Sunday, October 16, 2005

And now for something completely different

We have come a long way. Thousands of miles have been travelled. Jungles have been explored. Our feet have walked on ancient lime stone and fertile soils of the cloud forests. Now we find ourselves experiencing something new. Something different. Because Central America is behind us.

Now for something completely different!


Our long flight from Panama took us to the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, Brazil. There we changed flights and continued the long day of travel, flying up to the city of Fortaleza in the state of Bahia. This way we will be able to work our way south and finish up in Rio.

Our stay in Fortelaza was breif. We rested from our days of travel and then we moved on. We had something fun in mind for our first week in Brazil. We took a long bus ride and then changed to a large all terain bus that took us down the sandy coast and through a desert, eventually arriving in the remote and magical location of Jericoacoara. This is one the the amazing places we have found on this trip that I know we will be returning to. Jericoacoara (hereafter to be known as `Jeri`) is hard to get to. There is no road and you need to take a buggy or some kind of all terrain vehicle to get there. The road is long and bumpy and once you are there, there is no Bank or ATM. All these things tend to help Jeri keep it`s magic.

We arrived with the setting of the sun. The bus dropped us off and we saw our new home in the golden light of the setting sun. I looked towards the beach and past the palm trees was the water.

It was perfection. I looked left and saw a giant sand dune on the edge of the village. It`s huge bulk rose up from the ground as a towerring white mound. A perfect curve. And upon it, sillhouetted against a red sky were people. They were climbing to watch the sunset from on top of this wind blown dune. I knew then we were somewhere special.

We wandered around town and found a Poasada (hotel) that was good value for the money. We are no longer in a spanish speaking country so communication is difficult, but we eventualy sorted out the price and settled in to our new home. We explored the small town, which is made up of 5 sandy streets in the middle of a desert. We ate some food and then went off to see the nightlife that Jeri has to offer. Word on the sandy street is that everyone gathers down by two clubs, `Sky`, and `Planeta Jeri`. We were arriving on a wednesday night, which as luck would have it was one of the more liveley nights in the deserted little town. Wednseday night is `forro` (foho) night. Forro is a local Brazilian music popular here that has a dance that goes with it. So on Forro nights, Wednesday and Saturday, all the locals come down to drink and dance to the Forro sound and meet up with their friends. Crafty locals wheel carts out that are small mobile bars, and line both sides of the street with them so you never have to go far for a drink. These carts offer potent potables that I could not recognize, much less prounounce, which turned out to be sweet and strong. Things get going late at around 1am. People show up in droves and dance until the sky is tinted blue with the promise of a new day.

That night we made two friends who we would spend much of the next week with. Nadia and Chris are two amazing ladies who have spent much time in Jeri. It seems that many people come here for a few days and are never able to break the spell Jeri casts over them. Both Chris and Nadia have been here several times and stayed for months on end. Nadia acted as our tour guide for our stay and she showed us the good cheap places to stay, the internet cafe with the good prices, where to get the best juices... All the things we would have never figured out had we not bumped into them. So we drank and watched the ocean, and eventually Amie took me to the dance floor where I attempted with some success to dance to the Forro music. Nadia also mentioned that she was going on a `Paseo de buggy` (dune buggy tour) the next day and she invited us to come allong.

So the next day we got an early start and Nadia showed up in a dune buggy with our driver for the day and we were off to explore the desert. The buggy cruised down the beach in the shadow of the giant sand dune, until eventualy we came to a river. Groups of people were waiting here with small rafts to take us over the river. So we drove the buggy up onto the raft and watched as we were pushed to the other side with long poles.

Once on the other side we continued our drive into the heart of the desert. We were truly now in the middle of nowhere. All around us was sand. White dunes rippled all around us like an ocean of milk frozen in time. The buggy crawled up them and down, and in between. The views were enchanting. This was unlike anything we had seen on this trip so far.

We cruised through the desert for much of the day, watchig the landscape go by.

Our eyes were wide and our jaws dropped open for much of the time. The landscape was just breathtaking. We would park occaisonally to admire the magic surroundings and take pictures.

`I love you on top of a deserted windswept sand dune`.

We stopped at one particularly tall dune to slide on small hand made sleds down the front of the dune. It was like sledding on snow but instead it was hot sand. Amie proved to be quite adept at this and I could hear here cry out for joy as she slid over the edge and off into the distance down the front of the mountain of sand.

Eventually we moved on and came in time to our destination. I had often heard the term `oasis` used and had wondered what such a thing might look like. Well now I know. We arived at a lagoon surrounded on all sides by white sand dunes. We parked the buggy and stopped here for lunch. It was a dream.

Small shacks were set up for shade sitting in the water. Chairs and tables were in the shallow water in the shade so you could cool off your feet as you relaxed. There were hammocks hanging in the water and floating platforms with beach chairs so you could lay back and relax in the sun. The water was cool and in no time at all Amie and I were swimming in the desert lagoon, looking around us with unbeleiving eyes.

It was a very good day. We did another buggy tour the very next dat to visit two other lagoons. The first one was called `Lago Pariso` and was indeed a paradise. The water was clear and perfect. The second was called `Lago Azul` and the water was an unbeleivable blue color. The wind would hit the water and send the reflected sun into shimmmering waves accross the surface of the lagoon that had me hypnotised. We swam and held eachother in the perfect water. We wandered the shoreline taking photos and soaking in the magesty of this amazing place.

Back home we began to settle into a routine that would become our way of life for the next few days. Rise and eat the breakfast our hotel would offer and then decide what amazing distraction we would entertain ourselves with all day. Meet Nadia for dinner. Then as the sun would begin to set we would go to the beach to watch the `Roda` (hota) which is when a group of people all in a circle perform the brazillian martial art of Capoiera to the music of the drum and the birimbow.

Capoiera classes take place on the beach in the late afternoon and when they are done people all gather in a circle. You can hear the sounds of the birimbow as you arrive on the beach near sun set. The birimbow looks a bit like a bow and arrow and has a gord on the bottom which amplifies the sound.

People begin to play these insturments and all the capoiera teachers gather one by one and begin to form a circle and sing. Soon the circle in complete and the capoiera itselfe begins. In brazil´s past, before they had their independence, they were not allowed to practice martial arts or train any military whatsoever. So the people created the martial art of capoeira. Capoiera is done to music and was created to look like a dance. In this way the Brazilian people could practice their martial arts and it would only appear like they were singing and dancing. The martial art itself is very impressive. It looks like part dance, part gymnastics, and part fightig. Flips and spins and cartwheels in a fluury of activity as two people would face off in the circle. It was no contact and never did I see a blow land but there was definite power and amazing strength and agility of the moves that were being performed.

Amie and I would take photos, and often Amie would sit at the far end of the circle and videotape the whole session with our video camera. In time, as we did this night after night, the locals would begin to show off for the camera, giving us an amazing show. When it was over, like clockwork, the capoeristas would approach Amie and gather around to watch what she had video taped. We made many friends this way including the local capoiera master who was known as master serae. Master serae eventually invited us to his home to entertain us with his birimbow and local songs.

We met up with Nadia on one hot afternoon to take a hike down the coast. We followed the coast for a few rocky miles that reminded Amie and I of the coasts of Monterey in California. Eventually We came to our destination, which was a rocky archway on a secluded beach.

This is the spot we had seen on all the post cards advertisig Jericoacara. We spent the afternoon there and then wandered back home taking the high road that provided us with a great view of all of Jeri sprawled out below us.

Our time in Jeri will be long remembered and I am pretty sure we will be back. The sunsets, the capoeira, and the giant sand dunes will all be waiting for us until we return.


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