THE LIFE AND TIMES

As a traveller, you could take or leave life at a whim. One day you're stalking Sugar Loaf Mountain, the next you're in the world's largest soccer stadium, the Maracana ( a capacity of nearly two hundred thousand) watching Zico score a hat-trick before a "disappointing" crowd of just ninety thousand people. On another day, I'd bumped into Rob, an ex-travelling companion from my escapades in Southern Chile, and we'd spent a day touristing together. Then you're on a bus heading north towards Bahia.

I have no real destination other than north. But after some time on the bus we detour through a small coastal town and offload some passengers. The central square where the bus stops is really pretty, with lush gardens surrounded by buildings of pure whitewashed walls. An old man sits on the verandah of the shop next to where we are with almost snobbish disregard at our landing. The beach below us has a huge swell breaking in tube form and white sanded shores to suit. Take a chance, Pete. Carnival in a small town by the sea.

Its Me

By the Ocean is my place to be
ocean calms, soothes and totally free
Its me, that rolling foam
boiling, afloat and inner strength
the freedom to roam

This pool of life that's there
and the virgin that is the air
it's rare, they tear at my being
to return to what I am
only then will I start seeing

Aghast, I look around
there are others who are bound
part of a crowd, to gather, soak and swirl
sometimes near but in the distance
my focus at a girl

But only momentary
salted eyes awash, squinting and glaring
they're heavy, a warmth in my eyelids
remembering happy days playing in the backyard
deserted thoughts and just a kid.

The thud, the total power of her surge
she's washed up like a sea urchin
it's urgent, yet time seems stilted
standing there sinking below ground
ankles surfaced and wet

A gull whispers by
secret messages telling me why
a sigh, all thoughts slowly melt away
the rhythm of this life
day by day, a warming ray

Time notches wave by wave
I've got it now, no longer a slave
I waver, softness to intensity
that is the wave and the wash
gnawing away at the city.

Then the moment is gone!

Tickets are only valid for their date and destination I'm told, but I'm inspired to risk. I'm getting off here, I don't know the name of the town. I don't even know if they have a hotel. But I'm reaching up to the man who is removing my pack from the roof luggage rack and getting my pack.

There is method in my madrigal. A hotel is found and I'm off to do some bodysurfing. Climbing down a short rock face of smoothly weather beaten grey stone. My body springing to life and a sprint, as soon as my feet touch the sand. At my pre-destined finishing line, I fall to the hot white sand and lay there, staring out to the thunderous waves offshore. I'm looking for rips or undertows, but the colour of the water tells me that it is quite deep where the surf is. I'm happy to see a fellow bodysurfer out there.

"Just one more" seems excessive, even hedonistic. Hands engraved with the excesses of salt water and a body weak but relaxed by swimming. I vow to buy a pair of flippers as I know that those waves I had missed would easily fall to prey with that extra boost of flipper-power. Such a vow leads me to take a regional bus to a city an hour's ride away, buy my flippers, and return to re-indulge in a lifestyle unbeknown to mere mortals.

I'd met Morinho at a café the night before and we'd talked. He was a reporter with the biggest newspaper in Rio, and taking his carnival holiday in "his" small seaside holiday town. He owned a small seaside house and had offered me to stay there if I wanted.

Simplicity was his key. Thin mat on the floor, candle power for lights, and the most extravagant item by miles being an electric blender in the kitchen. And so began a patterned lifestyle for a week. Arise at around nine, go to the beach for two or three hours of body-pounding magic. Return via the market, with a bag of fresh tropical fruits and a litre of milk. Combine fruits, milk and coconut milk in the blender to produce liquid bliss. Consume the bliss whilst lying on the balcony and catching some much needed warmth. Eventually this would lead to the all-encompassing horizontal position and an afternoon siesta. Helping to pass the intense heat of the early afternoon. At around three or four I would arise and, almost in a trance-like manner, walk barefoot the four blocks back to the beach. If the waves were still crunching I'd bodysurf, if not, I'd go for long walks, collecting shells or exploring nearby villages. My newly browned skin meant that I could silently masquerade as a Brazilian.

A sunset, an evening meal at the restaurant at the far end of the central plaza, and sleep of such quality that has never since been compared to.

Every day seemed the same. Patterned and aligned towards total relaxation and healthy living. The total indulgence.