A Big Paradise Island

April 8, 2007
Day 557

The Portuguese Godfather was at it again today. He loomed over me as I ate, just waiting for me to make a mistake. This time I was too freaked out to ask him for anything extra. After breakfast, we packed everything up and checked out. When I paid the Portuguese Godfather, he just took the money and gave me an evil sneer. He didn't even thank me or anything.

Our next destination was going to be Angra Dos Reis, a small city a few hours south of Rio. The only problem was that I didn't know when the buses went there, especially given that this was Easter Sunday and the schedule might be different from normal. I asked the Portuguese Godfather if he knew anything about the bus schedule, and he told me to take a taxi to the bus station if I wanted to find out. Wow, thanks for being so helpful. I asked if I could call, and he scoffed at the idea of me spending his money via the telephone. I pointed to the pay phone next to the desk and said I'd use it, but he told me he didn't know the number of the bus station. You know, they have this new invention called a “phone book" that contains all sorts of telephone numbers, and most hotel employees are more than happy to let me look a number up in it. I pressed him for more info and he said that the buses leave every fifteen minutes, clearly a ploy to get me to leave. I knew I should have asked him this stuff before paying. That was my only leverage with the guy.

We decided to take a city bus to the bus station and take our chances from there. It took forever to figure out which company had buses going to Angra Dos Reis, but eventually I found it. And the added bonus was that by the time I had the situation figured out, the next bus was only fifteen minutes away. At about the time we were supposed to leave, two buses from our company pulled up, but somehow neither of them was our bus. There was mass confusion amongst everyone waiting to go to Angra, and we ended up waiting another half hour for the correct bus to come. This stuff is quite normal in South America, and usually I don't even take enough notice of it to bother writing it down, but the inefficiency was a new experience for my parents, so it stood out more in my head.

When we got to Angra, we learned that the last ferry of the day to Ilha Grande (Big Island), our goal for the day, would be leaving in forty-five minutes. The dock was a twenty-minute walk from the bus station, so it was good timing. The walk took us past polluted beaches, an unsightly government-run oil rig, and some pretty rough looking neighborhoods. Angra wasn't the ideal place to spend a vacation, so I'm glad we made the ferry today.

The ferry ride lasted one and a half hours. Along the way, we passed many mansions and upscale housing develpments on small, secluded islands. The rich occasionally passed us in their yachts. The ferry appeared to be full of Americans, but maybe I just noticed them because they were the loudest ones. One particular group of guys eagerly told me about all the partying they had done since arriving in Brazil.

The ferry dropped us off in the small tourist town of Abraao, which was the biggest settlement on Ilha Grande. We were led to a great hotel run by a very nice lady. The place was surrounded by greenery, so it didn't have that "crowded resort" feel to it. The room had an air conditioner, cable TV, and a hammock outside, amenities I'm not used to having. Unfortunately, shortly after we settled into our room and were ready to explore the island, it started raining hard and didn't let up until late at night. The power went out for much of that time, so there wasn't much for us to do except sleep.

We went out to get dinner when the rain finally slowed and discovered that most restaurants on the island were really expensive. We ended up going to one of the cheaper places, but that was a mistake. We each ordered a plate of spaghetti, which was the restaurant's special for the night, and waited, and waited, and waited... A couple other groups of people came in after us, but got their food first. They just ordered cheeseburgers, not too complicated, but we got the special, something half the people in the restaurant were eating. How long does it took to cook a plate of pasta, anyway? The answer came an hour later when our food finally arrived with no apologies from the wait staff. My mom asked for some Parmesan cheese, but was told that it would cost extra. I yelled at the waitress saying that after waiting an hour, the least they could do was give us a little cheese. She didn't care about my logic and moved to the next table with her usual mean look on her face.

There were more issues when it came time to pay for the food. Somehow they charged us for four drinks, despite the fact that there were only three of us. It took a long time to convince the guy at the register that this didn't make sense. The other problem was that they automatically included a 10% tip in the bill. I hate this. It gives the staff no incentive to do a good job, which is obviously the case here. I told him I didn't want to pay a tip, but he said I have to pay. I told him fine, but now you have to recalculate the tip because you had to remove the drink that you overcharged me. This kind of math was way over his head, and he seemed astounded that the new tip was slightly smaller (by 10% of the drink he removed) than the original tip. He looked at the calculator and then at me like I pulled some kind of medieval magic trick on him. Customer service ain't what it used to be, even in Brazil.

The photo album for this entry is here.

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