The guidebook describes Maceio as “… friendly, safe and good value”, going on to say “… its old buildings are particularly interesting…”
This is utter bullshit. The place is a dump. The people are miserable and won’t even think to tell you that you’ve clearly boarded the wrong bus. As for the ‘interesting old buildings’, the only interesting thing about them is being able to see the process of degradation in stages as you drive through the town.
Our charming Pousada that was “highly recommended” on HostelWorld fit the town perfectly. The street it was on matched almost exactly the main street in the Favela that we had visited in Rio. Inside, it had the look of a motel you see in a Hollywood blockbuster, when the FBI raid the place to find the hooker’s body in the bath-tub, asphyxiated with her own stockings.
I know what you’re thinking, it cant possible be that bad, perhaps you were unlucky in your accommodation choice and the area?…
No! When taking a local bus to the bus station (in order to book the next available inter-city bus out of here) we were treated to a good portion of the town. Open sewers, slums that made a Favela look 5*, and a town that looked like its glory days were 150 years ago if they ever existed.
On the way back from the bus station, we took the ‘Circular 2’ bus (as recommend in the guidebook) and saw the remainder of the town. Children playing on railway tracks, roads closed by police and people discarding waste by the side of the street. The rivers ran a grey mix of effluence and chemical output and the constant drizzle only added to the overall air of melancholy. (Incidentally, the bus was neither circular, nor where we needed to go)
All in all, this only servers to highlight how unreliable guidebooks can be. For some, the Benidorm style beach fronts and 1960’s high-rises would make for a lovely break. For others who wish to stray off the main road, the town can be little more that a cruel depiction of Purgatory.
As if to reinforce everything we felt, as we sat on the bus south, to civilization, we were delayed by the police, who futilely had tried to screen off the body of a man who had just been shot. Hey lay there, between the two police cars, his shirt raised over his lifeless torso while onlookers rushed to take souvenir photos.
The guidebooks itself, incidentally, was Footprint South America Handbook 2012, by Ben Box.