We scrambled up a slippery ladder, walked along the marina wall and arrived at the Iate Clube de Espírito Santo. It was Sunday and club members were out in force. Laid on top of the bar was the most fabulous paella I have ever seen, Franco was drooling and couldn't take his eyes off the food. "Would you like to try some?" "Yes, please" we answered enthusiastically. It was delicious. When we went to pay, Bruno, a club member, explained that Sergio had made it to share with his friends and that we were very welcome. He showed us around the club facilities.
Franco by the ICES swimming pool (sophistication and yellow trainers)
The next two days were spent signing into the state of Espírito Santo and renewing our visas. I love the Brazilian formalities, you get to visit parts of the city you would never bother going to otherwise. With the right knowledge, visa renewal in Vitória would have been a piece of cake, unfortunately finding the necessary information was impossible so I took us on a labyrinthine wild goose chase. (I have since written up the correct procedure and posted it on Noonsite, a website for sailors).
In addition to signing in and out of Brazil, cruisers have to sign in and out of each state visited. Vitória is our first and only stop in the state of Espírito Santo.
The signing into the state bit was simple. The staff in the yacht club knew we had to do it and explained where the Capitania (Harbour Master) and Federal Police (Maritime section) were. Because we were staying longer than three days, we would have to return to sign out.
Visa renewal was straight forward as well, the trick was to know that you need to complete an online form, print it out and take it to a bank where you pay for the visa BEFORE going to a different Federal Police office, this one in a shopping mall, just over the bridge, on the mainland. At the Federal Police office, we were waived to the front of the queue, didn't need to fill in any forms and ten minutes later walked out with our visa extensions. We were ecstatic!
It was 4:30. The final stage (the tricky bit) was the renewal of the tax declaration for Caramor at the Ministry of Finance. I had an address, could we make it before closing time? We jumped in a taxi and sped back across the bridge.
It was the wrong office. The receptionist told us we needed the one near the Vitória shopping centre, unfortunately it had already shut for the day.
The next day we set off early on our bicycles. The office near the shopping centre was the wrong office and the friendly staff told us to go to the Ministry of Finance in the Centro District.
At the Ministry of Finance we chained our bikes to the railings and left them in the care of a self-appointed car parking attendant. We queued for ten minutes to be told that it was the wrong office, we needed the Customs office, two blocks away.
At the Customs Office, the man we needed to see wouldn't be in until 12pm. We went for coffee but none was available so had an early lunch instead. When we got back, there was a queue. The boss arrived at twelve on the dot and the queue immediately dissipated, the people ahead of us were employees waiting to get into work! Everyone seemed in awe / terror of the 'Chef', a pleasant, mild mannered man who ran a tight shop. He thought our request was unusual and went off to make enquiries. Ten minutes later he told us his was the wrong office but gave us typed directions to the correct office. We went straight there but it was shut for lunch and would only reopen at 2:30. We made the most of our time and took a stroll around the old part of town.
The Shipping Customs Office was a couple of hundred metres from the Maritime Federal Police office we had been to the day before. Once past security, we got lost down a long white corridor and bumped into Raquel who spoke perfect English, without ever having been outside Brazil. She escorted us to the 'Receita' man and took our bikes back to her office for safe-keep. The officer we had come to see was friendly and familiar with our request. Even so, he spent twenty minutes, in vain, trying to complete the form on his computer. Eventually he gave up, scrawled a note on our existing document, stamped it and told us that it would do. Our guess is that he didn't realise you have to put the value of the boat in 'declared luggage' so was ending up with a 'value to declare' of 0. This had stumped us when we had filled in the form in Salvador.
We celebrated our success with a delicious (the best so far in Brazil) ice-cream at 'Cremino', a couple of blocks from the yacht club.
As we were untying the dinghy, Catarina and Dorival walked by. From near São Paulo, they have been sailing since May on their beautiful home-built boat 'Luthier'. They are heading north to the Caribbean before crossing the Atlantic to the Azores, Portugal and Spain. They invited us to join them the following day for a beer. Over the next few days we became good friends and shared a couple of meals. They had some great stories and we learned a lot about Brazil. They were very curious about the relationship between Europeans. Their perception from meeting foreign cruisers is that the Second World War isn't quite finished yet!
Vitória is a modern, pleasant leafy city. The standard of living appears similar to Europe and the prices are too. The cruising guide mentions walking so we were keen to stretch our legs. But where? There were plenty of wooded hills around but finding out how to get there wasn't easy.
The convent at the top of a hill seemed an obvious start so we caught a bus over the bridge to Vila Velha.
Climbing the Penitent's path to the convent
Convento de Senhora da Penha
Vitória (Caramor is a dot in the distance)
From the top we admired the green backbone of the island, if only we could find a way up there!
That evening, on Google Earth, I worked out that the ridge is called Parque de Fonte Grande (Park of the Big Spring), that it is possible to walk up there and that the Brazilians are complaining on TripAdvisor about the lack of eateries at the top.
We caught a bus to the Centro District and headed uphill through the old quarter, past the well-maintained cathedral, then down again through a residential area. The houses here were smaller and more basic but there was a nice atmosphere as it was Sunday and families were spending time together. We passed a corner shop selling freshly roasted chickens and bought a half for lunch. A delightful aroma wafted from the plastic bag and we were soon followed by a rabble of stray dogs.
The green hill was above us, we walked up a steep street and turned left. We asked for directions. "The street you want is over there" said the lady, pointing at the other side of the valley. We explained we wanted to get to the park above and a man showed us a lane "Go straight up that way." We carried on, the houses became even smaller and dilapidated, the terrain steeper. Soon, the street turned into a narrow flight of steps. As we continued into the favela (slum), there were paths everywhere but which one would lead us to the park? "Oi" (Brazilian greeting) I called out to three youths wearing pink caps back-to-front, listening to loud music on their stereo. One of them came down to where we were and showed us the path. We passed a small group sitting around a fire chatting and laughing. We said hello and continued upwards. Here, the houses were shacks clinging to the hillside. A woman stood high above us scowling as she watched us make our way up the steep stairways, wondering what the hell we wanted. As we approached, she glowered. "Todo bom?" (Hello, everything ok?) we greeted, "Can you tell us how we get up there?" we grinned, pointing upwards. Her face relaxed into a beautiful smile. "You've come too far, just go down that flight of stairs and turn left". She watched us go. "Not that way, silly!" She came after us and led us to the turn-off.
In the forest we passed a cave dwelling, a low wall had been built around the entrance to provide privacy. We passed through a gap in a fence and were in the countryside, a boy was grazing his mule. A kilometre or so later we joined the track leading to the top.
Nobody had mugged us for our chicken.
Vitória, a green city
Pedra dos Olhos - we never got there, but that is a different story!
Flower in the jungle