainment at dinner. Paulo is a 40 something Carioca and ex engineer who made a career change into professional diving 15 years ago, without a drop of regret. At dinner he was a friendly and considerate host, and made sure everyone had enough sushi on their plates and was having a good time. Physically, he reminds me of Homer Simpsom, but he has a much cooler and more intelligent personality.
Sunday and Monday were spent diving and studying and eating in the only bar near the hostel, which is a hole, but which I have grown to like. Owned by a couple of old hippies, it is filled with Hindu iconography, has music that is always too loud, has regular shady characters residing out the front, and the owners are consistently stoned. But the food it good and cheap and the service is friendly enough. One of my favourite things about travelling is discovering these idiosynchratic places that become my local haunts during my stay somewhere. I love returning each night for my favourite dish and earning a sense of familiarity with the staff. I guess I am a creature of habit!
Today I completed my diving exam, which didn’t even get a look over by my instructors, and wham bam thank you mam, I am now a qulaified diver! My last few dives were great. I felt much more relaxed and finally worked out how to stay neutrally boyant. I saw tonnes of marine life and loved how relaxing it felt just to float by and watch aquatic life happening around me. The visibility was always good and the water mostly warm, and I have been extremely lucky with weather, each day being fine, and only today, the day I am leaving, the rain beginning. With my diving course over, I feel ready to move on, but I have enjoyed my stay here in this down to earth and laid back fishing town.
Next stop is Ilha Grande, an island off Rio, that I have heard great things about. I may have a few days of rain ahead but I am hoping it will clear for the weekend and I will get to continue beach bumming for a while longer.
Life is pretty easy right now!
(Disclaimer – this was written without a spell check so please forgive all spelling mistakes of which I’m sure there are many.)