Jericoacoara: exclusivity at the end of the world

I was sitting at the back of the truck, putting up with the bumpy ride along the coast, wind blowing into my face, fists tightly clenched unto the handrail for support. ‘Where is this place? Is it at the end of the world?!’ I thought to myself after a while. ‘It must be after this next dune surely.’

At last we saw it, nestled in between the sand dunes. We had arrived in Jericoacoara. We first saw the kite- and wind-surfers that the village is famous for. Then we saw some of the water front hotels in all their glory. We then drove through the sand streets and into the ‘city centre’. After we got dropped off and settled the bill it was time to find a place to stay for the next couple of days. This was going to be a challenge since the locals mentioned that everything was full even before we got off the truck. A pousada right in front of the truck stop offered a room for R$30 ($15) which considering the location was rather good. So, a fellow passenger went it and I followed him shortly after. I got into the room and grinned at the gorgeous interior. The cheap price made me even happier. My happiness was very short lived though as the girl at the reception came in to tell me that they would charge me double the price.
– What happened to the R$30 you mentioned? – I asked.
– Nooo – she shook her head. ‘What ‘no’? I thought. ‘You said R$30 less then 5min ago.’
– It is too expensive, I will not stay – I said, got my bags and left.

‘Now what?’ I thought. There was a hostel just across the street from where I were and thought I would give it a try. I settled in and went out for a walk. One of the local attractions was a big sand dune just off the ocean where locals and tourists alike gathered in the afternoon to watch the sunset. It was almost that time and I slowly made my way there. On the way I went through the garden of one of the posh hotels as recommended by the hostel owner who regarded it as an attraction. It was very nice indeed, with huts high up in the trees, lounge areas, a swimming pool, a bar and a restaurant, all surrounded by flowers, trees and airy curtains. Very nice indeed. One of those serene retreats you see in brochures. It came at a price though. About ten times the price of my bunk bed.

The sunset was indeed lovely and the hundreds of people gathered on top of the dune added to the atmosphere. The wind blowing sand into my face and pants wasn’t so lovely. Determined to enjoy the sunset though I stoically sat there with my sand dune caipirinha and marveled at the dying sun.

When the show was over I slowly started making my way down the dune and possibly into the center when I saw the boy with the long hair that I had gaped at earlier that day. I thought I’d go closer so I could see him better. He wast alone though and his friend Azarias, the resident sand surfer asked if I wanted to give it a try. Of course I did! I had wanted to do it for a really long time. It looked like so much. I said no though.
– Come on! Give it a try! – Azarias urged me – It is fun.
– How much is it? – I asked.
– For you it is free! – he answered. In that case hand me the board!

Azarias explained how it was done and in no time I was standing on the board ready for my first descend. I didn’t make it too far down the dune though as I was on my ass even before I left.
– Ay, ay, ay, ay! – I screamed. Before I knew it I was down and Azarias and Oreo (the boy with the long hair) were laughing at me. So were the few spectators that had gathered. I didn’t care though. I was having a blast. A dream, was coming true.
For my next attempt Azarias gave me a few pointers.
– You have to slide wither to the left or to the right, you can’t go straight ahead – he explained. This is how you position your feet and spread your body weight – he demonstrated.
– OK – I nodded. Let me try again.
– Ay, ay, ay, ay! and down again. People were mocking me and laughing out loud. The fun was on!

I did try a few more time, every time making it a bit further down the dune. Going down was easy and took seconds. The climb up was exhausting and took a while.

It was getting dark and time to get down and head into town. Azarias offered a ride down and we slid down the dune on one of the boards.
– Ouuuuuu!!! – I screamed, my hands up in the air, as we speaded down the dune.
– Let’s go for a drink – Azarias offered. What do you say?
‘Drinks on the beach…’ I thought. Sounds like an excellent idea. Besides I thought it would be a nice way to pay Azarias back since he didn’t charge me for the board.

We walked to the drink stands where I got a maracuya caipirinha, Azarias got a caja caipirinha and a pineapple juice for Oreo. On the way there we talked and joked and I was happy with the way the evening was progressing. Oreo spoke a bit of Spanish since his mom was Peruvian and Azarias understood it amazingly well. He understood a little bit of everything as a matter of fact and spoke a little bit of everything as well.

I was a bit anxious about the conversation though. I thought we wouldn’t have much in common and we would soon run out of things to say. I was surprised how well we understood each other though and how much we had to say. It was a great evening. Azarias offered we went out dancing later that night since there was a forro party on the beach and I thought it a great idea. We arranged to meet a later and I went back to the hostel to have dinner and rest.

How does going out in Jeri works? An interesting business it is. What happens is the following – people have dinner at 7-8pm then go to sleep for a few hours before they get up at 2am to go out and party the night away. A bit challenging if you ask me. I tried it myself and failed miserably. I woke up that night at about 1pm thinking I should go out. There was no way I was getting out of bed in the middle of the night. I didn’t meet Azarias and I didn’t go dancing.

I woke up the next morning, had breakfast and left for a day trip to one of the local lakes. I had arranged it the day before with some of the girls staying at the hostel. I was again a bit anxious as the girls were friends and spoke Portuguese just like the other two people on the trip. I thought I’d feel awkward and isolated but I was surprised to find out how friendly and accepting everybody was. We ended up having a great day. It was just like hanging out with old friends. I didn’t go that night either despite having arranged it with a friend from the hostel. I was reading in a hammock and before I knew it I was asleep. I did wake up at 3am and went looking for the guys but the hostel was dark and quite. There was no way I was going out to look for them in the middle of the night so I just went back to sleep.

The following day we took another buggy trip to the dunes and the lakes. Much better than the first day, much more beautiful. Again, a buggy packed with strangers, speaking different languages, ending up being friends. That night I did go out. It was my last night in Jeri and I was determined to go out. At 9.30pm we all went out for drinks. We wanted to go to a samba bar with live music but it didn’t start until 23.30pm true to Jeri tradition. We settled for a bar on the main street with some kick-ass caipirinhas. Two of those had me very merry.

We then decided to carry on with drinks on the beach while waiting for the late night party to begin at Mama Africa, the local club. That is when Azarias found me.
– I waited for you on the dune the other day – he said looking at me intently. I just shrugged. I didn’t have a good excuse, I was avoiding him on purpose. I knew what he was after and didn’t want to get involved.

Later that night we all went dancing. And when we got bored we headed to the beach for more delicious fruit caipirinhas with cachaça (local sugar cane drink) instead of vodka. Much stronger and adds to the cultural experience. We had a blast, ended up greeting the sun. Gotta love those nights! I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my last night in Jeri.

I had a whole day to kill since my bus wasn’t until 10.30pm. Shouldn’t be too difficult when surrounded by sun, beach and great people. I went walking on the beach when I bumped into Azarias. He offered to go for a walk and since I didn’t have anything better to do I agreed. He took me to a nearby dune, the largest and most beautiful of the ones surrounding Jeri. On the way there we stopped at his friend’s house, had a bit of a chat, drank some water, saw some old photos and watched an illegal peacock fight.
– Why do they do it? – I asked. Are they gambling?
– No, they do it for fun – Azarias responded.

I liked the small detour. Although I couldn’t communicate with his friend and the friend’s family and only understood little from what they said I enjoyed the experience. We were in the middle of nowhere surrounded by sand dunes and there was this peasant’s house snuggled under palm trees with all the village life charms it had to offer. We left the house from the back door of the yard which was also the entrance to the dune. How many people have an enormous sand dune in their back yard? As beautiful as it is it is also dangerous. The wind moves the sand and sometimes it covers everything in its way. There are cases of whole town being covered by sand.

Here we were, on top of the 50m dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the surroundings. Everything was white with bits of green for as long as the eye could see. Again we talked and laughed a lot. I was warming up to Azarias. I was tempted, we were having a great time. I didn’t trust him though. Yes, he had been very nice, but not too nice so one couldn’t believe him. But still, after the stories I have heard about the locals I wasn’t going to risk it.

We then went into town, got the sand boards and headed for the sunset dune. I was sand-boarding again and it went a bit better this time. Still I couldn’t make it to the bottom in just one go. I loved it though. I wanted to stay there longer and learn to sand board properly. Azarias was also insisting I stayed longer. I did think about it, it was tempting. But what was I going to do there? Yes, I would learn to sand board, get involved with a possibly dodgy guy, and spent my life living the simplest of lives on the beach. Not for me. The desire to travel, to finish my trip was stronger than anything. For some reason I feel it is important to finish this trip. I am not sure why but it will probably become clear later on.

I did enjoy my last day in Jeri and before I knew it it was time to leave. I can’t say it wasn’t hard but it was what I had to do. The darkness of the bus gave me time to think and reflect. I sat there with a heavy heart looking at the last of the dunes washed in moonlight.


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