Wonderful sunsets, dusty alleys without traffic, a surfer’s paradise populated by a dreamy crowd. According to the guidebooks, Jericoacoara would be the place for us to unwind and start our journey South.
Just a 7-hour-transfer from Fortaleza – peanuts in Brazil, trust us – is the National Park and village of Jericoacoara. A comfy busride to and less comfy 4WD ride from Jijoca bring you to your doorstep in town. We chose our base to be Camping Natureza. Surprised by this choice, one of the Brazilian passengers jumped off the back our pick-up truck to get a glimpse of what we actually meant by “camping”. At the sight of 10 tents and some hammocks under a large cashew tree he bursted out laughing and jumped back on the truck. He was all too happy the next stop was his hotel…
We pitch our tent and notice that there are definitely some dreamy types left in Jericoacoara – or Jeri, as no non-native speaker can pronounce it properly. They are slowly swinging their hammocks next to ours. The charm of Jeri hasn’t faded yet: alleyways with tiny shops, fragrant restaurants and live music everywhere on colorfully lit terraces. We see why our fellow campers are trying to extend their stay here by selling their homemade sweets and bracelets. Jeri couldn’t be more different from Fortaleza, where we only stayed a day to find our bearings and arrange onward transport. The atmosphere in Fortaleza turns around completely after dark, when all windows are barred and most streets feel desolate. In the tourist areas like Beira Mar and Mereiles you can be reasonably at ease and there’s a great dining and drinks scene here. But unfortunately these aren’t the most budget friendly options. And it does feel rather awkward if you’re advised to always take a taxi or Uber after sunset. In Jeri you can stay with every budget and don’t really have to worry if tonight’s Forro night – a typical Brazilian dancing event – is in a dark, dead end street. Eating out is also possible in all price ranges: from cheap, but delicious, streetfood to a sharing pizza from wood-fired ovens or more sophisticated culinairy treats like lobster and octopus.
From the moment the sky starts turning golden with the setting sun vendors line up at the beach, each offering a stronger Caipirinha than the other. And don’t worry about carrying cash on the beach. Like seemingly everwhere, most of these guys accept credit card. It is around that time that we realize how busy Jeri actually is this weekend! Soon the famous dune, Pôr do Sol, was packed with romantic souls yearning for – the instagram post of – another sunset. Not without reason, because Jericoacoara is one of the few places in Brazil where you can see the scarlet sun sink in the ocean. If we had planned a bit more we would have known that we joined the Brazilians during an extended weekend for Independence Day on Sept. 7. But hey, why plan if it works without… For a truly romantic sunset, hike up the hill North of the village. You’ll probably have it to yourself and you can include the village and bay of Jeri in your pictures.
Next to the amazing sunsets, Jeri – and by extension the Northeast coast of Brazil – is famous for the trade winds creating ideal watersport conditions most of the year. Wind and kite surfing are favorite pastimes here and so Hannes gave it a go. Many locations in town offer IKO-certified kite surfing lessons so shopping around is a good idea. We feel most comfortable with Rancho do Kite for the clear, professional and English explanation they provided when inquiring. Stefanie is not joining the lessons but can join the transfer to the surf school for a small upcharge. Even though the lessons take only 2 to 3 hours a day we are spending all day at the surf school. This is rather a blessing than a curse as we get to spend these days in heaven on earth. Rancho do Kite is integrated with the luxury hotel Rancho do Peixe, located just outside sleepy Preá. The hotel’s wooden beach bar with beautiful relax areas seamlessly flows into the surf school and captures just enough wind to enjoy the 30+°C all day long from your lounger with your coco gelado – an ice-chilled coconut.
After 4 days – 8 hours – of lessons Hannes is almost graded as independent kiter but he decides to continue later in the trip so we can spend our last day in the surrounding National Park. We check to rent quad bikes for the day to visit the surrounding beaches and lagoons. Most of those picture-perfect spots are of course not located near the village. Unfortunately it is not allowed to head into the park with motor vehicles on your own. The only option is to book guided tours for which prices seem a bit excessive. There is clearly some room for negotiation. But we’ll have a year to see the most beautiful beaches for free so don’t even try and walk away. For any transport in the area, whether by 4WD, sand buggy or quad bike, prices depend on who’s asking. It’s remote and sandy location – some shops don’t even bother to construct a floor and embrace the beach inside – make you dependent on these modes of transportation. So be prepared to bargain and it’s a good idea to ask around with locals for some reference rates. Instead of a tour we prefer to do the 40-minute-hike from town to the arching rock, Pedra Furada. At low tide it is easily accessible following the beaches North of Jeri. The hike and rock formation are nice but for one of the key attractions in the park we expected it to be more spectacular. Too bad we only see the place on our last day. Due to it’s sides facing East and West it must be a great spot for a night of camping on the beach to see a colorful sunrise lighten up this natural monument – until mid-June there is also a period when you can see the sun magically set through the arch.
Before catching our bus we close our Jericoacoara chapter with a Yoga class. Hannes must admit afterwards that it does involve a bit more than “just some stretching”. Even though a sometimes busy crowd and tens of buggy’s and quad bikes now mingle in the once quiet, sandy streets of Jericoacoara we did find what we were looking for: a cosy, laid-back beach town in beautiful surroundings. The perfect start to our year Somewhere South.
Time to say goodbye… Salvador’s marching drums are calling!