Day 5. Turtles as requested – Tartarugas como pedido
The pleasantly plump owner of the pousada was busily preparing the breakfast when Kris and Tanja walked into the dining room, but bade them a hearty bom dia nonetheless. Kris resolved to have a chat with her about the incident with the three guide dogs the previous day as well as the stories from the other guests and did so at the first opportunity. She did not seem even the least bit surprised when he mentioned the dogs and she simply stated that all the island dogs did the same thing, maybe it was just the magic of the island she told him. As to why the dogs only accompanied foreigners, she had no idea and said she had never even thought about that before. This was something he would have to discover for himself.
Kris poured himself his second coffee of the morning and decided to take it out the front of the pousada where he would enjoy his second cigarette of the morning. He met Isabella on his way out, wished her good morning and let her know that Tanja was inside having breakfast. He smiled to himself as he again thought how much she looked like his idea of a pixie. As he stretched his legs out on the bench under the tree, he was somewhat surprised to discover that his legs felt no negative after affects of their exercise the previous day; perhaps that would only kick in the next day. He remembered when he had done something incredibly stupid as a sixteen year old, when he had bought himself a new racing bike and had ridden to a town fifty miles distant. The journey there had been accomplished in little over four hours, but due to fatigue and hilly terrain, it had taken him almost eight hours to cycle back; his legs and bum bones somewhat tender the following day, but the day after that found him virtually unable to walk.
The boat for their diving trip was not due to leave until 10.30, so the three milled around the social area of the pousada, chatting with the other guests and checking on their emails and social network sites until Tanja decided that it was time to go. It was only 10 O’clock and Kris thought it was still a little early as the jetty was only a five minute walk away, but Tanja explained that they had to pick up their diving equipment from the dive shop and she wanted to have a chat with the shop attendant. Not wishing to argue over a few minutes, Kris said nothing and Isabella seemed happy enough to leave.
At 10.25 the trio were entrenched on the central concrete walkway awaiting the arrival of the boat that was take them to Lagoa Verde, their destination for the day. There were many boats moored out at sea and Kris tried to guess which one would be theirs and impatiently paced the deck smoking cigarettes after cigarette. Patience was not one of his virtues; he hated wasting time doing nothing but waiting, and his irritation grew with the passing of every minute. A neat wooden schooner finally chugged up to the jetty and tied up at 11.10 and his impatience was almost at boiling point by then and he snapped at the captain, expressing his displeasure at the wait. The captain was completely nonplussed; this was not only Brazil, but was also the island and things worked a little differently here; time was a manmade construct and really not so very important. It was 11.30 when the crew finally untied the boat and cast off, chugging away from Vila Abraão towards open water.
With the schooner finally underway, the sun shining in a clear blue sky and a gentle cool breeze blowing in his face, Kris finally relaxed and allowed himself to enjoy the ride. Their destination lay about forty five minutes away and all was well with the world. That was until the monstrous and ugly oil platform hoved into view when they rounded a headland. The site again raised his ire and the three tourists discussed its incongruity in this paradise setting. All three seemed to share the same view on corporatism and the rape and pillage of the environment. Little did the three know that Angra was also home to Rio’s two nuclear reactors and there had been many landslides in this area in recent times, increasing the risk to the residents of Rio of a radiation disaster of the kind so recently seen in Japan.
One of the deck hands approached the trio, introduced himself as Júlio and enquired which of the beautiful ladies was Kris’s namorada. Isabella spoke fluent Spanish, but her grasp of Portuguese was tenuous at best and she didn’t understand more than one word in ten. Tanja laughed and explained that they were simply new found friends. Kris noticed a gleam grow in the deckhand’s eyes and his entire body language subtly changed at that news. Kris sighed wearily to himself; yet another Latin Lothario looking for love, however short lived, excused himself and moved to the other side of the boat; he had no desire to witness the cheesy chat up lines that he was sure would follow.
He fell into conversation with a family from São Paulo, who seemed determined to make the most of the trip. The mother and daughter were drinking caipirinhas that they were expertly making with the ingredients stored in a chiller bag. The father and another man who Kris couldn’t quite manage to fit into the family unit were drinking ice-cold beers. The ladies offered him a caipirinha, which he declined, but accepted a beer from the father and they all toasted each other’s health.
During the cruise, Júlio explained that they would be stopping for lunch at a restaurant on the way back to Vila Do Abrão and handed out menus from which to choose their meals. Kris was horrified at the prices being extorted from the passengers and chose a simple feijão and arroz, the cheapest dish on the menu.
A few minutes later, Kris glanced in the Júlio’s direction and noticed that his attention was fully focused on Tanja, totally ignoring Isabella who was now sitting on the bow with a book in her hand, obviously having lost interest as well. The deckhand’s body language made it obvious that he was very interested in Tanja, but Kris was not able to clearly read hers. She was showing signs of interest, but at the same time remaining slightly aloof. Was she just being polite?
The schooner finally weighed anchor in a small bay with incredibly pale turquoise water and thousands of rainbow coloured fish swarming around the now still boat. One of the crew informed everyone that he was available to take underwater photos of them which they could later purchase for R$10 each. Neither Kris, Isabella nor Tanja paid any attention to him as they donned their snorkelling equipment. Kris had come prepared for the fish and had stuffed a packet of cracker biscuits into the pockets of his shorts before slipping on the flippers and mask that he had hired.
Tanja had stripped down to her green bikini and had likewise donned her diving gear, but she surprised Kris when she approached him and asked if she was going to see any turtles today. Without a moment’s hesitation or thought he reassured her that she would see three of them. This seemed to satisfy her and he wondered whether she was starting to take his claims and stories seriously.
A rather rotund Brazilian in a bikini that was far too small for her in Kris’s opinion was the first to hit the water and she did so with an enormous noisy splash and a squeal and Kris slipped in a moment later, surprised by how cold the water was, unaware that the coast was washed by the cold Antarctic currents. He watched Tanja’s streamlined slim shape slide into the water soon after with barely a splash, but didn’t notice Isabella and was not too bothered as he focused on his own activities.
He distributed some pieces of the rapidly disintegrating crackers around himself and marvelled at the multitude of various species of fish of all shapes, sizes and colours that caused the water to boil around him as they gobbled up the feast. He wanted to share this experience with the two girls, but noticed that Tanja was hugging the shoreline way off in the distance and decided to let her be, but was unable to locate Isabella.
After exploring the area around the boat, he finally found Isabella clinging to a large floatation device on the opposite side of the schooner. He dived beneath the water and glided towards her, surfacing right next to her.
“Hi,” he said smiling, pulling the mask to the top of his head. “What do you think?”
“It’s great,” she gushed, ‘but the water is freezing!”
“I know, I was so not expecting that,” he said in agreement.
At that moment the photographer joined them with his yellow underwater camera in one hand and a bright red sea star in the other, which he passed to Isabella. She looked at it wondering what she was supposed to do with it. The photographer soon let her know by miming the action of him taking a photo of her with it. She shook her head in negation and passed it back to him and he immediately tried to pass it on to Kris who refused to accept it. The photographer accepted the rebuff with bad grace and swam off in a huff. Kris could understand his behaviour as this must be how he earned his living and he probably had to pay a fee to the captain of the ship for being there.
“Have you seen Tanja recently,” Kris asked, but she just shook her head. “No, me neither. Fancy coming with me to try and find her?” he offered.
Again she shook her head. “No, I’ll just stay here for a while, thanks.”
It then dawned on Kris that swimming was probably not one of her fortes and decided to leave it at that and left her to her own devices as he went in search of Tanja. He found her a few minutes later as she rounded a headland back into the bay where the schooner was anchored. He was caught completely by surprise when she suddenly wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly when he reached her.
“What…?” he spluttered as he sank beneath the surface, water filling his snorkel and flooding his mouth.
“Thank you so much,” she said, her eyes burning brightly and her face illuminated with joy.
He was confused and had no clue what she was thanking him for and she obviously read the confusion on his face.
“Turtles!” she exclaimed excitedly. “I saw three of them.”
She then told him how she had found them, initially mistaking the first one for a rock until it moved beneath her hand and then had seen the other two with the first as they lazily glided effortlessly through the water, masters of their underwater domain, showing absolutely no fear.
“Let’s go get the photographer and have some pictures taken with them,” she suggested and Kris told her where he had last seen him.
They swam back towards the boat and found him accompanied by three Japanese tourists gleefully posing for pictures and Tanja breathlessly told her story exhorting him to follow her to take some pictures of them.
“But I already have pictures of turtles,” he told her and flicked through the bank of photos stored on the memory card to show her.
“But you don’t understand,” she explained, “I want a picture with me and Kris with the turtles.”
Kris flushed a little at this, secretly happy that she wanted to include him in her moment of joy.
The photographer, however, was not even remotely interested and rudely turned his back on her, returning instead to the Japanese tourists. Obviously, they were easier money than what she was offering. Tanja was livid and cursed him in her native tongue.
“Come on,” she said, taking Kris by the hand and leading him back to where she had encountered the trio of turtles. At that moment, the deckhand Júlio pierced the quiet air with a shrill whistle in an effort to draw the tourists back to the boat. Like obedient fish, the people in the water started swimming back in the direction of the schooner, but Tanja completely ignored it. Kris looked from her to the returning swimmers, simply shrugged his shoulders and swam after her. Again the whistle screamed and again the pair simply ignored it.
The couple soon reached the spot where Tanja had spotted the turtles, but they were long gone and there was no sign of them. They split up and surveyed the area, but to no avail until someone could be seen heading in their direction. It was the devious deckhand who seemed desperate to get closer to Tanja. She asked if it was possible to say for a bit longer; she hadn’t realised the time would be so limited when she had booked the tour. He explained that they had to return to the boat as they had reservations at restaurant where they would already be preparing the pre−ordered food and had to leave immediately. There was a petulant look on Tanja’s face, but she finally acceded and the trio made their way back to the schooner.
Kris was grateful to be back on board as he wrapped his towel around his frigid frame and basked in the glorious sunshine, warming himself. He swapped stories with Tanja about the different creatures he had seen – octopi, garfish, sea stars, a galaxy of different fish, many of which he had no clue as to their names, one ugly looking pallid sea snake amongst them, but he had failed to see a single turtle. Isabella was surprisingly quiet about what she had seen, merely mentioning that she had seen some fish. After chatting to all the different groups on board, Kris discovered that out of everyone, Tanja was the only one who had seen a single turtle. His prediction had come true for her alone and no one else. When he commented on this fact she again hugged him gratefully and asked if she could see some dolphins now. He shook his head and laughed, no, she would see no dolphins on the island this time; she didn’t really mind because she had seen the one thing she wanted – turtles!
After sailing for about twenty minutes, during which time Júlio didn’t leave Tanja’s side, the boat moored alongside a narrow wooden jetty. He indicated the restaurant which held their reservation and explained to everyone that they would stay here for an hour before returning to Abraão.
Isabella said that she was not going to be eating as she hadn’t ordered anything and both Kris and Tanja implored her to stay and share their meals, but she was adamant, saying that she preferred to have a little look around and enjoy the sun and wished them bom appetite.
When they explained their order to the man acting as waiter, for surely he was no professional, the couple discovered that they had both ordered the same dish.
“I’m not paying R$40 for fish with chips, rice and salad,” she explained indignantly. “They can go fuck themselves if they think I will.”
Kris laughed and agreed that he too would not pay those criminal prices, but also added that he found the combination of chips and rice to be, to say the least, a bit odd, but he had seen it on so many menus since arriving in Brazil. His expectation of Brazilian food had been so high, but the reality had left him completely flat. Not that the food was bad, but it was generally very simple and the way it was put together seemed a bit bizarre to him – like chips and rice for example.
Their meal eventually arrived after a half hour wait, the owner/waiter appearing totally stressed, taking the wrong orders to tables, resorting to wandering from table to table to find the rightful recipients and Kris wondered what the place would be like if they got really busy. The feijão and arroz was tasty enough, but a little bland for Kris’ exotic taste so he asked for some molho de pimenta – chilli sauce −to be brought to the table. After five minutes or so without the sauce appearing, Kris again got the attention of the waiter and asked for it anew. The waiter seemed completely stressed and appeared as if he was doing everything by himself. Kris wondered if he had done the cooking too. The chilli sauce finally arrived at the table when Kris had about two mouthfuls left; his patience had run out long before and he’d just kept eating hoping it would arrive before he finished.
With the meal finished, the couple paid their bill and decided to go for a walk and stretch their legs. After a few minutes Tanja announced that she was going to sunbathe for a while and, to be fair, her pallid lily white skin looked to Kris as if it could do with a little bronzing. She found Isabella on the jetty, grabbed her towel and joined her in the bright warm sunshine. He left them to their own devices and decided to have a look around alone.
If Copacabana beach was narrow, Kris thought, then what was this? This beach was a mere line of sand, being no more than two feet wide, a mere fraction of that most famous beach, probably only measuring two hundred metres in length. What it lacked in majesty it made up for in things that interested Kris. He found an abundance of beautiful flowers deposited on its shore, with heavy, almost plastic petals, still in their prime and then he chanced upon something that shocked the heck out of him. What the hell was that doing here? He had chanced upon a penguin stretched out in all its splendour, but lacking its head, at least he was convinced it was an arctic penguin but was at a loss to explain its presence this far north. It was his understanding that they kept to the chilly arctic waters of the south and wouldn’t possibly venture this far north. But what did he know? This was not his area of expertise; perhaps he could be totally way off the mark. He finished his exploration of this tiny beach head and headed back to the jetty, telling the girls of his gruesome discovery when he arrived. Like him, they were sceptical of the presence of an arctic penguin in these temperate waters and demanded proof of his claims. When they too saw the grisly remains, their previous doubts disappeared like the rain of the previous morning.
Júlio sauntered in their direction and Tanja questioned him about the presence of the pinguim. He told them that they were, whilst not common visitors to these shores, also not rare. Tanja translated for Isabella who was looking on blankly. Judging by her reaction to Júlio, Kris suspected that she felt the same lack of interest in Júlio as he did. Júlio related a story of surfing one day and having a pinguim riding the same wave as he. Kris yawned and wandered off leaving the girls with Júlio and when he glanced over his shoulders at them, he saw Isabella also making a hasty exit.
The wooden boat slowly wended its way around the stunning coastline of the spectacular island, passing isolated pockets of human habitation in the midst of the lush, verdant forest. As they wound around the tight curves, Kris noticed an isolated islet with a for sale sign tacked onto a tree. He craned his neck to get a better view and realised there were a number of dwellings obscured by the dense foliage of the trees and idly wondered how much the price tag was; surely too much for him in this lifetime.
For the rest of the journey back to Abraão, Kris maintained his distance from Tanja as she was totally absorbed in Júlio and he in her. He wasn’t sure why this made him feel uncomfortable; he had no proprietary rights on her and certainly wasn’t interested in her sexually. Maybe it was just that he was feeling jealous that this man who he trusted not was sucking her in with his Latin looks and charm. He tried to shake off this feeling, but it still nagged in his stomach. Instead, he spent his time gazing at the fabulous views and chatting with Isabella, but the connection he had shared with Tanja was conspicuous by its absence.
The boat docked at the jetty and Júlio thanked them for coming on the diving tour and bid them all farewell. Tanja bade him an animated goodbye, but Isabella and Kris merely proffered perfunctory polite responses.
“So, what’s on the agenda for tonight?” Kris asked Tanja when they were firmly ensconced in their room, cool beer in hand.
“We’re going to see Júlio’s boat, don’t you remember?”
Kris looked at her with a confused expression on his face.
“Uh no, I don’t remember,” he replied honestly. “And you’re not trying to tell me that boat is his?”
“No!” she replied impatiently. “Weren’t you listening? He lives on a boat and he invited us to come and see it tonight.”
Shit, there’s no way I’m letting her on board that boat alone with that lecherous Latin lover boy, Kris thought. He wasn’t interested in going, but also felt no other option.
“Erm sorry, I mustn’t have been paying attention.”
She gave him a cold steely eyed glared but said nothing.
“Hey, how about some cachaça to help relax after our hard day at the office?” he asked, hoping to lighten the mood and shift the conversation away from Júlio.
“Boa idéia, vamos,” she said laughing and Kris prepared two cachaça and colas, his twice as strong as hers, obviously.
Both being sick of pizza and not wishing to chance it for a third night in a row, they decided to splurge and go to a seafood restaurant. Isabella declined their invitation, citing a headache although it was really her thin purse that decided for her.
Being a Wednesday night during the off-peak season, the streets of Abraão were virtually empty and many of the restaurants didn’t even deign to open. Kris was somewhat dubious about their decision to go to a fish restaurant mid-week in the off season, but really didn’t see much choice due to Tanja’s restrictive dietary requirements.
After wandering around the small coastal resort, checking the menus and prices of all the restaurants along the way, they finally decided on a lovely little restaurant called Lua e Mar ─ Moon and Sea. There was a very tastefully decorated interior, but they had also set up yellow plastic tables and chairs on the seashore, with tasteful tablecloths to disguise the cheap and nasty yellow plastic, where Tanja chose to sit, even though the breeze blowing across the beira do mar was quite cool.
The friendly owner quickly came to greet them with two huge menus in hand. Kris ordered the obligatory garrafa de cerveja which was delivered almost at freezing point in very quick time which the couple sipped as they perused the menu. Kris spied Moqueca Baiana on the menu; a dish that Tahlia had cooked for him back in Vancouver, which he absolutely adored and suggested she might like to try it. She asked what it was and he described it as a fish soup, a specialty of Bahia, made with thick fish steaks in coconut milk, cooked with onions, red peppers, chillies, tomatoes, cilantro and lime juice, topped with a rich orange coloured palm oil.
“Sounds delicious,” she said, “but I hope it’s not too hot,” she added.
“Not a problem, we can ask them not to put too much in,” he reassured her, “but to bring some chilli on the side, ‘cos I love things so hot they melt the spoon,” he added.
This seemed to satisfy her, but she was still umming and ahhing.
“You don’t like the idea?” he asked patiently, but was dying to wrap his lips around that hot and spicy dish once again.
“Well,” she said. “It’s R$50.00, don’t you think that’s a bit steep?” she asked.
“It’s for two people, so that’s only R$25 each, but you’re right, it is a bit much.”
She laughed at him.
“I thought that was per person!”
And so it was settled and they placed their order with the waiter and ordered another beer. They were on their third beer and feeling pleasantly merry after their previous indulgence back at the pousada when the food arrived. It was served in a huge clay pot and was bubbling furiously as the waiter placed it in the centre of the table, accompanied by a huge bowl of white rice and pirão, a thick pasty substance made from fish stock and thickened with mandioc flour.
Kris served first her and then himself. She dipped her spoon into the rich orange stock and took a tentative taste before declaring it delicious and not too spicy at all. Kris upturned the entire bowl of chilli that the waiter had brought without even testing its strength. Tanja winced at him as this seafood soup was almost at the utmost limits of her tolerance.
The meal was by far the tastiest either had had since their arrival and they were both fully sated before it was complete; it was too much for them both, and there was nary a hint of Kris’ previous fears about its freshness. Perhaps the fish had been delivered today, or else held in the freezer.
As the couple sat digesting their meal and ruminating on its deliciousness, Kris suddenly noticed a light growing on the horizon.
“Have a look at that? He exclaimed as it caught his attention.
Tanja looked and then looked again before she had ascertained the source.
“Oh, that’s beautiful,” she said as the pale, wan globe made itself apparent rising over the horizon.
As soon as the words left her lips, Kris laughed; firstly to himself, and then, when he couldn’t hold it back any longer, out loud.
“What?” she enquired until the source of his merriment became obvious, for there, silhouetted in the ever growing light of the moon, was her wannabe Brazilian beau!
What made things so funny for Kris was the fact that he was dressed in his obvious Sunday best, his hair washed and slicked down and parted in a ridiculous fashion and he was even wearing a tie. As a means to impress a Canadian girl, this was an obvious fail and Kris also hoped and wished that the same held true for European girls.
“Oi,” he called in a jovial greeting, but Kris knew that his joviality was aimed entirely at Tanja.
Looking so ridiculous, surely he could not expect her to take him seriously, he thought to himself. Kris greeted him in a lacklustre fashion, but Tanja appeared positively radiant; as radiant as the ever growing quasi full moon rising over the dark horizon, and invited him over to join them. Kris groaned inwardly, but tried to put on a brave face and fake it.
Júlio declined her offer to share their meal, claiming he had already eaten, but when she offered cerveja he readily accepted. Tanja signalled for the waiter and ordered another glass brought to the table.
Júlio tried to be polite as possible, trying to include Kris in his conversations, but Kris had absolutely no interest in what he was saying and it was all he could do to be civil and polite; he was well aware that he was the third wheel here as far as Júlio was concerned, but he was not quite sure where Tanja stood. She said that Júlio had invited them both to see his boat, something Kris had about as much interest in as being bitten by a venomous viper, and wondered if the invitation had truly been extended to him as well. Nonetheless, he was not about to leave his friend with that letch.
With the meal finished and paid for, Júlio suggested that now would be a good time to go and have a look at his boat. It was moored a few hundred metres off shore and he would need to row them out in a little dinghy that was on the nearby shore.
When the trio reached the tiny craft, Kris wondered how on earth they would all fit in it. The answer was that they couldn’t and Júlio bemoaned the fact that he would have to make two very tiring journeys to transport them both and would take Tanja first. Kris would have to wait on the beach for his return.
Kris watched the tiny boat as Júlio manoeuvred it between the boats moored closer to shore until it finally faded from view and was swallowed up in the blackness of the night. As he watched the fluorescent wake of the minuscule vessel, he wondered how far out Júlio’s boat was moored and sat down to patiently await the return of the mariner who so perturbed his insides.
Waiting patiently and still was not something Kris was very good at and he was soon on his feet and pacing the small patch of sand. He spotted a bat with a wingspan of around 18 inches flitting around the streetlight, snapping up the insects in orbit around it and checked his phone for the time. Already, Júlio had been gone fifteen minutes and he again pondered the distance of the Júlio’s boat. The minutes passed painfully and Kris became more and more impatient and agitated giving himself a deadline of 30 minutes after which he would wait no more. The 30 minutes came and wait and he gave Júlio yet another five minutes, his insides burning with impatience and anger. Finally, his tether snapped and he stormed from the sandy shore back to the pousada.
The path was well illuminated by the rapidly shrinking moon in the sky and by the time Kris got back to the pousada he was furious for being left waiting in vain. His humour was not improved when he discovered that the key to the room was with Tanja on that lecherous lothario’s boat.
Cursing loudly and vehemently, he stormed off in search of solace in the pale moonlight finding it in a bar that was conveniently open nearby. He ordered a shot of cachaça neat, quickly followed by another as he drained the small glass in one gulp. Then, to moderate himself, he ordered a bottle of beer which he drank slowly, all the while cursing the hide of that lying, untrustworthy local that had obviously schemed to get himself alone with Tanja.
After who knew how long and how many cachaças and beers, Kris finally decided to go back to the guesthouse and settled the account at the bar. He hoped that Tanja would be back from her tryst and he could finally go to bed. He was to be disappointed as the room was still locked and in darkness when he arrived. He cursed loudly and long as he stormed back to the same bar where he repeated the ritual of two cachaças to open the account followed by a bottle of beer.
He finally staggered back to the pousada in a stupor expecting Tanja to have finally returned. He was livid when he found their room still in darkness and cursed her anew. He was in no condition to drink anymore and contemplated his options. It would be too cold to curl up on the sands for the night and he was too drunk to go back to bar. Nevertheless, his impatience wouldn’t allow him to simply sit there waiting. Finally, he lurched off, destination unknown and launched himself down the footpath almost colliding with the returning Tanja.
“I’m so sorry, Kris,” she said apologetically as Kris simply glared at her. “I didn’t know he was going to leave you there, honest! I really am so sorry.”
Kris said nothing, just looked daggers at her as she unlocked their room. Inside the room, he simply prepared himself for bed in complete silence. Tanja really did feel bad about Júlio just leaving him waiting on the beach for who knows how long, but doubly so because she had the key with her and Kris had been doubly excluded and respected his silence.