When Wade and I stepped off our overnight bus in Fortaleza after a 24 hour journey, we had no idea where we were going or what our plan was for the coming days. We had booked a flight from Fortaleza to Manaus in the Amazon in five days time but didn’t really know what to do with five days in Fortaleza. Twenty four hours on a bus is about as thrilling as it sounds so the two of us were pretty keen to find somewhere to sleep and discuss our plans while in Fortaleza. Originally, we had planned to go to a small beachside town, only accessible by 4wd, called Jericoacoara however in our haste to book a bargain flight to the Amazon, we had left ourselves short on days and had to make a decision to do a much shorter trip to Jericoacoara or skip it and just see Fortaleza instead.
Before leaving Australia, I began to write a bucket list of places, events and activities that I want to see and experience during this trip. I asked Wade to do the same however he simply went to the laptop, opened mine and said “Yeah, that looks good”. A few weeks into our trip, Wade actually started looking into a few places and one he came up with, which also happened to be on my bucket list was Jericoacoara. A 24 hour bus trip gives you a lot of time for thinking and as soon as Wade and I stepped off the bus at Fortaleza, we turned to each other and simultaneously stated, “We should go to Jeri!”.
So even though another long day on buses was the last possible thing either one of us actually felt like doing, we went straight to the ticket office and organised to go to Jeri first thing the next morning.
“Jeri” as it is known, is a small beachside community that began as a fishing village on a remote stretch of coastline 300km north of Fortaleza. The area around the town was made a National Park in 2002 which has restricted the infrastructure in the area surrounding Jeri. This means that neither Jeri itself nor the areas within the National Park have any sealed roads and can only be accessed by dirt bike, quad bike, dune buggy or 4wd vehicle. To get to Jeri, you catch a 6 hour bus from Fortaleza, then the last one and a half hours are done by 4wd over sand dunes and across beaches until you arrive in sleepy Jericoacoara.
Now, one week after being there, I can confidently say that not going to Jeri would have been the biggest mistake of our trip so far.
The last one and a half hours of the journey made up for the previous six, as we jumped in a door-less 4wd bus and jiggled, bumped and bounced our way through tiny towns and across sand dunes to get to Jeri. The trip was fairly silent because every time we tried to speak to one another there was a risk of biting your own tongue off thanks to the severe lack of suspension in our sweet ride.
We passed around 50 kite surfers up a 20km stretch of beach and dodged countless quad bikes and dune buggies, some of whom had found themselves bogged in the soft sand, but eventually we pulled into Jericoacoara.
After asking around at 5 different guesthouses, we eventually found one with a room available within our price range. At the time, I was a bit skeptical because I usually like to read reviews and see photos of our accommodation before booking in, but this little chestnut turned out to be exactly what we were after! While the room was basic, I did a bit of exploring of the guesthouse that afternoon and discovered what I think is one of Jeri’s hidden treasures. As I snuck up a staircase, not sure where I would end up, I found a magnificent rooftop terrace. As I looked out over the town and beyond that, the ocean, I couldn’t see another single place nearby with a similar view. There are some seriously expensive places in Jeri, and not one of them had a rooftop like ours. It was pure heaven!
After settling in, it was almost time for sunset. One of the main attractions at Jeri is the massive 50m tall sand dune just south of town. Almost every tourist in town makes the nightly pilgrimage to the sand dune to watch the sunset over the ocean. Being that Brazil is on the East coast of South America, seeing the sunset over the ocean is quite unique, but due to the fact that Jeri is on a small peninsula, this sunset attracts plenty of tourists from all over the world. We climbed the dune with plenty of time to spare, so sat down with a cold beer (thanks to the dude who lugs a 50kg cart up the dune every night!) and enjoyed the last of the day. It’s a unique feeling knowing that with an almost exact 12 hour difference between us and those of you on the east coast of Australia, when Wade and I watch the sunset every night, it is almost simultaneously rising on your side of the world. Some might call me a tripper but I think that's pretty cool.
So anyway, as we waited and watched the sun slowly creep towards the horizon, we almost jumped out of our skin when the crowd erupted in applause as it finally made a touchdown. While it’s a nice gesture that apparently happens every night, Wade and I couldn’t help but laugh. It's as if they thought the sun wouldn't quite make it today so they felt the need to congratulate it for finally reaching the horizon. In any case, Wade and I joined the crowd and threw a few words of encouragement in for good measure. "Good on you Mother Nature! You’ve done it again you little champion!"
Every night after the sunset, the crowd migrates to the Capoeira circle that forms on the beach. While I have been hard at work practicing my hand stands, cartwheels and back flips of late, I decided not to show up the locals with my talent so instead we watched on and clapped along with the always catchy tune.
While Jeri has so much to offer, if you don’t go looking for it, there’s actually not much to do! So on day two, I decided that we would do what was supposed to be a one hour walk up to the town lighthouse and then go back down the hill to a different beach for sunset where we could watch the sun drop right in the middle of the famous “Rock Arch”. This particular sunset can only be seen between June-July because that’s the only time when the sun aligns exactly with the hole in the rock. We figured we were lucky to be here at the right time, so there was no chance we’d miss it!
For those of you who have read my previous blogs, you may know that I’m not always spot on with my research when it comes to walking tracks. This walk was no different (cue angry sigh from Wade).
In theory it was simple. Follow the beach north, walk up the enormous, cactus covered, sandy hill in 30+ degree heat, see the lighthouse at the top and have plenty of time left to walk down to the Rock Arch, go for a swim and watch the sunset…. Simple!
In practice…. Not so simple.
It turns out, that for starters, we walked the long way around the hill before realising that at some point we needed to head up, because generally lighthouses are found ON TOP of hills not at the bottom surrounded by headlands! As we headed up, we passed hundreds of cacti, which only made the walk feel hotter and longer than it already did. I’m pretty sure the heat didn’t actually increase but somehow Looney Tunes has convinced me that cacti only grow in hot places where you can die of thirst so I quickly guzzled our water and continued!
By this stage, we also realized that we were quickly losing time to get to the lighthouse and get back down the hill to the Rock Arch for sunset. The higher we climbed, the sandier the hill became so for every two steps forward we slid one step back downhill. In short, this walk was quickly being added to my list of “Great Ideas That Actually Suck”. Eventually we made it to the top, to one of the least impressive lighthouses I’ve ever seen!
As we laughed it off and sat down for a breather, we looked around and realized that while the lighthouse was nothing spectacular, the view was something else. To our left, in the far distance we could see Jeri and to our right, the vast stretches of sand and 20km of beach that we drove in on the day before. It was barren and beautiful all at once.
Downhill was much easier than up, and before we knew it we started to see other people who had obviously also come to the Rock Arch for the sunset. We looked at the vast majority of them and wondered how they had made the journey over here without even busting a sweat, while Wade and I were ready for a cold shower and a nap. As we scratched our heads, and continued walking, we came to a different path to the one we took up hill. There, on the path, waiting patiently for the sun to set, were around 6 horses all hooked up to their own comfortable looking carriages! While I convinced myself that I would enjoy the sunset more, having deserved it after such a long, hot walk, Wade just became angry at all these idiots crowding around a small area trying to get their photo in the Rock Arch all at the same time.
It was mayhem and we couldn’t be bothered battling with the crowd so we sat down on the sand and took a moment to chill out.
We started discussing how the sunset would be so much more peaceful if one of the locals from town, made the effort to have some sort of system in place where they tell everyone to sit down and enjoy it rather than fighting to get into one another’s photos in the hope of getting the best picture. Just as we said this, a guy came up with a huge stick and drew a line in the sand directly in front of us. I couldn’t believe our luck! We had even sat in the perfect position just in case one of the fifty people in front of us moved for long enough for us to glimpse the sunset. This guy slowly walked around tapping people on the shoulder and telling them to get behind the line. It was awesome! On the downside, because Wade and I had somehow managed to score the best seat in the house, we suddenly had Go-Pro sticks and cameras poking us in the back of the head as everyone simultaneously reached forward for that perfect picture. While I think every sunset is beautiful, this one was one of the least peaceful I have ever experienced but Wade and I laughed the entire way through it and spent our time photo bombing as many people as we possibly could!
Watching the sunset right in the middle of the Jericoacoara "Rock Arch"
The walk back after sunset took around one third of the time, as we followed the horses back into town on the track that passes directly across the hill and straight into Jeri. Of course we convinced ourselves that this wide, flat, direct track didn’t exist before and our route was much better. We were just taking it now because everyone else was!
In our two days at Jeri so far, we had seen plenty of groups or families heading out on dune buggy trips but Wade and I weren’t phased by the idea of some dude driving us around for the day. So we spent a few hours asking around to see how we could hire a quad bike for a day. We eventually found José, a local guy who would lead us around on his dirt bike, while we followed on a quad. Ahhhh heck yeah!
We booked in for a full day touring around the sand dunes and the inland lagoons 20km from town. We visited all the local sights but spent most of our time at “Lagoa Azul” or Blue Lagoon. Blue Lagoon is well known for its water hammocks that hang a few metres into the water and conveniently dip below the surface when you lie down. It’s such a brilliant idea and I jumped into a hammock at the first opportunity! Blue Lagoon is such an idyllic place to hang out and relax for a few hours and was the perfect break from hanging on tight while Wade chased down insane José, who would race away on his dirt bike at every opportunity finding humour in the fact that we would struggle to keep up.
The idyllic Blue Lagoon complete with thatched roof huts, kayaks and hammocks in the water.... absolute paradise!
After a few hours chilling at Blue Lagoon, a noticeably more relaxed José emerged from the bushes smelling slightly smoky and we took off at a much slower pace than the hectic race earlier in the day. I took over from Wade and followed in José’s tracks as he bogged his bike 3 times in the soft sand. It was an eventful and hilarious trip back to town and José ended up taking the longest, slowest route possible, but Wade and I weren’t complaining, cause we were having the time of our life tearing around in the sand dunes when José wasn’t watching. The scenery around Jeri was incredible. You would be forgiven for forgetting where you are and mistaking the landscape for a foreign inland desert as at one point we stopped, completely surrounded for 1km on all sides by enormous sand dunes. Lucky for us, it wasn't a desert and we could cool down in the calm ocean at the end of our adrenaline-filled day with José!
We capped off the day with a good meal and a few Caiprinhas on the beach. We’ve had some pretty awesome times in the past 10 weeks, but this was one of the best days we’ve had so far.
Our final day in Jeri was spent chilling out on the beach and organising the next leg of our trip to Manaus in the Amazon. Overall, Jeri has this amazing chilled but fun and adrenaline filled atmosphere during the day, but then at night, it is fairly quiet with just a few pubs playing live music and a few street vendors selling Caiprinhas on the beach. There is something special about a town that has no streetlights and no paved roads, just long stretches of sand and cute little alleyways between shops and restaurants. The vibe in Jeri was awesome and I can honestly say that we would’ve missed out on a really special place had we not visited.
For plenty more photos of our time in Jericoacoara, check out our "Brazil - Part 3" photo album and as always, feel free to leave comments, suggestions or just tell us what you had for breakfast in our comments section below!
One last incredible sunset in Jericoacoara and to this day, one of the most magnificent sunsets I've ever witnessed
Enthusiastic but Useless Traveler.