Travel Writing awards Entry
By Si Guevara-Souter
There comes a time in every traveller’s trip where it all just makes sense.
Two nights prior I had attended a Brazilian beach party voluntarily dressed as a lady. A party where I’d been threatened by a hand signalling a gun, by a female admirer who’s intimate invite I had turned down. The walk home had been spent fighting off the advances of toned Brazilian men following me like I was a gay Pied Piper. Finally coming to settle next to my travel companion on a double mattress, surrounded by what appeared to be an annual bug festival, I had two moments of rational thinking.
1) What the hell where these bugs? – They must be the dimmest insects on the planet. All they do is fly high speed into solid brick walls, land upside down on the floor fighting for ten minutes, then die… idiots.
2) What the hell am I doing to myself? – Night after night of partying and living in squalor is sending me insane.
It was then that I decided to take a more detoxed look at my surroundings and regain full control over the functioning of my mind. A plan that would surely have been a struggle if it wasn’t for Praia Da Pipa, one hours drive south of Natal on the East coast of North Brazil. A destination filled with a multitude of beaches stretching in each direction. Perhaps most recognisably of all Golfinho Bay, where tourists line the golden sands, drinking Caipirinha’s from the beach restaurants and waiting for the chance to swim freely with dolphins. My first experience can only be described as a tease. Every time I was out of the water you could clearly see the shiny grey suits of the main attraction emerge through the waters surface, but when I tried joining them they’d go. It was like one of those children’s games where the monsters’ heads keep popping up and you have to whack them with a rubber mallet… except I had no intention of doing that… I couldn’t get close enough for a start. I even contemplated attempting handstands and other acrobatics just to tempt them to play.
After my brief flirting with the ‘playing hard to get’ Dolphins I felt a greater acquaintance with paradise than I’d ever felt before, yet that was just the opening. On leaving the hotel early the next day I turned left, nudged by the mild tourist activity to find a space of my own. After twenty minutes I reached the corner of the bay and clambered over a cluster of meandering rocks barely touched by the hands of the sea. Then there it was, my own exclusive beach; totally secluded with cliffs blocking out the sound and sight of civilisation, and those silver suits glistening in the water. I raced in to join in their jesting and this time was successful. I got so close I could look them in their blank dark eyes and hear their breathing. There was even a mother and child performing synchronised effortless jumps whilst hardly disturbing the surface. It lasted all of ten minutes but I remained there for the remainder of the day, comforted by the tranquillity of my own thoughts.
At 8.30am the following day I arrived for a further rendezvous with flipper et al – they stood me up. I had a swim regardless, with the sea and bay pretty much to myself. Then the heavens opened and god sprinkled me with cloud residue quite heavily. But I don’t think it was in a vulgar, mocking way. I could feel the love and warmth absorbing into my skin through his sky deposit… it was almost magical. It was raining so hard that the drops were bouncing back into my face from the surface of the sea, and all around me looked grey and mystical. Steam grew from the sea and I could see a ship in the distance. I began hoping it was a pirate ship and was imagining it capturing me and leading me onto a whole new exciting adventure. But then reality slapped me on the eyeballs and I found myself floating around cleverly rejoicing, “I’m swimming in the rain, just swimming in the rain.” I bounced back to the hotel singing a collection of 60’s classics at a comfortably loud volume. Immersed in my surroundings and alone with my thoughts, I was more content than I’d been travelling thus far. I contemplated the comparison of this and my friends and family back home, in the 9-5 rat race, or living their dreams through a 21” Colour TV. Even if they weren’t doing either of the former they couldn’t top this. I may not have a career, house, car or steady income but I was closer to the “real World” than any of them. It all made sense – I’ll miss my beach when time comes calling, but I’ve got postcards of the exact spot it all used to happen… one in typical card format, and the other secured safely in my memory. But my mourning was premature, as Praia De Pipa’s clock was on my side.
I woke up to the sound of waves caressing the beach lovingly, with only a slightly flailing net separating myself and nature’s glorious morning elements. It was my turn in the enviable top bedroom of our beachside hotel. I sat on the high open balcony watching kids swimming in the calm blue sea and local Brazilian men tinkering with their boats. I lit up a cigarette as Pink Floyd bellowed out ´Money´ from the bar below, and blew smoke into the faces of those constantly criticising my travel addiction… this was paradise… paradise like you can’t get back in England, or anywhere else for that matter. “Pissing money up the wall” my ***… even dad couldn’t fail to appreciate this?