Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Around Brazil – Garopaba

Easter is traditionally a time of chocolate and crucifixion, a strange mix of pagan fertility festival and religious fervour. For me, Easter in Brazil seems to be the time that I head to the dunes and I’d like to make it an annual event after the way the previous two have been. Jericoacoara, a crucifixion, a full moon and sunrise last time, Garopaba this.

The area is possibly Brazil’s surf capital, and Easter weekend is full of surfers, girls who surf, girls looking for surfers, and guys who don’t surf trying to catch the girls looking for surfers instead of catching waves. I stayed out of all that nonsense, avoiding the busy waves by pretending that I can do it any time at home. I will though, one day.

The dunes at Garopaba (strictly behind Praia Siriú but who´s counting) are more fun and could well be one of the best bargains in the whole of Brazil. R5 to hire a board for as long as you want to play in the dunes, or you could even turn up for free entertainment. Even then, the slog up the tallest dune is worth it for the view along the coast to the southern end of Florianopolis, never mind the people crawling up and falling down it all day. Unlike the seriousness of surfing individuals, the comedy of sandboarding can be enjoyed by everyone. Laughter rings around the sand hills, with people of all ages bursting out as their friends set off down the slopes, spray up sand and then roll through it like a salsicha in farofa. Sometimes the body stops but the board slides gently to the bottom for extra comedy value. The laughter makes you turn to look every time to see at least the end of falls like this. Refreshing too to see parents giggling inanely as their children cartwheel down slopes using their little heads as points of balance for brief periods.

My particular favourite was one guy that I should have followed for the whole day. The skills required for snowboarding and sandboarding are a little different to surfing. The balance should be on the front foot, with the back foot for direction control. The surfers tend to crouch as low as possible towards the back, raising the board at the front and leaving them with no control. My friend seemed to have no fear at all and set off down the slopes before veering, sticking the edge of his board in the sand and tumbling down in a cloud of arms, legs, hair and board. Undeterred, he was up and off for another 10 metres before I´d even wiped the tears away. He somehow managed the feat of knocking himself over with his board, one foot coming out of the strap and the board smacking him on the back as he tried to stop running down the hill.

I wasn´t much better though, truth be told. The girls seemed to pay their R5 to have something to sit on at the top of the dunes, watching as I paddled my way down the hill on a plank that didn´t turn, trying to crack a dune that did. My ribs came closer to cracking and the sun was setting so I collected my board from the bottom and climbed back up. I couldn´t understand what the girls found so funny, my falls didn´t seem that spectacular, but I probably will when I´m still finding sand deep in my ears next Easter. See you in Joaquina for more of the same then.

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