Olivenca is a tiny beach town about 14km outside of Ilheus on the East coast of Brazil. We spent a night there as a quiet stopover on the way up to Carnaval in Salvador. We figured it would be a good way to split up the bus ride: pick a place on the coast half way up, spend a day, and then continue north! The bus to get to Ilheus was only 16 hours, which was nothing compared to previous bus times. It was still quite a haul, but Adam chimed in with “nothing will beat the 22 hour one we were on before!” True…
Just to GET to the rodovaria (bus terminal) took 2 hours. We managed to perfectly time our trip to coincide with Rio rush hour and crawled through the city on the sweltering bus. Might I mention that this bus did NOT like the idea of first gear. Every time we slowed to a stop and then started up again the bus would lurch forward and literally send people bouncing out of their seats. Real fun. By the time we got to our long distance bus, I was already over the idea of sitting down; nonetheless, we loaded up and set out.
The lonely planet guide told us the trip should be 15 hours, but the sign at the front of the bus said “Ilheus 12:30,” which gave us about 16 and a half hours: probably a more realistic end time considering South America’s strict policies on “being on time”. It was 9am when the bus stopped for breakfast. Neither Adam nor I ate anything substantial because we were scheduled to arrive in a couple hours. We had a fruit cup and a mini sandwich in our bags and figured we’d grab a big lunch when we arrived. After killing 4 hours of reading and chatting, we started getting peckish. It was 1:00pm so we had to be arriving soon… Not the case.
At 3:00 we stopped again and both of us rushed off the bus to eat any food possible at the bus station. There was no sign in the place that indicated where the hell we were, and any road signs on the hwy kept pointing towards Salvador. Guess there’s nothing else to do but wait.
At 5:00pm I had a moment where I couldn’t actually remember any part of my life where I HADN’T been on a bus. It’s one thing to be told you have a 20-hour bus ride ahead of you. You prepare, mentally or otherwise, you aren’t worried about where you are or why you haven’t stopped yet. HOWEVER, when the sign says 12:30, and it’s now 5:00 you start to go very loopy. Adam was nearly convinced we were going to Salvador instead of Ilheus. Then we got very concerned that perhaps the sign meant 12:30AM and we had to spend another 7 hours on the bus! I remember looking out the window and feeling my sanity slip. The scenery was becoming denser, the jungle more tropical, and the whole thing felt like a series on “Planet Earth”. All of my thoughts were strange narrations in a David Attenborough voice. “On the surface, the Amazon Rainforest is peaceful, but under the canopy of leaves there are species unimaginable to the human mind; flora and fauna are in abundance in this vastly diverse ecosystem…” For the next 45 minutes every word that came out of my mouth was in a soft, manly, British accent… I need more sleep.
2 and a half hours later I turn to Adam. “guess your theory on ‘nothing can beat our 22 hour bus ride’ was wrong”. We had been on the bus for 23 hours. It’s dark. Our hopes of lying on the beach all afternoon were shattered.
Finally our bus pulls in to the Ilheus station and I almost cry. Screw getting on a city bus to Olivenca, we’re taking a cab. We DO manage to book a bus to Salvador (thank God), and a $40 cab ride later we pull up to a large bungalow on a few acres of land that will be our home for the next 36 hours. The couple who check us in don’t speak a WORD of English, and look a little put off that neither Adam and I “fala Portuguese”, but they are sweet, show us to our room, give us a key and indicate they are going to bed. We head into town to grab dinner and call it a night by 11:00. Not exactly how I anticipated my day going.
The next morning we woke up and realized we were the only people staying at this giant hostel. The lady who ran it woke up bright and early and had a buffet breakfast made for us in the dining hall. Because this was our lazy day, we just sat there, ate food, drank a whole thermos of coffee and chatted for hours about nothing. Then down to the beach! We found this big area right on the beach that had tables and umbrellas all the way down to the water; people were everywhere, even in such a small town, and they had a large group of young girls performing traditional Brazilian dances on stage. So we set up camp, had a caipirinha and watched the performances.
After a couple hours and some lunch we walked back through town. The whole thing was very quaint, with cobble stone streets, little restaurants on either side and only a couple blocks squared to make up the whole town. We stopped in at an Internet cafe to check emails, and sadly heard some bad news. Adam’s grandfather, at age 90, had passed away peacefully the day before. Although this wasn’t sudden news, it made for a sad afternoon for both of us. So my condolences to the Klauwers’ family; I wish you all the best during this hard time. From that point on, we didn’t feel like doing anything. We went back to our pousada, listened to some music, played a couple games of pool and reminisced about our grandparents. It turned into an unexpectedly nice afternoon. We played pool all through the afternoon, and then again at the restaurant for dinner. Finally it was off to bed early, so we could be up for the bus at 7am and head towards Carnaval!