I find myself in a one-space apartment a half hour away from downtown Florianópolis. An apartment owned by a 21 year-old university student named Fernando, a local, whom I’ve met online through Couchsurfing. I have been staying with him for the past 5 days. Before this, I spent two weeks at the beach. White sand, blue sky, and a pristine sea, with medium-sized waves. The first beach I’ve visited in more than 10 years, and it had to be Brazilian. A nice change from the beaches of Argentina, where I was born. I don’t want to put argentinian beaches down, but come on, they don’t compare with what Brazil has to offer.
Barra do Lagoa. That was the name of my home for the duration of two weeks. No, I wasn’t staying at a hostel. The first day me and my travel partner got there we looked everywhere for a cheap hostel to stay in. None were available. No, there were plenty of hostels, just no cheap ones. After a few hours of looking around without any success, I was set on setting up camp behind a parking lot in front of a river. Fuck hostels. Fuck paying for a place to sleep. Not my style. Not yet, anyhow. The two of us agreed that was the better option. So, having decided on a place to sleep for our first night in this place, we went to a nearby market to buy a beer to cool off from the hostile heat and maybe eat a fruit or two. Yes, the beer went first on our list of priorities. When we got to the market, we were happy to found that the beers were quite cheap. We drank the beers and ate a bag of peanuts that I bought from a friendly Verdureira owned by an argentine man. After the bag was emptied and the beers drank right in front of the store, we were just about to head out to the beach when a bearded blond guy with short braids comes up to my travel partner and says, “Hey, do I know you from somewhere?” Looks were shared between the two, and after about ten seconds, both of them decided that yes, they in fact knew each other from Córdoba, Argentina. Their encounter was brief but enough to mark a memory. And here they were, more than 2000km away from their first encounter, life brought them together and created an opportunity for a re-encounter, which hopefully would turn out to be a positive one.
I laughed at the curiosity of such a re-encounter, even though I’ve become accostumed to them, given that the Magic of the Road often proves that the world, as big as it is, can appear to be rather small. The blond guy approached us for a favor. He was entering the store to buy flour, and had a faithful friend with him. Picho, a small dog, which followed his every step. “Can you look after my dog for a little bit while I enter the store? I don’t want him to come in.” Yes, indeed. As a dog lover, I took this opportunity with much pleasure. Picho proved to be a small challenge. He was eager to get inside the store and join his companion. But a few scraches on his back and head made him happy to stay put with me. After about ten minutes, the blond guy came out and thanked us for the favor, then started to make small talk. I happily obliged, and took the opportunity to ask him where he was staying, since he’s not your typical tourist, but rather a ragged traveller like myself.
“Are you staying in a hostel?” I ask. He giggles. “No, man. Not even close. I’m staying in the woods, man.” “The woods?” “Yes. I set up camp there with a few friends.” My eyes turned suddenly wide with curiosity and excitement. “Really? Wow! Can we camp over there, too?” I asked straight away. “Yeah, of course, man! I am about to fill a few bottles of water but you can come with me and I’ll show you the place.” And just like that, we forgot about the parking lot, and eagerly followed the blond guy and his small companion to fill the water bottles and show us to our new home, The Woods.
A few blocks in, and I remembered I needed to buy tobacco. I asked the blond guy, whose name was Fede, where could I buy a cheap bag of tobacco. He says he knows a place, although it’s not exactly cheap. I’m not surprised, since Barra do Lagoa is a super touristic place, where families of four and successful 30 year-olds go to spend two weeks taking selfies at the beach. I follow Fede to the store, and found out that yes, the tobacco was in fact expensive. Five reais for a tobacco bag of 30g. Back in Uruguaiana I paid 50 cents reais for a 27g bag. It pained me to buy it but, a vice is a vice. Whatever. It’s just money. Along with the tobacco I buy a pack of rolling papers, and roll a cigarrete as soon as I leave the store. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Fede did, too, and I was happy to share it with him. Off we went to fill those water bottles. With the bottles full, and our bodies hydrated, we followed Fede to what would turn out to be our home for the next two weeks. We arrive at the beach with our backpacks and water bottles, zig-zagging between restaurant workers, small children making sand castles, couples taking photos, women sun-bathing, and old men playing a game of Tejo. We walked, and walked, and walked, all the while Fede kept reassuring us that we were almost there. After what seemed to be an hour of walking, we found ourselves at a remote part of the beach, away from the restaurants and thus, away from people. That was a relief. You can’t imagine the headache that is a beach filled to the brim with people, and noise, and distractions. Not good at all. We were happy to be there, and we followed Fede to the entrance of The Woods.
The place was beautiful. It was a Pine woods, and it was perfect for camping. The ground was soft and dry. The pines shadowed the entire place and made a perfect cover for the hostile sun. There were only about 5 or 6 tents there, and Fede introduced us to his group. First off, there was Felipe, a Brazilian who didn’t spoke a word of Spanish, but still managed to win you over with his smile and friendly behaviour. El Gitano, as he was called; a braided argentine from Mendoza. A Jack Sparrow look-alike who took pride in his pirate-like behaviours. Then, there was Mati. Or ‘El Gringo’, as he was called. You can imagine why. All ragged travellers. All friendly people. We were welcomed with open arms, and set our tents up at a lovely spot near them. We were happy to be there, and happy to once again fall into the arms of what I like to call “The Magic of Travelling.”
It was a good day.
Fede and his companion, Picho.