My good friend and oft-travel-companion Gabe and I want to make a TV show called, “Late Start.” It’s a travel show, and in it we circumnavigate the globe experiencing new countries the best way we know how: getting ham-boned with the locals. For I stand by the belief that if you really want to soak in a new city or country – very often both, three cheers for geography! – you should literally soak it in. Go out and drink with the people. Avoid the white, tourist bars, avoid the sketchy, catch-a-hot-shiv bars, but find yourself a happy medium and get Rip Torn. Do this enough times and inevitably you will garner a pocket full of tales to tell your more square, land-faring friends and family back on the mainland.
But that’s just a convenient boozy shortcut, you see. There’s so much more to any country than just drinking in it. And that’s where “Late Start” really shines. Because on each episode, after a night out, our intrepid explorers then rouse themselves for a very hung-over, very painful late-start to squeeze the last goddamn drop of life out of that following day – very clearly illustrating the fact that just because you got a late-start because your may or may not have a drinking problem, is no reason you can’t achieve an awesome, authentic experience.
“Late Start” – sponsored by the Visa Mileage Plus Explorer Card. Because when you have to puke in an airport bathroom, you might as well earn miles for it!
A recent foray into Brazil would make a bully first episode.
Caipirinhas make your boy ACH blackout. I did not know this about myself. Truth be told, prior to heading to Brazil for a friend’s wedding I did not even know what a caipirinha was. But it turns out it’s Brazil’s national cocktail, a drink made of rum, lime, three of Ronaldinho’s teeth, and so much sugar that each sip gives you bitter beer face for thirty seconds straight. They are delicious. So on the night prior to the premier of “Late Start” your boy ACH sucked down about eight caipirinhas served from a cheap, street-side stall by a guy who looked like a Brazilian Ernest Hemingway. Gabe and I sat there in cheap, plastic chairs on the island of Ihla Grande, a few hours down the coast from Rio, and then an hour boat ride towards Africa, and cheered our good fortune, cheered Gabe’s upcoming wedding, cheered the victorious local soccer team at the tables next to us, cheered life, washing down each caipirinha cheer with cans of Itaipava, a cheap, watery pilsner beer that just felt right.
And then it was lights out. I’m told I was pleasant and gregarious and engaged in conversations with many new friends in many new bars that we frequented that evening but that’s all news to me. As far as I remember there was Ernest Hemingway, pretty island ladies walking their bicycles past us, and then there was me popping ibuprofen and putting Visine in my sickly, bloodshot eyes around noon the next day. Nothing in-between.
To the beach, then! To replenish ourselves in the healing waters of the Atlantic. The day previous we had hiked to a far away beach called Lopes Mendes after another late-start and both decreed it to be one of the finest beaches we had ever seen in our lives. To wit:
We decided on this day we would take a boat to Lopes Mendes, to have more time for lounging, son. But once we got to the docks we were informed in broken Spanishguese that the last boat for the day had left. This left Gabe and I with several options. Spend a casual day around the hotel, swimming at a closer, less stunning beach, perhaps writing postcards, sipping fruit drinks and visiting an internet café. Or we could hike to the top of Pico de Papagaio (Parrot Mountain), the looming, mountain that hovers over the main beach like a giant parrot’s beak.
And this is why the show “Late Start” really shines. Because it thrives on guilt. Both Gabe and I are half-Jewish, so between us we posses the guilt of an entire Jew! Consequently we felt like real pieces of shit for drinking so hard the previous night and thus missing the boat to the beach we wanted to see. And thus we could never allow ourselves to have an easy, relatively dull day. Nay, we must push forward, painfully, through our hangovers and into the sure glory that lay beyond. For when would we ever be on this island again, we reasoned over a brisk hour-and-a-half lunch. We must summit to the top of this Pico de Papagaio!
“Late Start” – Sponsored by the Visa Mileage Plus Explorer Card. Because when you have to pay a shiesty street dealer for the Vespa you destroyed, you might as well earn miles for it!
After another Spanishguese consult with a local, Gabe and I set out for the top of the mountain, down a back, dirt road and then up a set of stone steps into the jungle, which swallowed us immediately, like it was starving, sucking us into the dense, humid Brazilian rain beyond. Prior to doing this, though, we did make sure to fill a backpack with water and a flashlight in the form of a headlamp. For while me may be borderline alcoholics, we are not total idiots. And so merrily we trekked through the jungle, winding zig-zag and upwards, keeping our eyes peeled for toucans and namesake parrots, occasionally coming too close to a troop of roving howler monkeys, who would immediately sound their displeasure at our intrusion, barking deafening death threats across canopy, stern warnings that made us freeze in our tracks and marvel at all. Not bad for two boys from Denver, Colorado, we reckoned. But we couldn’t stop too long. We were on the clock. The local had informed us that it would take about two hours to get to the top, an hour and a half to get down. Astute observation led us to believe that the sun set at six. As we started around two we issued ourselves a stern turn-back-around time of 4:30 p.m. Period.
But then at 4:40 we were sooooo close to the summit. So we continued. We reached the peak of the mountain at about 5 p.m. And though a thick fog had set in, precluding us from the promised stunning view of the entire island, it was still amazing to be there. Various breeds of insane Brazilian wildflowers filled every crack between the smooth rocks that formed a natural staircase to the absolute top. The air felt thin and crisp. It felt like we had accomplished something, despite our late start. And then the sun began to set. Fast. And shit started to get real.
The first few hundred yards back down the trail we were able to make out without our flashlight but then it became too dark. The path up the mountain hadn’t been the easiest to follow in the daylight. In the black jungle night it was nearly impossible. Gabe and I would take turns leading the expedition down the mountain, following right on the heels of the other as we had but one headlamp between us, but every ten minutes or so we would lose the trail. Then one of us would have to forge ahead, leaving the other there in the pitch black to mark the spot should we need to turn back around and rediscover the trail behind us. And in those moments, when you were left standing in the darkness alone like some paralyzed, useless sentinel, it was impossible not to let your thoughts run away from you.
Why the fuck did you have to watch Turistas that time it came on Starz? Why the fuck do you even have Starz? You don’t even like movies like that yet you sat there and watched the whole goddamn thing. Just like you always watch that bullshit on Starz. Sure the girls were smoking in Turistas but you were a fucking film major, Adam. At Wesleyan University! That’s a good goddamn program. You’re better than drivel like that. You can’t check your libido for one fucking second and realize you’re watching horror detritus? And where did it get you? About to be the star of Turistas 2 right here in the middle of the goddamn jungle. I hope you’re happy. You fucking idiot.
But I wasn’t happy. I was pretty frantic to tell you the truth. For if we didn’t wind up slashed the fuck up and chopped into tiny pieces to be served to the Under-20 Brazilian National Team – everyone knows the secret to the jogo bonito style of Brazilian soccer is human flesh – at the very least we’d wind up one of those stories you hear about in USA Today 200-word global news roundups: Dip-shit American tourists fall off the side of a mountain in Brazil.
So we just kept forging ahead. Because if Bear Grylls has taught me anything in my many, many viewings of Man vs. Wild, it’s that you always keep moving. And so we did. Slowly. Occasionally we would hear creatures shuffling through the brush nearby and we would both think about the jaguars that people told us still inhabited this island and we would just keep moving, not even addressing it until we were sure we were far beyond it. If I were in back I would have to say “light” and Gabe would turn around and illuminate the path that he had just traversed, so I wouldn’t snap my ankles between rocks, roots or wet earth. If I were in front, I would do Gabe the same favor. It was stupid, it was insane and nerve-wracking, but at times, it was absolutely incredible. Magic even. And though Gabe and I didn’t admit that we were scared most of the time – at least not until later, back in town, over celebratory Itaipavas – nevertheless there were still these amazing moments where we would stop to catch our breath and drink what little water we had left, moments where we would look up at a patch of the stars visible through the hungry canopy, silently listening to the strange jungle sounds in the dark.
When would we ever experience something like this again?
After two-and-a-half hours of this we finally started to see the lights of the town below. The end of our death march was nigh. We only lost then re-found the trail a handful more times and then suddenly we were spat out of the jungle, back onto that same back, dirt road from whence we had come some five hours ago. And we knew we were safe. A few kilometers later we were back in town, covered in mud and sweat and blood, we discovered, from the prickly branches that lashed at us every time we lost the trail, but we were no worse for the wear. We walked like that through the locals and pregnant island dogs and backpackers back to our hotel. We cleaned ourselves up and headed back in to town for a bite to eat, maybe a few beers as we related the story to whatever new friends cared to listen. Because it had been too strange and amazing of a day-into-night not to talk about. The next caipirinha blackout was no doubt right around the corner. Tomorrow would surely be another Late Start.