The World According to Herr Willie: Ilha de Marajó9 28 Share Tweet
Brazil is an awesome country for traveling. There’s so much to explore, each place very different from one another. It will definitely take a stretch of trips just to get to know this this South American pearl. I finished my copa tour last year in Marajó, the island of bulls—it just might be an eternal highlight for me.
To reach Marajó, you will most likely have to get to Belém first, the metropolis of the north. From there, a few ferries leave for various directions in the Amazon region. But you have to pay close attention to the schedule because not all ferries go everywhere, everyday, and if you miss the last ferry, you will be stuck there for some time.
The ferry ride to Marajó takes around three hours, and it’s quite interesting. It’s a lovely ride where you can meet new people and watch the sun go down on the Amazon River. Marajó’s land area measures 40,000 square kilometers. It’s almost as big as Switzerland and is by far the largest island of Brazil. But only 250,000 people live there, which gives a lot of space for fauna and flora.
Marajó has just a few places you can settle in. We stayed at the lovely Pousada Ventania in Joanes, a tiny village located directly on the beach. I had a brief e-mail exchange with Edinea, who runs the place. And that was it: just a brief confirmation, nothing more.
Once there, you will see buses and taxis heading to various places in the island. As it was pitch black at night, it seemed a bit scary. We were the last guys to board the bus, but the driver pretty much drove us straight to the place we wanted to go to.
The guesthouse was located on top of a little cliff about 20 seconds away from the beach. The rates there were some of the lowest we’ve had on our whole trip. Every room had a hammock in the terrace, quite a cute commodity in Brazil. It’s such a charming place with a beach hut restaurant at the foot of the cliff. We became regular guests at the million star buffet and became pros in ordering camarão with a hint of lemon.
The amazing thing with the island is that its shore is engulfed by Amazon water. It is fresh and warm, but it also has the waters of Atlantic Ocean. And as I am known as a glorious bath-taker, this is just a dealmaker for me. The fresh and salty water don’t mix and if you check satellite pictures of Marajó, you will see how the different colored waters are separate from each other like a drop of oil in a bowl of jelly.
Marajó is considered the biggest river island in the world.
But, of course, it’s the people of the island that make Marajó such a glorious place. I have never shot so many portraits of unknown people as I did at that very beach. I just walked up and down and always saw very interesting people. I asked them if I could take their photo and they all kind of liked for me to shoot them. They were such amazingly friendly and interesting folks, always raising their thumbs and letting me do what I desire most: taking pictures.
I was on fire, maybe it’s because there were only a few days left until my departure from Brazil. There’s nothing to lose, but so much to gain.
Marajó is known for its population of buffaloes, and that comes with a very peculiar legend: in 1920, a ship from Asia was wrecked around Marajó. A small herd of buffaloes saved themselves and swam to the shore. They survived and started a population, the number of which now is more than three million!
Buffaloes are used to pull carriages so you would meet them regularly on the streets or on the beach. But they are also used by the police, and in producing meat and leather. Marajó is known in all of Brazil for its buffalo cheese and mozzarella.
On the very day of our departure, I was alarmed because there were gunshots and a mass of people on the beach. It turned out that a kind of race was being held on the beach, and hundreds of spectators came to watch. We went down to join the crowd. Kids and girls were riding on bulls; it was a great atmosphere.
I was super excited and stalked one of the buffalo keepers to be at the right spot in the right moment to get my shots. I was very happy with how they all turned out. They capture the intensity of the moment.
Just a few days earlier then, the German football squad put their hands on the World Cup trophy. It’s a huge thing especially after the defeat of the Brazilian team in the semi-final. In a way, there was this air of fame that lingered around us, that we are world champions, too. During the matches I always wore a tri-color fisherman’s hat, which I believe brought us luck. But let’s face it: technically, it was that hat that made die Mannschaft* world champion. Shortly after our arrival in Marajó, the news of German tourists arriving spread. The lifeguards especially took a big interest in us.
A lifeguard named Willian really wanted to have my fisherman’s hat, so I offered to trade it with his Baywatch cap. He agreed, but asked me not to wear it on Brazilian beaches. I found no problem with it. I thought my hat had done its job already—it ought to stay in Brazil. The next day, Willian’s beautiful wife was wearing the tri-color hat with such pride, I’m sure this spirit will surely carry the selecão* to the next title.
When I did my research for the trip, I read that there is an aerotaxi service to Belém and back. I was instantly enchanted by the idea. I mean, it’s not all the time that you can get a lift with a plane!
One of the first things I did when I arrived was to get this organized. We kind of got in trouble, money-wise, though. If I remember correctly, we were asked for roughly 1,500 reais* for the flight (I think it’s cheaper normally). We were running low on cash and still had to pay for our stay at the Pousada.
So the next day, we rented a motorcycle to head over to Salvaterra, another little island next to Marajó, because there are ATMs there. But even there we didn’t get enough cash because it was the weekend, and the machine was running low on cash. So Edinea proposed that I pay her half of our expenses when we return home. She made this aerial adventure possible! Muito amor para ela!*
Our pilot, Comandante Ronaldo, stuffed all our bags into this lightweight plane which had seats for four people, even tall Germans. I had the privilege of being seated next to the pilot. The start was very rough; there were obviously more abrupt movements with smaller planes. You can feel the effect of the wind much more, but it also makes you feel close to the clouds; it seems you can really touch them.
We made a quick turn to the beach and the crowd below was cheering and waving to us—at least, that was what I imagined. I think that for them, it’s special when someone takes the aerotaxi which is more luxurious than the ferry ride. Anyway, it suddenly began to rain, and the raindrops fell on the cockpit window like bullets. It was fun. Ronaldo flew above the skyscrapers of Belém and landed us safely on the little airport.
So that wraps it up. I had been to Marajó for just about three to four days, but I found that it captured so much of what I love about traveling: stumbling into uncertainty, improvisation, and meeting a bunch of great people. The spirit of the island is amazing, and I don’t even want to start talking about the great weather. During this trip, I had little expectations about Marajó but it exceeded expectations. Eu sou certo, eu retornarei à ilha de Marajó.
*die Mannschaft: a nickname of the German national football team
*selecão: a nickname of the Brazilian national football team
*reais: the currency of Brazil (real)
*"Muito amor para ela!: “Much love to her!” (via Google Translate)
*"Eu sou certo, eu retornarei à ilha de Marajó.": “I am sure, I will return to the island of Marajó.” (via Google Translate)
Read more of Willie Schumann’s (@wil6ka) travel stories on The World According to Herr Willie.
written by wil6ka on 2015-11-08 #places #brazil #island #ferry #water #trip #plane #smiles #faces #location #friends #local #south-america #amazon #copa #pousada #marajo #the-world-according-to-herr-willie