We spent just 2 days in the city of Arapiraca with Everaldo and Mary and apart from a quick tour on our first night there didn’t get to see much of the place.
Arapiraca is not a tourist destination by any stretch of the imagination. Founded in 1924 it is the second largest city Alagoas state. Some 140 km inland from the coast it is apparently known for its tobacco growing, although on our drive from São Miguel we saw miles and miles of sugar cane, but little evidence of tobacco. The countryside is suprisingly flat and green, although the further inland you go the drier it gets, and rivers have gouged valleys into the plateau adding slight deviations to otherwise pretty straight roads.
Once we’d arrived on Sunday evening and dropped our bags off we had a quick drive around Arapiraca in search of a bank for Mary but had a drive around the main attraction which is a municipal park on ground which used to be occupied by a favela. It is now a kilometre or more long park with a fairground at one end and was obviously popular with everyone. Everaldo was very enthusiastic about it telling us it was the best such park in Alagoas or even Brasil.
The following day, Monday 11 Feburary, I suggested going to visit the ‘park’ and just got a look which said ‘only mad dogs and englishmen go out in the midday sun’! Instead we went to an air-conditioned shopping centre! That evening we hsd dinner in Dona Branca’s restaurant which is bang next door to our hosts’ house.
On Tuesday Mary drove us up to Palmiras dos Indios, a slightly smaller city, an hour further into the interior to meet with more of Valeria’s cousins. The families here are quite large; Everaldo has 10 siblings and 40 plus cousins – not so much a family tree but a forest! And the term ‘cousin’ includes almost any relation no matter how distant! Valeria’s dad was from around here and basically there are lots of cousins.
On the way we stopped off at a plot of land Everaldo owns a short way out of Arapiraca. Although Tobacco country, there is a ‘cowboy culture’ here; Everaldo keeps some horses and a few cattle on the land and holds local rodeos there. The photos make it all look very exciting, trying to drag cows around by their tails from horse-back!
We stayed in Palmiros for the afternoon and had a fantastic early dinner in the Bom Cafe; a really good, family run restaurant, owned by ….. another of Valeria’s cousins. It’s menu is all local dishes, but as Palmiras is even further from the tourist trail than Arapiraca this is hardly surprising! Leaving the restaurant we saw three guys riding 2 horses and a bull along the road just to emphasise how far off the trail.
Very few Brazilian cities are photogenic and Arapiraca and Palmiras are no exception, hence the lack of photos. Having said that I regret not being able to look around more, although we have an invitation to return, so perhaps next time.
But, on Wednesday morning we were up early to get an 8 am bus from Arapiraca to Recife. The bus was a scheduled service from São Paulo to Natal in Rio Grande do Norte. The whole journey is 3000 km which takes a couple of days to complete. The coaches are big air conditioned ones with sleeper seats and the costs are a fraction of flying! Our leg was only 350 km but still took 7 hours including scheduled stops and Brasilian roads. The high light was a lunch stop at a road side restaurant in the town of Panelas, in English that translates to Pans! With not a lot to do for 7 hours I tried taking photos. The following were snatched through the bus window hence the lack of clarity.
We finally arrived at the bus station in Recife by 5 and still had a 20 minute Uber ride to our next stop over as guests of another one of Valeria’ cousins, Helio and his wife Marina.