The Race is On

On the very off chance that you didn ´t already know, I ´m crazy, and it takes someone equally crazy to keep up with me.

After the mad dash to the rodoviária (bus station) in Belem where we hopped a last-minute bus to Fortaleza (not where we really wanted to go, but we missed the longer-distance bus), we spent  the rest of the day, all night, and most of the next day on the bus.   The first 15 hours were on a Bolivian quality road, but, thank god, on a Brazilian bus (air conditioning, padded seats, and leg room.   Heaven!).   The last 15 hours were uneventful, if not mind numbing.

When we got to Fortaleza, we tracked down tickets for our intended destination (Natal) where we hoped to take a dune buggy tour “with emotion” (i.e. the dune of death, ´vertical descent ´, etc.) on the tallest sand dunes in the world.   When we got there, however, the forecast of rain combined with nothing else to do in Natal made Jacumã the next destination.   We hopped a bus to the nearest tranportation hub in a town an hour away, and three hours later we were finally on our last bus ride (in a bus without shocks) headed for paradise after 48 hours of mind numbing and body cramping bus rides.   Who else would do this to themselves?

We didn ´t have very specific directions for our intended hotel (surprise, surprise), so we kept our eye out for the “viking ship painted on the water tower of Hotel Viking overlooking Jacumã.”   After several stops and random stints into different neighborhoods, Pat spotted it and said, “Oh… I think I see the Viking ship.”   The young woman next to us, a very helpful teenager, said, “Vee-keeng-guh?   Vee-keeng-guh?” to which we enthusiastically replied in the affirmative.   Apparently we had missed our stop, because she stood up and yelled, “Driver! Driver!   Stop the bus!!”   It sounds funnier in Portuguese, because “driver” is “moh-toe-rees-tah (motorista),”   So she really said, “Moh-toe-reeeeeeeeeeeeeeees-tah!   Moe-toe-reeeeeeeeeeees-tah!”   The bus ground to a halt, and we managed to lug our bags out the back door and make it through the turnstyle in a timely manner.   (You must go through the turnstyle.   Manually turning it to add a number to the counter is not allowed.   You must move your body through the turnstyle to exit the bus.   God knows why).

As soon as we got withing 200 feet of Hotel Viking, we knew this place must have changed since the guide book wrote a nice hotel for $13 a night.   This place was a full-blown theme hotel complete with tiered pools with a dragon winding through them before coming to rest as a fountain/waterfall at the head of the largest pool.   We decided to check the price just in case, and lucky us… thanks to their winter special, we managed to swing a room at the very tippy top of our price range.   So, we got to spent three days and two nights in a luxurious hotel room complete with fancy bathroom, air-conditioning, mini-bar, and television.   Very posh.

We spent a good three hours recuperating from our die-hard bus travels before venturing out for dinner.   We didn ´t realize that since it ´s “winter” here (i.e drops below 60 at night), the town would be wiped out.   We tried to find all the restaurants in our guide book, but they were all shut down.   We settled on a pizzaria/restuarant that had the crab-coconut soup that I ´ve been dying to try on the menu.   However, as per the usual, they never have what they say they have on the menu, so I ended up with rice and beans and spent the last 30 minutes of our meal watching Pat eat his garlic shrimp that were way more work and money than they were worth.   Peel and eat should be avoided if you ´re at all hungry.   The upside was the excellent caipirinhas… a $.75 cocktail made with local liquor, limes, sugar, and ice that both of us think is to-die-for.

We crashed hard when we got back to the hotel, and welcomed the following morning with the hotel ´s fantastic buffet breakfast.   Once the clouds rolled out, we headed to the beach.   In the off season, there are no taxi ´s or minibusses, so we braved the task of walking the 5 miles to the beach instead of paying $25 to have the hotel run us around.   After two miles, I was sick of walking on the highway surrounded in forest with no ocean view.   We had talked about hitching, but chickened out every chance we got.   Finally, I had enough and swore I ´d stick my thumb out for the next pick-up that happened along.   Finally a VW van came into view, and I mustered up enough courage to stick my thumb out.   To my surprise, they pulled over!   As they got closer, I saw it was a pickup with a flat front, much like a VW… strange because you ´d never see it in the U.S.   I asked it they were going to Tambaba (our beach of choice), and they told us to hop in.   So, we gratefully climbed over the sides of the truck (only 1 ft. tall) and sat down for the rest of the ride up and down hills and around corners.   Thank god we weren ´t walking!

The beach we were headed to is divided in two by a cliff with a staircase bridge leading up and over to Brazil ´s only nude beach in the northeast.   Praia Tambaba (Tambaba Beach) was insanely gorgeous with beautiful rock outcroppings providing amazing scenery full of crashing waves all day long.

A view of the cliffs of Tambaba where we spent most of our beach time and fried like Lobsters.

A view of the Tambaba beach at high tide from the tops of the cliffs overlooking this little paradise.

The ocean was warm, but refreshing, and we ended up spending the whole day with Altanir and Muceio, the couple that picked us up, sharing beers, garlic shrimp, vienna sausages, mandarins, and peanuts.   Altanir showed us how to dig naturally occuring zinc out of the cliff and use it as sunscreen, and Muceio kept us entertained, despite the language barrier.   We failed to properly utilize sunscreen (we applied after our first dip in the ocean), and my back, shoulders, and upper bum are so burnt that I can ´t comfortably wear my backpack.   Poor Pat, with his Swedish blood, turned into a lobster.   I hope the pictures we took that night of our burns come out.   Lesson learned.

When we left the beach, Altanir and Muceio took us to another beach just so we ´d get to see it before we left, and then drove us by the lot they ´d just purchased where they plan to build a pousada in the near future.   They were renting a friend ´s bungalow for the week, so we went to the friend ´s house where a dinner party was in full swing.   We met an awesome couple from São Paulo, and another couple that had just returned to South America after living in Miami in the states for 11 years (a Brazilian and and Argentinian).   They got  us excited about investment opportunities in the area, so now Pat and I are daydreaming about  owning beach front  real estate with sky-rocketing property value in Brazil.

My favorite beach in Jacum… called Coqueirinho, I think.

The next morning, before we left  Jacumã, Muceio and Altanir took us to another beautiful beach where a river runs into the ocean.   We were too sunburned to  partake in the swimming, but the views were gorgeous, and instead we  shared fries, crab and coconut stew (finally!), a whole crab served in  coconut milk, and fish stew (better than the crab, I must admit) to finish off the session.   We jumped back in the truck and headed for the bus stop, but passed the bus on the main road on the  way back into  town.    Our initial reaction was disappointment at the prospect of having to wait another hour  for the next bus, but Altanir and Muceio ´s first reaction was to flag the bus  down for us!   I love this way of life!   So, the bus and all it ´s passengers patiently waited alongside the road as we loaded our bags and said our  goodbyes.   I love Jacumã!

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