Thursday, 10 May 2007

Around Brazil: Jericoacoara

Ahh Jeri. One of those places. The bus ride from Fortaleza is fun, but only for the last hour or so as you transfer to a strange 4WD open bus-truck with high wheels, and eight people across to bounce down the sandy roads through fazendas to the beach. Wow. What a letdown. Grey. I'd never seen a grey beach before. But back inland, and around the headland to the rear of the town, and you're walking down sandy roads lined with bars and trees, and the grey has gone or doesn't matter any more, I can't remember which.

Jeri faces north, hiding amongst the dunes that make the place so difficult to drive to. The wide strips of beach with dunes behind make it one of the best activity beaches in Brazil for horse-riding and buggy rides. Because to make sand dunes, you need wind to blow the sand over some stationary object. Amazingly, huge dunes can start from something as small as a shoe having sand repeatedly blown over it, for years. I didn't dig deep enough to find out what was underneath in Jeri, the dunes are too big. So big, that as well as the high Atlantic winds making the place ideal for surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing and more, and you can also sandboard down the dunes. I've been snowboarding before but my one chance to sandboard in Namibia was ruined by a stupid fall on a gravel road in the middle of absolutely nowhere. We'd stopped for a toilet break, and with nothing to do, we decided to have a race. I fell and put a hole in my knee through which I could see the bone, all white and dry. So in Jeri, I was determined to finally make up for that. Didn't happen.

The main dune in Jeri is called Por do Sol. It sits a few minutes along the beach and up the slope. The name comes because everybody watches sunset at the top. The dune slopes very steeply down to the flat of the beach and a little lagoa (more of a puddle) when the tide is out. Now it might look from the photo like it isn't that steep, but the thing about sand dunes is that they change shape in the wind! It was much steeper when I was standing at the top! So I needed to practise on a shallower slope first, but the sand was wet and I never moved. I couldn't bring myself to try Por do Sol with hundreds of people watching me. It would have been a public execution.

There was a very public execution though - on Easter Friday, we were besieged by hundreds of be-robed people walking towards the beach as we were leaving it. We were pushed backwards with the tide, and washed up on the beach for the Easter re-enactment. Jesus was tried, whipped, covered in ketchup and made to carry his cross to the top of Por do Sol. There, in a scene reminiscent of a hybrid of two of the best British films ever - Life of Brian and The Wicker Man - he and his two friends were crucified as the sun dropped into the sea. Bravo!The crowd of hundreds played their part too, including the person I spotted with. count them 1 2 3... 5... 7... Seven fingers! On one hand! It's a small town. But a special one, especially if you happen to be on top of Por do Sol at full moon. The tropical sun drips into the sea while a huge red moon rises over the dunes. And if you do your Jeri experience properly, you can leave the dune for a caipirinha, have a few more caipirinhas, party through until almost dawn, then head back up to Por do Sol. The silver moon shimmers across the black sea as it sets, and the sky over the dunes turns lilac, azure, pink and then gold as the sun rises at the same time. Like I said, Jeri's a special place.

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