Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Brazil Places: Florianopolis

Florianopolis. Forget it. You haven't come to the island to check out the city so don't waste any time. Get yourself to the beaches, quickly. Flops is a great place to have a car, even if you can only afford a day's rent. The west coast is of limited interest and the north, as you may have seen from the plane, is touristy, think almost a Costa Del Sol for Argentineans and Brazilians. Only worth a quick look. In the north-east, Moçambique is the island's biggest beach. Dunes at the back mean there is no development until the last mile. The surf here has the odd tube to play in. I saw real surfers catching them. This is the place to come for a tranquil afternoon in the sun. And hopefully your car will still have all its windows when you return to it.Mole and Galheta are smaller and far busier, but still beautiful and framed by hills. Both are great surf spots with Galheta the best place on the island to learn due to the regular breaks and flattest beach. This means it is also the hardest sand and so is the best one for running along the edge of the sea. Galheta is also the island's nudist beach. Combing the two is not recommended. Also, don't go there in the hope of seeing the next Gisele in the buff. As usual with these places, the only people adhering to the 'rules' are middle-aged men parading up and down alone, regularly adjusting their bits (OK, you try not to look then. It's like a magnet for your eyes, almost impossible, at least for the first few laps.)

This beach is also frequented by the Dons of the local Pink Mafia who are, as mafia dons should be, regularly disappearing - into the dunes. Perhaps it's because of the amount of beer they drink. Whatever, these are great incentives to keep running or paddling back out.If none of that floats your boat, you can parasail onto Mole from the headland; kitesurf on the lagoa; sandboard in the stunning dunes behind Joaquina; or bodysurf in the sea there if you're really louco.

All this pre-supposes that you aren't going to be typical of the type of Brasileiros who have moved to Flops and stayed. They will tell you with a straight face that the island has a special energy, nodding zealously. The amount of new age shops selling semi-precious stones (rocks to you and me) and people selling earrings made of feathers on the streets bear this out. The island may have energy but these people don't for obvious reasons. Perhaps this is why walking isn't the most recommended activity here. The trails can go to some amazing places like the waterfall at Lagoa de Peri in the south, or the secluded beach at Lagoinha do Leste. But then they stop, sometimes in the middle of nowhere. It's like the people set off on a big walk, couldn't be bothered, and turned back for the car and another smoke. There are hundreds of individual trails but they're never co-ordinated, never sign-posted, and you need a local to point them out to you. Even if they do have signs, you may find a fenced condominium with razor-wire protecting it has been built across your path with no detour included. You may have to go all the way back, miles through the dunes in the dark, to find a different path. Yes, it happened.

But even allowing for this, there are still some sights to be seen on the gentler walks. I spent hours watching a baby seal on a deserted beach, from as close as it would allow. Turtles swim in the rivers and breed on the beaches. A penguin spends his winter holidays in the lagoa, fishing and snorkelling at the feet of the humans where the water is only a foot deep. You can also see dolphins and whales from the island sometimes.Floripa isn't the best place to find work, but it's a great place to not work, which is how it should be. Who wants to work 12 hours a day when you can go to the beach instead? If it wasn't lazy and laidback, everybody would move there from Sampa and ruin the beauty of the place. Go there for a holiday but go soon. More gringoes are found there every year. The secret is out.

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