I wrote a post last night but didn’t manage to post it due to lack of wifi connection. Now I’ve changed my mind and wont post it as I am too excited to not write about my last couple of days.
Since there seems to be no fixed plan lately for yours truly, I decided to once again just go for it and book stuff without thinking about it too much. Well, I had thought a lot about going to Jericoacoara (it’s here on the map) ever since my friend, Annemarie, posted some pretty amazing photos of the place and I could actually see myself in those photos, rolling down the sand dunes and enjoying the hammocks at the beach! But I was planning to go to Grenoble on Christmas as well and we all know how that ended, Milan stole my heart!
Jericoacoara (from now on ‘Jeri’ for obvious reasons) is a long way from Natal. I had to take the bus to Fortaleza (8.5 hours) and then another 5-hour drive from Fortaleza, plus 1 hour by a 4×4 truck to get to the little picturesque fishing village that is also a protected National Park since 2002. But first things first, I had to get to Fortaleza and this meant I would spend the night in the bus. I went to the bus station by taxi as it was already pitch dark outside and it’s no secret that bus stations are not the coziest of places be it day or night. I had been told that it’s a comfy bus with reclining seats and that it will not be an issue to sleep throughout the journey. Well. Not exactly. Of course it all depends on our point of reference and I did eventually sleep a few hours, but I guess my expectations were too high 🙂 Those damn expectations again..
Remember a couple of months ago when I spoke of a guy I was chatting with through a digital nomad group on FB who lived in Brazil and had out of nowhere offered to help me find accommodation in Natal at his aunt’s house? That was Sávio. Back then I still had nothing confirmed by the box and I was due to fly in a few days so I was stressing a lot. Given the circumstances the mere fact that he had so freely offered to help had taken away much of my stress and was a big relieve even though I ended up not using his assistance. But, since I would travel to Fortaleza anyway I thought it would be nice to meet Sávio in person, have a coffee and get to know each other ‘live’. When I told him I was planning to go to Jeri via Fortaleza, Sávio again offered to help me find a hostel and book my ticket from Fortaleza to Jeri. How lucky can a girl be? On top of that, he offered to come and pick me up at 6am from the bus station, which I only then found out was quite the distance from the centre of Fortaleza.
We spend half of the day together, he drove me around the whole town, showed me the favelas, the beaches, the cultural centres, markets and the financial district. We had lunch at a local restaurant where again you’d weigh your food and pay per gram. It was a special lunch as one day before I had decided to take up the monthly challenge presented by my coaches at Unscared Crossfit as part of the “life assignment”. The challenge was to fast for 24hours – no food, only H2O. I stopped eating at 11am on Saturday and after I arrived to Fortaleza I was counting the minutes to have my lunch. My coaches’ advice was to enjoy the first post-fasting meal with friends, so I did! I had explained to Sávio the whole life assignment project and he was even asked me whether I minded him having coffee and breakfast!
Thankfully, time flew and at 10:50 we were the first clients at the restaurant waiting for the kitchen to open for customers. What a treat to enjoy delicious Brazilian dishes in a nice, local restaurant with fresh juice and good company!
Sávio shared some of his stories and experiences with me, spoke of his town, of the Brazilian reality and organized crime, about his passions, about Sergio Vieira de Melo whose biography he’s already read three times and goes back to for motivation and inspiration when needed; about the time when some gang dug a tunnel to break into the safe of the local central bank; about the fact that it’s allowed to cross a red light between 23:00 and 6:00 in an effort of the state to minimize ‘red light crimes’; about the small things only a local can share. We talked about our jobs, about the life of a digital nomad, about travelling, living with purpose, our dreams and goals in life. What a full day it was! Once again, I was faced with unlimited kindness, openness and help from a person that until a few days ago was a total stranger (mind you he’s not a crossfitter, hehe).
We had delicious Italian coffee across the street from my hostel and kept chatting and chatting, the topics were endless! I even bragged about my limited Italian to the (Italian) owner of the café – I opted for bacini and coccole and didn’t call him the ‘tdc’ phrase (I was advised not to use it outside CrossFit Darsena so I didn’t, haha). Besides, hugs and kisses always put a smile on people’s faces!
My first time at a hostel was OK-ish. I’d once stayed at a hostel during the Lowlands Throwdown, but I don’t count that as it was with friends and part of my CrossFit judging experience 🙂
I shared a dorm with 5 girls. I got my fresh sheets and made my bed neatly (my friend, Ash, is an avid believer of the benefits of a well-made bed, so I thought I’d follow his example). I wanted to make this first experience very nice so I went the extra mile there 🙂
Having prepared everything for my evening there was still time to go out for a walk and check out what Fortaleza’s beach looked like. As it is the Carnaval weekend, stages had been set alongside the beach and the darker it got the more crowded it was.
I took a moment to sit on the fine sand and just enjoy the view and sound of the waves. The sea has such an impact on me, it can calm me down in no time. It’s sometimes such a relief that I get tears in my eyes for no reason whatsoever. For a moment there I didn’t think that I’m in one of the 50 most dangerous cities worldwide. I was just at the beach, listening to my songs and gazing at the sea. And I loved every second of it!
After my walk I went back to my room to take a shower and do some work. But when I entered the dorm I saw that someone had evidently slept on my fresh sheets! I mean, wtf? Was I given the wrong bed? I checked with the reception and they had no idea about it, so just gave me a clean set of sheets and the problem was solved. Up again, making the bed (again), showering and then I was ready to have some dinner and enjoy laying in my bed after a very long night in the bus. So after I had some dinner I went back up hoping to watch a movie on my laptop. This time when I entered the dorm there was a girl laying on my bed chatting with her friend who lay on the bed next to it. Really?? They spoke no English, so expressing any frustration would not help anyone, besides I was too tired already to fight. I chose to accept some people are idiots. I don’t know how things work in other hostels, but in this one you make your own bed, so if there’s a sheet on the bed it should mean the bed is taken, right? Is this science or what? Anyway… Didn’t get to watch the whole documentary about pick-pocketing in Rio that I wanted to as the internet stopped working. Maybe it was a sign from God to take some rest and sleep. So by 23:00 I was already falling asleep, but not really. My roommates were so rude; banging on doors, laughing and talking as if they were at a stadium or something… why dear god?
But I would get my revenge. I decided it at that moment. I thought “you may be going to bed late, ladies, and be the selfish pricks that you are but I wake up at 6! – I bet you won’t like that!” And I did wake up before 6 but by that time I was no longer upset and didn’t want to be one of ‘them’. So I quietly took my stuff and checked out. It was time to be picked up to go to Jeri!
Five hours in a mini-van and 1 hour on a 4×4 got me to Jeri. It was raining all the way, again.. It would seem that everywhere I go I bring the rain with me! Can’t complain though, the airco was on all the time and my music was keeping me good company. Btw, the hit of the season in Brazil is a song I find very amusing, PAREDÃO METRALHADORA, the choreography of which I am still to learn and it involves a LOT of hip movement, hehe! For now I know the tra-tra-tra part 😀
I got to my hostel ‘LaTaperaJeri’, keeping my expectations even lower this time, but was pleasantly surprised. If you check their website’s cover pic you’ll see the hammock on which I am laying right now writing this post. A great place with a very positive atmosphere, smiling, English-speaking people (yes, that is important on this side of the planet for people like me who speak no Portuguese) willing to help with anything!
After I was shown around the facilities, I had a short talk with Julia, one of the employees here and she brought back the smile on my face and calmness in my heart. Her exact words were ‘In Jeri you can walk all day barefoot, hold your phone and money in your hand, walk around in the night and nothing will ever happen to you. It’s another world. My next question was “Do you have availability for an extra week?”. I definitely did not expect to get such a positive vibe from Jeri in the first hour here, but if I had not left stuff in my apartment in Natal there’s a good chance I would not go back!
First of all, the mere fact that the entire village is built on fine sand and there are no cars or cement is in itself fascinating. I was told there are a few options for excursions to the lagoons and dunes and the more remote beaches and I will definitely try those. I am also considering – and have been considering for a while now, to take some surfing lessons. Julia did say there are lessons offered, but advised me to just rent a board for 30 reais and just go for it on my own. She said I can get some initial tips and guidance from the local surfers and maybe I don’t need to pay for lessons. Does it get any better?
I guess it does when I manage to ride a wave!! 🙂
So we were sitting and chatting when it started pouring again very hard. Mauricio, also working at the hostel, sprung from his seat, left for a moment and came back in his swimming shorts surfboard at hand. He said something to Julia and hurried to the beach. Julia informed me that when it rains as hard it is an opportunity to catch the best waves and that’s where Mauricio was running to. She said that if I was not afraid of getting wet, I might like going to the beach and watch the surfers. I guess if you are in Jeri-mood, so tropical rain can spoil your day… Nothing can, actually!
I didn’t have to think twice. I was already in Jeri-mood and getting wet was the least of my concerns. There were no concerns actually. I jumped into my bikini and followed the instructions I was given to find the surfers’ beach. What I saw before my eyes was simply breathtaking. This view of the ocean, the sound of the waves, seeing the surfers all sitting on their boards with their eyes turned to the sea and waiting for the best wave… and in the background some horses resting on the beach completing the scenery. I sat on the sand, rain falling on my face and body, feeling so warm both inside and out. I sat there for about an hour, gazing at the surfers, trying to understand what makes a wave a ‘good wave’, I was part of it in my own way. I even caught myself smiling every time some excited surfer would scream of joy for having ‘nailed it’. Who knows, may I can join them before long.
My hammock is making it hard to keep my eyes open and keep writing. Please excuse me, I will indulge in this experience. More Jeri experiences will definitely follow very soon!