Monday, November 5, 2007

Vitória it is!

Apparently, the Brazilians are rubbing off on us! Eric and I had been sort of complaining to each other last week how no one would really make firm plans for the 3-day weekend, although we had several invitations to do things and go places. We went to bed Thursday night not knowing what we would be doing over the extended weekend, but when we woke up Friday morning, Eric looked at me and said "Let's go to Vitória." We did about an hour of investigating and decided to take off driving towards the coast. We had no hotel room reserved, no real idea of how long it would take us to get there, and no good map of the area. But what the heck! When in Rome (or Brasil) . . .

Who needs a plan, right? Geez, this was so totally out of character for both of us. You should see our notebook when we take a trip: copies of hotel reservations, maps of the destination city and of all the states we will be passing through on the way, information about all the things we have looked up and want to do while we are there, and not to mention the plethera of snacks and cooler of drinks. So the two people who are obsessive over planners, are in a foreign country, barely speak the language, have never travelled the highways, and have absolutely no plan take off with a small suitcase of clothes, our credit card and some cash.

We did look up the route on Google Earth and it said we should expect a 6 hour trip. Awesome! We would be at the beach before sunset! Well, it didn't quite go that way . . .

First off, we had to get out of Belo Horizonte. It just so happens that they were doing massive construction around where we needed to get onto our highway to Vitória and they didn't really bother to post signs to point you in the right direction or anything. But after about 30 minutes of cruising the area, we found a path that we thought was right and eventually we saw a sign for our destination city - yea! The road itself was actually in pretty good shape: no huge potholes or busted up pavement. But it was a winding 2 lane highway (which we learned Brazilians will make a 3-4 lane road) through the mountains the entire way there. And then there was our poor little rental car: a 1.0 liter VW Gol (similar to the VW Golf in the US). Let's just say that you need a little more than 1 liter to make it up some of those hills! We found that if we dropped it down to fourth (and sometimes third) gear we could make it without losing all of our speed. The 'powerful' 2.0 liter 'sports cars' were still passing us like we were rolling backwards though. We had her wrapped out at 4000+ rpm's the entire trip ( seriously, I'm not over exaggerating here!) Our hopes of making it before dark didn't really work out so well either. The 6 hours is really more like 8 on those mountain roads. And then we found that street signs are kind of non-existent on the streets of Vitória. We did do enough research before we left to know what roads we needed to take to get to the beach . . . but it is a little tough to do when the streets aren't labelled! So we saw some rather intriguing places, had no idea at any given time where the heck we were or if we were even going in the right direction, but somehow we ended up on the street that runs along the coast! (Even after consulting a good map, we have no idea how we got to the beach.) We stopped at a nice looking hotel right there on the beach, they had a room available, and all of a sudden our adventurous spirit was paying off. We were at the beach!!!

We had decided to go to Vila Velha which is just to the south of Vitória and is supposed to have the better beaches. Boy were we not disappointed! The beaches are wide and covered with beautiful coral colored sand. The sand and the water were super clean-no trash, seaweed, or even shells to impede your walking-along-the-beach pleasure! The were areas of the beach that had rock outcroppings to break waves and provide calm waters for swimming, or you could do like us and choose to go to the less protected areas and play in some great waves. The people were super friendly and nice. There was an awesome super wide sidewalk and bike trail between the street and beach that was always full of people. The entire beach and sidewalk area was really well lit so you could safely enjoy it at night. It was really nice too that there are no buildings right on the beach. They are all on the other side of the road, leaving wide open beaches.

We spent Friday night eating supper and then walking the beach that night. Saturday was spent playing/getting beat up by some great waves, drinking the water from coconuts, walking along the beach, and checking out the beachside vendors and restaurants. We got up on Sunday and spent some more time at the beach in the water before we packed up and made the 8 hour journey back home. The whole way home we kept looking at each other and saying, "This was totally worth it!"

We had such a great time! We have both been dying to get to the beach - it's hard to be in Brasil and not be on the coast! Although next time, I think we will make our plans at least the night before, get up early, and take off driving first thing in the morning instead of at noon!

Here are a few pictures from Praia da Costa (the beach we were at) in Vila Velha. They were mostly taken from our hotel window or the hotel pool which also had a view of the ocean. The city isn't touristy at all, just locals were there. In fact, all along the beach, there were tons of apartment buildings, but we only counted 5 hotels and none if them were busy on this holiday weekend. There usually isn't much tourist crime down here in cities without tourism (like BH) but we still wanted to play it safe and not carry around the digital camera looking like tourists with money!

During the Day:

And at night:

Coming up tomorrow: pictures from the drive and a few thoughts on transportation in Brasil!

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