February 11, 2007
I arrived in Sao Luis, a city of nearly one million, early this morning. I took a city bus to the historical center, where supposedly all of the backpackers would be, and started looking for somewhere to stay. I ended up at a place owned by a guy named Simiao, yet another friendly Brazilian who doesn't speak a word of English. I got a bed in the dorm room, but I was the only occupant. That was a good thing because of the extra space and privacy, but I also didn't get to meet anyone other than the handful of Brazilian men who were also guests at the hotel. Every town I go to seems to be devoid of tourists.
Being a Sunday, all of the shops were closed and the streets were deserted. That being the case, I decided to do as the Romans do when in Brazil and head for the beach. Simiao told me which bus to take to get to Calhau, the best beach in town. The bus took me over a big bridge to the Sao Francisco district, the affluent part of town with all the high rises.
The bus passed the Ponta d'Areia, the closest and most polluted beach, and eventually arrived at Calhau, a huge expanse of sand at over 4 KM long. It was scorching hot with a blazing sun and not a cloud in the sky all afternoon. My pale skin couldn't handle much of the sun, but the entire beach was packed with locals who were used to the heat.
The rumors of Brazilian beachwear proved to be true for the most part. Most people wore skimpy swimsuits, and a lot of them had no business doing so. The worst thing was seeing the overweight men in Speedos who at first glance looked naked because of their huge guts. People have no shame here.