Fortaleza was a necessary stop on the way from Pipa to Jericoacoara, but I didn't plan to hang around too long. It's a big city on the coast with a nice enough beach, and that's all there is to say about it. There are better destinations.
Next stop was one of the best-kept-everyone-knows-about-it-secrets in all of Brazil - Jericoacoara. It has the hallmarks of the familiar story of old fishing village turned tourist mecca, however luckily mass-tourism hasn't taken over yet. You won't see any high-rise hotels or apartments here, but how long that lasts I'm not sure. Its not terribly easy to get there which helps keep the package deal tourists and geriatric bus hordes at bay. The nearest major airport is 8 hours drive, buses don't (can't) go there, and the only way of arriving is by beach buggy or 4x4 via a bumpy one hour ride from the nearest town. Access is made through and over the sand dunes but that's half the fun!
The town itself consists of only sand streets and the entire place can be circumnavigated in 15 minutes. Apart from the nice beaches and sand streets, Jeri is one of the better
places for wind sports - kiteboarding, kitesurfing, windsurfing... you can do them all here. Surfing takes a bit of a back seat to these as the surf is small and the wind can be problematic. But it was low season for wind while I was there and Steven and I managed to fit in some more surfing around our hectic schedule of doing nothing, eating, drinking and chilling in the hammock.
I exaggerate of course. There are some nice sights to see around Jeri and most tours depart via beach buggy. It may sound like a gimmick but the buggy's are necessary. Look up Jeri on Google earth and you'll see why. At times you can easily imagine yourself in the middle of the Sahara desert. Actually I would also have to imagine what the Sahara looks like as I've never been. Hmm, that could cause an imagination loop and send myself insane. I better not. But it was fun cruising around on the back of the buggy's. All I kept thinking about was how much I wanted to drive one. Unfortunately those unnecessary things called laws got in the way and prevented it.
We took trips through
mangroves with roots standing more than 3 metres out of the sand, to beautiful blue lagoons filled with fresh water for swimming, and hammocks in the water. We crossed tidal rivers where the only way across was by a home-made wooden barge powerered solely by men with sticks. Sunset is a daily ritual in Jeri, where nearly everyone in town climbs the massive sand dune and watches the sun sink into the ocean. It's one of the few places in Brazil where you can as most of its coast is east-facing.
I got a taste of Forro music while I was there. Its a basic form of folk music, very traditional in these parts. There is quite a knack in the accompanying dance, which I'm convinced was created by a man. It will take you only a few steps to understand why. Despite this, Forro was not for me and I quickly rinsed my musical mouth out with some grunge and punk on my mp3 player during the next bus trip.
After 10 days I decided that it was time to live or leave and really understood why Jeri has the reputation of being a place you can
Our next destination was Sao Luis, but there is no easy way out from Jeri. No direct buses or anything of that sort. We took a 4x4 from Jeri back over the sand dunes (1 hour). We had to wait an hour for a bus from there to the small town of Camocim (3 hours). Then we had to wait 2 hours for another bus from there to Parnaiba (2 hours). Then from Parnaiba it is 7 hours to Sao Luis. We could not book our bus from Parnaiba until we got there and any delay from the other buses would mean missing the bus to Sao Luis. Everything had to go to plan and Steven and I tracked our progress meticulously. The bus from Camocim was delayed but we still made it to Parnaiba in time. Hooray! Except there was only 1 seat left... Couldn't believe it. So we exited the dodgy bus station, crossed the dodgy street and and spent the night at the very dodgy hotel. Really would have loved to stay longer.
Sao Luis is one of the best preserved Portuguese colonial cities in the Americas and we spent a few days
wandering the cobble streets and took some good snaps of the decaying buildings. We had fun hanging out with some local lads who introduced us to their favourite types of Cachaca. Stray dogs reign supreme in most Latin American cities, but for some reason the cats have the run of Sao Luis.
From Sao Luis it was time for Steven and I to go our separate ways and I grabbed a flight back down to Iguazu to cross the border back into Argentina. I firstly made a quick jaunt to see Itaipu dam which was elected one of the 7 modern wonders of the world back in the day and until recently, was the biggest. Three Gorges dam in China now has that claim after they flooded out 1.3 million people and destroyed many cultural sites. But then Itaipu also destroyed the Guaira falls which were reportedly even more impressive than Iguazu! I suppose that's why they made 'damn' a swear word. When you think about it, most words that include 'dam' are bad. There is 'damage' and 'damp'. Jean Claude van Damme...
Ignore everything I just said and the numbers are pretty impressive. It cost nearly $20
billion and supplies 20% of Brazil's power and 90% of Paraguay's. The volume of earth excavated was 8.5 times greater than the Channel Tunnel, and the amount of iron and steel used in its construction could make 380 Eiffel towers. Damn. All in all it was impressive to see but I would have preferred to see Guaira.
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