We got up at 6am today to catch the sunrise and our arrival in Vitoria. The sun rose behind some clouds and was nothing special, but the same can’t be said for the approach to Vitoria and our first sight of South America.
Given I’d googled Vitoria and the first few headlines were all grim gang-related news, I wasn’t expecting much from the place. But the setting is stunning – around a couple of long stretches of bay, with various islands and the river we are currently docked at cutting through the middle. Steep mountains (think, mini sugar loafs) rise up from the coast, with high rises on the small area of flat land, and colourful more rustic houses built up the mountain sides. Various peninsulas jut out into the sea, with some very exclusive looking property on them.
Once the pilot was on board, we made our way into a wide bay and then under an enormous bridge and up the river to the docks, passing people out kayaking and fishing. We passed very close to the side of a mountain as we edged up the narrow river. After the high rises and glitz of the centre, we also passed by what looked like a more traditional fishing village full of colourful houses spreading up the sides of the mountains, with small fishing boats docked below.
Unfortunately, we kept on going straight past the city, to dock on the ‘wrong’ side of the river well beyond the city centre. Its not clear if we will be able to get off, and I am writing this as the cargo unloading gets underway, with an enormous crane moving back and forth outside my window.
Eventually during lunch, when we had all but forgotten about being allowed out, we were handed our passports – with a new Brazil stamp in it, which has finally christened our new passports – and told we had a mere 4 hours to play with.
We decided that wasn’t enough for any real taste of the city, and decided to sort out the practicalities, so that we would be organized to make the most of Rio next week. Sim cards for data so we could use google maps and communicate, some local currency, some mozzie repellent etc.
Along with the Germans we made our way to the port reception, where we had to be entered into the register and photographed before being allowed to leave.
The guy who accompanied us to the reception offered to give us a lift, and waited for a while as we were processed, but I could see he was getting a little anxious as his lunch hour ticked away, and then a taxi driver came in and started giving him hassle for stealing his supposed fare. I took an instinctive dislike to the taxi driver, and told him in no uncertain terms we had not ordered a taxi, were just going for a walk, and had no currency to pay.
I would have been happy to get a taxi but there was just something about him I didn’t trust. Eventually we were released into an industrial park, which admittedly didn’t look promising territory. Another much friendlier guy offered to take us to the bank (having heard the conversation about having no currency) and he had a nice enough car with seatbelts, so at first, I acquiesced – we all piled in, and Lauren had strapped herself in before I asked the price to the mall. He wanted 50 USD! No wonder he was friendly! Ludicrous. We had been told it was an hour walk. We all piled out again and started walking – to be honest we were just happy to be stretching our legs.
We walked along the dusty road, often being passed by enormous truckloads of brand new BMWs and Porsches being offloaded from our ship, until a blue car screeched to a halt and the driver waved us to get in. I approached cautiously (this is Brazil after all, in a run down industrial estate, and I have my child with me) and he said he was a stevedore on the ship and would give us a ride. He asked where we were going and I told him the mall, and he said would take us there ‘because it’s a long way for the little girl to walk’. I could have told him, she can far outlast me in any physical exercise!
I had the opposite instinctive reaction to him than I did to the first guy, and given he knew which ship we’d been on (and, indeed, that we were from the port), after a quick confirmation with the Germans, we jumped in and buckled up. We then drove further and further from the port, left the built up area behind… joined a highway…. Let’s just say I was starting to wonder if my instincts had failed me and we would be yet another statistic for google to scare tourists off Vitoria with… How difficult would it be to put two and two together and pretend to have seen us getting off the ship… how bloody far was the mall (perto was all I got as we kept speeding down a highway out of town)…. I made a big point of saying I knew how dangerous Brasil was so we had come out without any money and only one card between us….. Either the guy was completely trustworthy and I was being a bit cold given he’d deviated massively to drop us at the mall… or we were headed for a ditch somewhere.
Luckily, just as I was thinking I’d made a rookie mistake on day one on the continent, we pulled up at a swish shopping mall. The guy pointed out where to get taxis back from, and I felt guilty for ever doubting him. I thanked him profusely for going so far out of his way, and told him it was a lovely welcome to Brazil. He waved this off, with a stern warning to never accept lifts from strangers in Rio, as Rio is apparently dangerous……
At the mall we did everything we needed to do – the first answer at the phone shop was that foreigners can’t have sim cards, which i came prepared for by knowing the law (foreigners register with their passport numbers) and being polite but insistent in that very lusophone-country way. Eventually no turned into maybe turned into yes, and the guy registered both sim cards with his tax number rather than faff about trying to work out how to do it with our passports.
After we had completed chores and shopping, and jumped on the free wifi at the mall, Lauren decided she wanted to go on one of the electronic moving stuffed toys (not sure how else to describe these monstrosities) that were weaving around the mall. They are like mini motorbikes dressed in cuddly toy outfits…
Turned out, the adults found it quite fun too….
Not, perhaps, ones first idea of fun in Brazil – tropical beach, caipirinhas, jungle tours etc… but it made us giggle.
On the way back, we bumped into the driver who travels with us to drive the forklifts and various vehicles on board. He told us he had ‘done everything’ but that side (containers) was being slow, so he had nothing to do. He insisted Lauren ‘drive’ his forklift, and then even let her up into the cabin of the monstrosity we have been admiring since Tilbury…
A great end to the day.. well not quite, as its Saturday so pizza night!!!!!!