Hitchhiking: Barreirinhas – Paulino Neves – Tutóia

Normally you set out on a hitch with some degree of planning and a goal in mind, but this trip was a bit different.  We accidentally got locked out of our friend’s place when he had to go out of town so we threw some stuff in a bag at 3pm on a Friday afternoon and decided to check out the next couple towns just for kicks.  The results, well, not what we expected.

The Plan:

Head east from Barreirinhas to Paulino Neves — thought there was a road, but it’s just dunes — from there follow the actually paved highway (cause there is only one) to Tutóia, portal to the Parnaiba River Delta (which we heard was cool and not touristic from a TV program in our favorite churrascaria).

Basically, there was not much of a plan… whatever happened was gonna happen.

interior barreirinhas, maranhão

Here’s the bridge that everyone crosses when heading out to the dunes.

The Journey

We walked towards the east end of town, thumbing along the way, not knowing exactly what we were heading into.  In our backpacks we had little more than a change of clothing, our hammocks, and way more computing power than necessary (since we had grabbed the laptops before deciding we’d hitch and, afterwards, being locked out).  The road became dirt and after a few explanations of where we were heading, Paulino Neves, we learned that the only way there was through the sand dunes.  Apparently it’s possible to walk if you possess some degree of knowledge of the region (which we don’t and is why we got lost so quickly, and why everyone looked at us like we were crazy).  Our rides, which included car, motorcycle, and ATV, and questioning finally put us on the right track to catch a ride all the way there — the next day.

Actually it was a friend of our CS host that saw us walking through the dunes and pointed us to the bridge (funny how word spread so quickly about what a bunch of nut-cases we are).  At the bridge we stopped at the snack/bar joint to ask what the deal was with traffic.  No one was leaving this time of day; not surprised given the sun was setting.

maranhão, brazil, rural life

Putting the electricity back up on the shop. Yay for making random Brazilian friends!

Fortunately Phyllis and I befriended the family when we helped fix their electricity after some drunk moron slammed his car into the post and knocked down the power source to the snack/bar.  They invited us to dinner and let us spend the night in our hammocks at their house across the way.  It was kind of a perfect place, full of cajú and coconut, pets out the wazoo (even a toad).

barreirinhas paulino neves, sand dune road, lencois maranheses

So there is no paved road between Barreirinhas and Paulino Neves… you either drive through the dunes or take a 9 hr detour.

In the morning we caught a car and sped across the dunes, arriving in Paulino Neves bright and early and easily catching a ride to Tutóia.

The ride was a guy who owned a restaurant and drove around with the giant speakers I really hate that are always blasting advertisements on the street, his incredibly cute and precocious six year old son named Pedro, and his friend.  It was Sunday, and when they couldn’t complete the business transaction they set out to do originally, they decided they may as well take us to the beach.  So Phyllis and I somewhat tipsy between the beers that accompanied the fresh oysters from a street vendor, the fish platter, and some of the best shrimp we’ve ever tasted.

hitchhiking in brazil

Pedro told Phyllis basically everything he knew about the world… too bad she didn’t understand a single word.

fish dinner, food, brazil cuisine

They must have thought we were hungry… oyster, then fish, then shrimp, then shrimp again!

Since Phyllis had fallen asleep in the truck we ended up going back to Paulino Neves with them and driving out to some less touristy, but still trippy dunes and coastline.  A fantastic sunset and dinner at the guy’s restaurant was followed by them putting us up in a pousada despite us insisting we wanted to sleep in our hammocks.

paulino neves, pequenas lencois

Super trippy desert, beach area our ride drove us out to.

sunset silhoutte

Phyllis hanging out in the perfect light.

Next day we repeated the Tutóia hitch and spent an inordinate time trying to arrange a boat to drop us off on Ilha de Cajú.  We failed in our effort because we couldn’t fork out money for a private boat and didn’t want to go on an organized tour.  The agency guy convinced us to take the boat to Ilha Grande for ten reais.

Supposedly the boat was going to leave in an hour so, of course, about three hours waiting we finally left.

We left almost as soon as we arrived because the agency guy forgot to mention there was nothing noteworthy to see on Ilha Grande — no beaches, no nothing, and no transport off the island till the following Monday!  Thankfully a boat full of semi-drunk fisherman and smelly fish was loading up at the dock and we asked them for a ride to anywhere.  Some of the women on the original boat were a bit worried about us taking off with just some untrustworthy looking guys, but Phyllis and I were perfectly happy to hop in our first boat hitch.

boat hitchhiking, fishermen brazil

This fishing boat was our only hope off the island!

The ride was great and really wet.  We got soaked after leaving the sheltered inlet of the island, but at least this way we didn’t pay 200 reais to get off the island.

They took us to Agua Doce, another town with nothing and only 2000 inhabitants.  It was, however, on main land and we could easily catch a ride the following day.  Yeah, it had gotten dark again so one of the fisherman just brought us to his house and we ended up crashing his wife’s birthday party.  Phyllis was yet again the seemingly captive audience to a small boy that just wouldn’t stop talking, not realizing she hadn’t the least idea what he was saying.

hitchhiking, brazil, boat

The lovely fishermen who gave us a ride. Sunglasses let us stay at his house.

Next morning we took a bus to Tutóia and started hitching back to Barreirinhas.  By some strange twist of fate the restaurant guy picked us up again, sans Pedro unfortunately, and made his last ditch effort to convince Phyllis to marry him (I think I’m ready to write a foreigner’s guide to Brazilian men at this point).

The guys we caught a lift with across the dunes scared us for a second when they kept stopping the car to check on some noise the vehicle was making.  We actually looped back to have a mechanic clear it.

And then our host didn’t actually return that evening when he was supposed to, but we managed to get into the back when his cousin saw us and let us enter through the back of the barber shop.

We basically just knocked out in our hammocks and our host showed up the next morning, going on about hearing some crazy story that we tried to walk to Paulino Neves:)

And this deserves a bit of a video… that I might make later.

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