There is nothing quite like staying on the beach and going to a must-not-lose-too-badly World Cup match and waking up to…pouring rain?! Not a good start. With the game slated to kick off at 1pm, we had plans to leave the hotel with a whopping 4 hours to travel the 30 mile distance. What we didn’t know was that our pilgrimage would entail a taxi, walking, two metros, a shuttle, and some more walking/running. And thanks to the flooding caused by heavy rains and generally disastrous infrastructure, we ended up missing nearly the entire first half of the game.
Walking around Porto de Galinhas (PdG) in the pouring rain, we first ran around trying to locate the bus that ran between PdG and Recife. Once we finally found the stop, the bus doors were already closing, leaving behind a handful of people who couldn’t get onto the packed bus. The next bus wasn’t due for another hour, so it was time for plan B. It took us a while to come up with plan B, as taxis were either nonexistent or exorbitantly overpriced, asking $200 one way. We ended up latching onto a fellow American attending the game and his friend that was heading to the airport, and convinced a taxi driver to take the 4 of us to the airport for $25 apiece, where we’d then jump onto the metro to go to the stadium.
Clearly, the driver thought it’d take no time to get to the airport since he took his time making meaningless stops. And in normal circumstances, it probably would’ve taken under an hour like last night. However, upon reaching the main road to the airport, we reached a complete stop. All 4 lanes of traffic, sitting in the pouring rain, going 1/10 mile in half an hour. At this rate, we would reach the stadium by the semifinals, so we made the call to jump out and walk the last 3 miles to the airport. Clearly we were the only lunatics to conceive this idea, or else no one else cared about getting to the game in a timely manner, as we were the only ones traveling by foot in the downpour. Walking through puddles, often with standing water up to our shins, we witnessed drivers dumping buckets of water out of their backseats, and fellow Americans frustrated and ready to abandon their rental cars. It wasn’t until after we got back later that evening that we realized we narrowly avoided “Ways to die in Brazil: #35” as we could’ve been electrocuted by downed power lines.
Thankfully, a mile into our walk, we realized that there was a subway station much closer than the airport so we didn’t have to walk the full 3 miles. We also realized at this point what was holding everyone up – a lake of rainwater that had collected at the bottom of the hill, forcing the 4 lanes of traffic to converge into one lane, allowing only one car at a time to basically be pushed through the flooded area. We had heard about the need to improve road infrastructure prior to this trip, and seeing the terrible drainage problems firsthand, we now can understand why locals protested as much as they did.
The subway was a long and ridiculous endeavor, as we needed to take one line into downtown Recife before we could transfer to go back out towards the stadium. But despite all the travel delays, we actually got off at our stop right as the game kicked off. But we weren’t there yet. We could see the stadium but it was way out, on top of a hill. We had to take a shuttle several miles, go through security, then walk another half mile to get to the stadium. By the time we actually got inside and to our seats, it was the 35th minute of the first half.
Amazingly, the score wasn’t a 6-0 thumping by Germany and we were amazed and relieved to find that it was still holding at 0-0. And by the time the whistle sounded at the end of the game, I have never seen a US side get so excited about a 0-1 loss as more importantly, Portugal beat Ghana by 1! Team USA advances!! And even better yet? We’d already bought tickets to see the runner up to Group G (now confirmed to be the US) play in the Round of 16 game in Salvador! Sort of consolation for missing half of this game.
It was an even longer trip back to our hotel, as this meant the entire stadium’s worth of fans (40,000) all got on the little buses that shuttled us back to the metro station. Maybe next time they should think about building the stadium within actual walking distance of public transportation. We took the metro to Recife, then transferred to the airport, where we would try to take the bus back to PdG. The first one was packed yet again, the second was supposedly “5 minutes later” which turned out to be 45 minutes later, and while we had an orderly line forming to board the bus, once the bus arrived it sped right past us, nearly running over someone’s foot! So then it was a survival of the fittest test to get on the bus, but Doug and I got the last open seats. It was still raining on and off, but more notably, the roads had no drainage system so the entire day’s rain continued to collect in pools and lakes. After sitting in traffic, we were flying down the highway when the driver realized we were headed right into a giant lake of water too late and we hydroplaned all over the place. That was the second near-death experience of the day, as the entire bus audibly gasped when the driver slammed on his brakes and we began to careen across the lake.
Miraculously, 6 hours after the game’s final whistle, we finally made it back to our hotel in one piece. Ok, time to (finally) relax and actually explore our surroundings! We had dinner at a churrascaria called Porto Gallo – actually our first meal at a normal functional restaurant – and enjoyed some live music which was a nice memory that I had of PdG in general. After dinner, we realized that we were just a block away from the beach this whole time – which actually had a lively but chill night scene, with several outdoor bars. We got a much deserved caipirinha at a bar called Cafe do Brasil and enjoyed it while sitting on the beach watching kids play soccer under the dim lights, and counted our lucky stars that we made it through another crazy day.
HOW WE DID IT:
Bus from PdG to Recife Airport: no website, runs once an hour (though slightly unreliable on time), picks up at the central gas station in PdG
Metro to stadium: Linha Sul line from Recife Airport (Aeroporto stop) to Joana Bezerra, transferring to the Linha Centro to Cosmo e Damiao