Jericoacoara

February 18, 2010

We’re in Jericoacoara.  It’s one of the most remote places I have been, and I have been endlessly amazed by how far we are from anything, coupled with the beachy perfection of this little town.

We woke up yesterday in Fortaleza (as you all know, now, not my favorite place) and got in a minivan that drove west from the city for five hours.  Along the highway (one lane in each direction) we passed through Cumbuco and went by the usual Brazilian things–small restaurants with plastic tables, gas stations, stands selling fruits, houses made out of the ubiquitous brick, or plastered and painted bright colors.  There was a lot of sand and scrubby plants, and very tall palm trees.  They seem to grow especially tall here in Ceara.  After a full five hours, maybe a bit more, we arrived in Jijoca de Jericoacoara.  We pulled into a gas station off the main road, and got out of the van (there were maybe ten of us, five pairs, all going to the same hotel).  At the gas station there were people hanging out in the sun, eating popsicles, waiting for our minivan to take them back to Fortaleza.  There was another vehicle with rows of wooden seats and big tires.  It felt like the bonde in Rio, painted bright green, with its open sides.

Sitting on a bench we made a couple of turns through the town–cobbled streets, surf shops and pharmacies baking in the blazing northeastern sun.  The driver of the sort of open air 4X4 truck got out and went into one of the pharmacies.  It was pretty funny that he was running an errand with so many passengers waiting, and we were wondering why he was stopping.  He pulled two packages of diapers off a shelf and we all had a good laugh about how wives are the same everywhere.  After picking up a few more passengers we passed over the last stretch of cobbled street and started down a sandy dirt road.  We passed some houses, some fenced in properties.  At one house we slowed and a little naked girl, probably about three our four ran out of the house, across the cement porch.  She had mess, dark, hair and had the biggest smile on her face.  She squealed as the driver handed her the plastic bag with the diapers, and giggled and turned and ran them back to her mother, standing the shadow of the doorway.

At another house we picked up a gigantic plastic burlap sack of mangoes and the driver chatted with the man of the house for a couple of minutes, as his teenaged daughters peered out from inside the house as well–darkish cement rooms with hammocks strung across.

We drove for another fifteen or twenty minutes until the road really was just sand (it’s worth noting that our original plan had been to drive to Jericoacoara ourselves, until we did a little more research and learned that the roads between Jeri and Fortaleza were badly marked, and that the last 30km are not passable without four wheel drive).  The sand road snaked through waist-high brush for a while until we got to the entrance of the national park and dunes.  They looked like giant snow drifts (which made us think of everyone up north).  The road seemed to disappear and it looked like a moonscape–just sand with some aqua pools of rainwater.  There were a few donkeys grazing on the sparse grass that was scattered across the sand.  At this point we were in awe, and also sort of nervous.  Where were we going?  What was going to be at the end of this six hour journey?  What kind of town could be all the way out here?

After another twenty minutes of driving between dunes, we reached Jericoacoara.  I’ve never seen anyplace like it.  It’s literally an oasis in the middle of a desert.  It’s a perfect tourist town, with just the right number of restaurants and pousadas to be comfortable, but it’s quiet, sunny, and extremely beach-based.  The roads are just sand, nothing is paved, putting on flip flops feels like an imposition.  Most people get around by dune buggy, or some by bicycle.

The whole town climbs up to a giant sand dune next to the main beach to watch the sunset.  There’s camaraderie and people sit and stand and laugh and jump in the dunes.  There were a few kids who brought up sandboards (like snowboards, but for sand) and were coasting down the side of the dune.  There was a guy who had wheeled up his ice cream cart and was selling popsicles, and another who had a full bar set up to make caiparinhas.  On the way down, there was enough foot traffic at the base of the dune for beautiful girls to hand out flyers for things that were going on that night.

It’s hard to stress the complete dumbfoundedness at the transition between Fortaleza, our epic drive to get here, and the beauty that is here.  I went for a run this morning along the water, one of the best in my life, as the sand was flat and hard, not pitched at all, and surrounded by more sand and gently lapping ocean.  Last night we dinner at candle lit tables in the sand–fresh fish and wine.  It was perfect.

More pictures to come, hopefully at better resolution. The internet’s too slow here right now.

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2 Responses to “Jericoacoara”

  1. Edite said

    You would have liked Sofitel Jequitimar Guaruja.
    We have the most happy Carnaval.With t-shirts personalised, with a Escola de Samba, and the most surprising midnight french dinner one could afford.
    Everybody missed you guys. Love you, take care.
    Congratulations 9 of a 100 that´s geat. love ,don´t forget to call.

  2. Giovanna said

    Such beautiful pictures Brooke!
    I hope you guys had a good carnaval!
    We all miss you around here!
    Enjoy!

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