Leaning towers of Santos

About 80 km from Sao Paulo, Santos has the biggest seaport in Latin America and it is from here that we board our transatlantic cruise.  So it made sense to spend our last few days in this area, even though we had been warned this was not the nicest tourist destination.

Santos is known for being the country’s coffee exporting capital and home of Pele, the legendary Brazilian soccer star who played most of his career here. The 100,000-plus seat stadium that dominates Santos’ skyline is regarded as much a shrine as the city’s historic Coffee Exchange, now a museum, where farmers once haggled with barons over the price of their crop.

As possibly the only foreign tourists in this city of about half a million, we enjoyed being immersed in the local culture, a little off the beaten tourist track.  We joined the many locals who headed to the beach in droves on Saturday and Sunday, although we did stand out in our beach attire.  I simply could not convince Chris to buy a speedo, the standard for all males regardless of age and physique. Contrary to common belief, not all women wore skimpy micro bikinis, in fact they were in the minority. Much to my surprise (and perhaps Chris’ disappointment), most wore rather modest bikinis.  Things might be different when we get to Rio.

Our hotel, Ibis, was ideally situated about 50 m from the beach giving us quick and easy access. The beach was long and wide, with a 5 km beachfront garden that made it in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest beachfront garden in the world.  We joined runners of all shapes and sizes for two morning runs along the firm sand at the water’s edge.  What a fabulous running route!

Setting up for the day.  Each weekend morning, vendors set up
their chairs and umbrellas along with a mini bar to serve their clients.

Packing up at the end of the day.

The beach cleared out by dusk, but as night fell, the beach was illuminated
by large flood lights; we saw people strolling along the beach
(from out hotel window) well into the night.

Taking a stroll in the early evening,
watching the cruise ships sail away into the sunset.

While walking along the beach, we noticed a strange phenomenon – many of the buildings appeared to be leaning.  At first we thought it might be an optical illusion, but on closer scrutiny, we confirmed these buildings were definitely leaning. I later learned that the problem became manifest back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and is the result of a combination of poor soil conditions and shoddy workmanship. Below a seven-meter layer of sand is a 30-40 meter deep bed of clay that doesn’t cope well with the weight of the structures. Almost 100 buildings have been affected, all of which are inhabited, and which authorities are quick to assure are completely safe.   Some speculate that if one building were to collapse, it could trigger a domino affect that could literally wipe out the beach front. It is possible to correct these structural problems but the cost is prohibitive; only one building has been repaired thus far at a cost of over half a million dollars.

We arrived in Santos with back packs full of dirty clothes; we were in desperate need of doing laundry.  While travelling for six months in South America, laundry services have been available on practically every street corner. But now, when we were in desperate need, not one could be found. There were plenty of dry cleaners around our upscale neighbourhood, but not a single laundry service.  And so we washed our clothes by hand in our hotel sink and made some makeshift clothes lines to dry them out.  Not ideal, but at least we had clean clothes before our cruise.

Today, we are boarding our ship, Costa Fortuna, and we will most likely be off line for the next three weeks.  If that cruise line sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve read about some cruise related accidents in the news recently.  The ship that went aground off the coast of Italy in January was part of Costa’s fleet as was the one that drifted for days close to the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean because a fire killed all electrical power on board.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this ship will sail without incident and we’ll make it across the pond in one piece.

Here’s our itinerary:

Mon 3/19 Santos (Brazil)
Tue 3/20 Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Wed 3/21 At Sea - -
Thu 3/22 Ilheus (Brazil)
Fri 3/23 Salvador Bahia (Brazil)
Sat 3/24 Maceio (Brazil)
Sun 3/25 Recife (Brazil)
Mon 3/26 Fortaleza (Brazil)
Tue 3/27 At Sea - -
Wed 3/28 At Sea - -
Thu 3/29 At Sea - -
Fri 3/30 At Sea - -
Sat 3/31 At Sea - -
Sun 4/1 St. Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Islands)
Mon 4/2 At Sea - -
Tue 4/3 Malaga (Spain)
Wed 4/4 At Sea - -
Thu 4/5 At Sea - -
Fri 4/6 La Valletta (Malta)
Sat 4/7 Corfu (Greece)
Sun 4/8 Dubrovnik (Croatia)
Mon 4/9 Venice (Italy)

See you in three weeks in Italy!

Category: Brazil, South America
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2 Responses
  1. Kathy says:

    Hi Christina,
    Just wanted to wish you Bon Voyage! Hope you have a quiet crossing. I look forward to reading all about it in a few weeks.

    • christina says:

      Hi Kathy,
      We’re six days into our cruise and having a very relaxing time. Weather has been fabulous – hot and sunny every day. We don’t have internet on board (currently accessing free internet in port) so won’t be posting to the blog til we get to Italy. We’re currently in Maceio, Brazil and have two more ports of call in Brazil before we start crossing the Atlantic. We have fallen in love with Brazil – the beaches are gorgeous, the food is fantastic, the people are so friendly and helpful, the scenery is beautiful. I want to learn Portuguese and then come back one day for a longer visit! Hope retirement is suiting you well.