We had a great time in Belem! We were lucky enough to meet two awesome taxistas – a father and son team. The son drove at night; the dad drove during the day while the son was attending classes. He was studying to be an engineer and shared a passion for the language of math. His English was very good, and he had great patience for my Portugués. Together they showed us downtown Belem, took us to the famous Estação Das Docas, accompanied us as we crossed the river to see villages constructed of bamboo docks along the river’s ‘jungley’ edge, ate fresh fish, visited a small chocolate making micro-business, and enjoyed a truly tropical rain storm before heading back. We saw museums and botanical gardens, found many interesting species of birds wandering in the parks, and tasted typical tacacá with an authentic street side vendor.
From here, we made our way to Barreirinhas – the gateway to Lençóis Maranhenses National Park and its most spectacular dunes. We followed a guide on a quadrimoto (a four-wheeler) as we made our way to Atins on the coast of northern Brazil. Watch the short video clip of us following our guide…it looks just like something from a video game, doesn’t it?!
This place was incredible – dunes as far as the eyes can see, dotted with small lagoons that form from the rain. We went all the way to the edge where these protected dunes meet the Atlantic.
We went back to Barreirinhas to camp once more and met a group of the most delightful people! We spent time by the pool getting to know them and eventually went to dinner and dancing at the riverside boardwalk…we were welcomed into their hearts and they into ours. We won’t soon forget our Brazilian friends!
Our next stop was Jericoacoara – a very small, but popular resort town where driving in the sandy streets is prohibited and tiny bars and restaurants take up much of the space. It is not the typical beach scene one would find on the Miami shore…this place is much more laid back and requires that you disconnect, unwind and bask in the difference of life in this small, crowded village. We had read that we would be greeted by guides as we entered the small town of Guriú, just before the village of Jeri. You see, you must take two small ‘ferries’ to make it to the sand highway that runs literally along the ocean’s edge to get there. I say ferry, but actually mean raft – look at the photos and you will agree!
Because the road is an ever-shifting sand beach, it is good to have a guide to help identify the route. Knowing this, we expected to hire a guide and never assumed that we would do this alone. Sure enough, as we drove into town, we were greeted by a guide driving a motorcycle next to us, honking his horn, vigorously waving and showing us his official guide badge. Pulling up to us at a stop light, he motioned for us to pull over. We did and in no time, he had jumped off his bike, raced to my side of the truck and proceeded to over dramatize the necessity of having a guide to go to Jericoacoara. He explained that this was so incredibly dangerous, and that people died every day trying to make this trip on their own. He was certain our truck was too heavy, and we would sink in the sand without his expertise. Just as he began to get even more frantic explaining that he would have to drive our car, I had had enough. I got out of the truck, put my hands on my hips like a superhero and began to berate him by the side of the road in perfect Portugués. ‘We have driven over 20,000 miles in our own truck all the way from the United States. We are perfectly capable of handling difficult driving situations. We are not afraid and do not need your dramatic recounting of hundreds of dead travelers. Enough. We are happy to hire a guide, but you will ride in the truck – not drive, lose the frantic tone and stop with the histrionics! Now, get in and let’s go.’
(The Portugués version just for fun…thanks Google translate for the help – ‘Já percorremos mais de 20.000 milhas em nosso próprio caminhão desde os Estados Unidos. Somos perfeitamente capazes de lidar com situações difíceis de condução. Não temos medo e não precisamos da sua narrativa dramática de centenas de viajantes mortos. O suficiente. Estamos felizes em contratar um guia, mas você vai andar no caminhão – não dirija, perca o tom frenético e pare com os histriónicos! Agora, entre e vamos.’)
He stood there with his mouth open and his eyes wide for a brief second, climbed into the passenger seat and away we went. In no time, Jorge’s driving ability impressed him, and he was able to relax, enjoy a fresh mandarina and our company as we made our way to Jeri.
Today’s theme – Often it is more about the journey, not the destination.