My birthday began with a 6am wake up alarm and by 8am Sophie and I were aboard a bus headed to Fortaleza – a mere ten hours away.
Brazilian bus riding is a fairly pleasant experience as it goes.
The roads may be a little more bumpy than in Britain, but the scenery is awesome – you don’t have to gaze for long to spot a large bird flying in the forest canopy or see a meandering river as you cross a rickety bridge.
Sadly even the most spectacular scenery gets repetitive after a few hours and I pop my headphones on to absorb my Portuguese audio lessons, which involves listening to phrases and repeating aloud.
I begin to mumble words to myself. Sophie serves up her I-don’t-know-you look and the Brazilians unfortunate enough to share a bus with me stare in bewilderment.
But ten hours is a long time and I’ve done enough long journeys now not to care what anyone thinks.
Finally we arrive in Fortaleza, a sprawling urban settlement on the coast that is capital of the Brazilian state of Ceará and the fifth largest city in the country.
A taxi drops us off at the cheapest but best hostel in town (according to our guidebook) and after a shower and a change into our finest clobber – Sophie looks beautiful, I look less dirty – we are off to celebrate my birthday.
The seafront stretches for miles and is lined by high rise hotels – this is clearly another tourist hotspot for Brazilians.
We wind up at a restaurant that has been recommended and toast the day with a caipirinha and several beers.
We stray from our usual daily budgetary restrictions to splash out on a steak.
Then, when a waiter comes round with a bowl of something as a starter, we are intrigued and so end up trying oysters with lemon, chilli and salt…though I don’t think either of us will be choosing them again!
After dinner we wander to the end of a pier, where we lie down to relax by the water. We dangle our feet over the edge before we are rudely interrupted by a man who declares he is a musician. I tell him we are fine thank you, we don’t want a song. He then asks for money.
I realise we are totally isolated in the darkness. There is nobody within half a kilometre. He starts swearing at us and demanding money.
“Let’s go,” I say to Sophie.
Fortunately, he doesn’t follow and we manage to make it back to the lights of the beach.
The Piratas (Pirates) club is a few hundred metres further along. It is famed for hosting the ‘best’ Monday night forró dance party in the country.
On stage a group of semi-clad men dressed as pirates are dancing energetically. On the floor the crowd is going wild.
Buying a drink is a convoluted process, but one that seems fairly common at Brazilian nightclubs.
First you have to queue to buy a drink ticket from a counter, then you take your ticket to a bar where you queue up before finally hand it over in return for a drink. I much prefer the British scrum system.
After demolishing a fairly repulsive cocktail, we join the throng who are boogieing away on the dancefloor to a medley of Brazilian beats…
Needless to say the next day is more or less wiped out… I’m 33 now, can’t be doing this anymore!