Morning dawned, and as did the illness. It began to hit members of the party one by one, taking down Pedro first, then his mum (who was holidaying with us for the first week in Brazil) and eventually me. It would have been far more convenient for us to have all been hit at once to get it out of the way but oh no, that would have been far too lucky. We had really wanted to visit Porto de Galinhas, this incredibly beautiful beach about an hours drive away from the city, but with the rain and now with the illness, it was removed with haste from the plan, as if it had never existed there to begin with (to try and soothe the pain).
With one man down, passed out in bed amongst a pool of used tissues, two of us waited… we watched the telly, ate some food, browsed the web, looked out the window onto the rainy cityscape solemnly.
Suddenly, the sun broke through the sky.
The two of us ditched our fellow comrade and ran to the sand in our swimsuits, taking turns to bathe in the cool water and the sun tan whilst we could. Somehow I got burned the day before, yes BURNED… in the RAIN. So I had to have triple layers of suncream to not make it any worse.
I let the sun engulf me, although careful not to burn the rest of my body or exacerbate the existing burn on my back. I clutched my camera at my side, whipping it out now and again to get a photo of the beach. After half an hour or so, some girls nearby were making a ruckus amongst themselves. I looked over briefly but kept to myself, not to attract more attention than my awfully ghostly white skin already created. I’m so white that I had to wear sunglasses just to look at my own skin.
I couldn’t disguise my whiteness so well, and eventually, the girls nearby must’ve noticed – unless you were blinded by my pastiness, there’s no way you couldn’t have. A mocha-skinned girl with a baseball cap approached. I buried my belongings underneath me, looking toward my fellow comrade for support. “VOCÊ É GRINGA?!” (you are a gringo (white person)?) I forgot all my Portuguese out of panic. Pedro’s mum stepped in and conversed with the random girl, telling her I lived here and got me out of that potentially sticky situation… If you’re very white and visiting Brazil, prepare yourself for some interesting interactions.
We retreated back to the flat, so as to not push our luck with the overly-interested strangers, and waited for the fallen party-member to awaken.
Lunchtime hit, and we all managed to drag ourselves out, despite our declining health, to a little vegan shop that served coxinhas filled with jackfruit. If you don’t know what a coxinha is, you are missing out big time. It’s basically this ball of dough filled with… fillings. Shredded chicken is the most common one but you can get a bunch of other things too, most likely involving meat or cheese. For vegans though, don’t let that get you down. Jackfruit, this massive tropical fruit, when cooked in a certain way and with certain spices (and salt) has a similar texture and resemblance to shredded pork or chicken. Inside ours at Vegaria, the jackfruit had some turmeric and other spices that turned this fruit into something mindblowing – it was different but it resembled meat. NUTS.
Juice made from a tropical fruit called Cajá.
To ruin our hard work, on our way out we passed by a stand selling Brazilian hot dogs… I think you can guess what happened next. A Brazilian hot dog isn’t like your bog-standard hot dog though, so save your judgement. Think a regular sausage and bun, but topped with some kind of tomato sauce, peas, crispy potato strands and a bunch of other things that I couldn’t quite discern from neither sight nor taste (sounds worrisome, but it was delicious).
Having missed out on seeing Porto de Galinhas, I was determined to see at least one more thing again in Recife before we left; the botanical gardens. Located quite far from everything in the city, the gardens are free to get in to and are beautiful and serene. Jackfruit season was just passing, so the sweet jackfruit smell was thick in the air, perfuming our stroll through the jungle-like gardens. The funny thing about botanical gardens in Brazil is that everything is actually… outdoors… in its natural climate. In the UK everything in a botanical garden is indoors, in a greenhouse or glasshouse cared for under carefully constructed climates, which makes sense given the erratic weather and low temperatures throughout the year…
We walked along dirt paths, canopied by sky-high trees, swaying in the wind, some precariously held up by dangerously thin trunks. Crickets chirruped all around and dragonflies zipped in and out of sight in a flash. Further into the garden lay a pond with fish and at the centre stood an island of sorts with a little greenhouse and another garden area with benches. Jackfruit trees came more into sight, with the last fruits of the season hanging heavily near the trunk. Even further into the garden was a little sensory garden and a more open area with small buildings.
Toward the front of the botanical gardens, near the entrance, was a small open building filled with various cacti, which also sat next to what looked like an allotment, growing various fruits and vegetables.
Feeling far more zen and at one with nature, we jumped back into the car and headed toward the craziness of the city once more. On the way home, we stopped at one of the best brigadiero shops in the city. Brigadeiro is this Brazilian sweet made with cocoa and condensed milk, like a chocolate truffle or chocolate spread. Perching outdoors, we had the sweetest, chocolatiest, most decadent cake you’ve ever had in your life. It had a sort of chocolate biscuit base with a thick briageiro topping. Thank god we split one piece between three of us because I’m pretty sure I would have slipped into a sugar-induced coma soon after.
As night fell, so did we… into our beds… the illness beginning to hit each of us once more. We had battled furiously throughout the day, thinking positively and downing as much water as physically possible, but there was not much hope for the next few days…