The morning rains have ended and we’re meeting Herbert, a German sailor who is joining us for a trip to Ribeira. Waiting on the mud bank for our water taxi to arrive, I scrape the tendrils of hair from my face. My clothes stick to my body like cling film. We climb aboard an open wooden canoe style boat. There are no other passengers. We push off immediately.
The river races in a torrent, logs and rubbish rush past. Rounding Ihla Do Stuart in the river Paraiba, Brazil, we run aground. Our pilot raises the outboard motor, revs it up and digs through the mud. Between the mangroves, huge red crabs scuttle for shelter in the swamp fleeing in the motion of a Mexican wave as they detect our presence. We land on Ribeira.
There are huts and houses dotted along the main track, every second building is a shop of sorts. Trees bearing star fruit, avocados, bananas, coconuts, limes and pomegranates line the muddy lanes. The Thong Bush, unique to Brazil, nestles under an Avocado tree. A dozen pairs of panties hang out to dry. Hundreds of chickens run amok.
Things you see when taking a Water Taxi Brazil
It’s Sunday and the only sign of human life is in a bar.
We stop for a beer and some lunch. We sit outside on some grubby white plastic chairs in the shade of a tree next to a pool table with torn and faded green baize. There is nothing left to eat. I order a second beer, forgetting that I may need to use the ‘facilities’.
“I have to use the loo, so don’t look.” I tell my pals as I can see there is no door for the toilet. Making my way around the side, I see the overflowing bucket and a swarm of flies. My flesh crawls and hairs prickle my entire body.
The lady who appears to be the owner comes running from the back of the building and gestures frantically for me to move away! I breathe a sigh of relief when she says, “…casa.” Casa is the only word I understand! She moves quickly despite her years and beckons me inside. I Kick off my flip-flops and follow her through the pristine house to the bathroom. The toilet won’t flush, but there’s a barrel of water and a dented tin scoop which I can use. The blue porcelain wash basin has hot and cold taps. Nothing comes out, so I scoop another pot of water. It splashes on my bare feet – there is no plumbing.
Relieved, I rejoin my friends back at the table, I take another swig of beer. A man on a motorbike pulls up. In one hand he holds a live chicken with its legs trussed and a massive bunch of bananas in the other. He places the chicken and the bananas on the ground he enters the bar.
“Cock-a-doodle-doo!” crows a rooster upon seeing the helpless hen clucking and wriggling next to the bananas.
He has ‘his way’ with her. Feathers and dust fly everywhere and the cockerel simply struts off continuing on his merry way. Barely five minutes elapse before bananas, chicken and rider are reunited and they zoom off into the distance never to be seen again.
At the river’s edge, a water taxi with the words 100% Jesus, painted on the side awaits. There is a horse, a motorbike, a chicken and two passengers onboard. We climb in. The boat settles a little lower.