Part two of Journey Latin America client Alan Chapman's tales of travelling the Rota das Emoções in Northeast Brazil.
Travelling down the Rio Preguiças (Lazy River) past mangrove forests, the speedboat reached the palm shacks at Caburé on a sand-bar between the river and the ocean. After the first of many excellent fish meals, the boat crossed the bay for a beach landing at Atins, an idyllic spot with a few boutique hotels fronting the deserted white beach. An exciting ride on a dune-buggy took me to the dunes and the virtually deserted Lagoa de Capivara.
The following morning, I took a boat back to Caburé and was met by a driver and guide for the trip along the deserted beach, past mangroves which had been swamped by the dunes. Continuing by road, we arrived at Parnaíba, a city in the State of Piauí situated on the massive delta of the Rio Parnaíba. Crossing the choppy river close to its mouth to the sea, we reached the family-run Pousada Casa de Caboclo on a bluff overlooking the river. The afternoon speedboat journey took us up the mangrove-lined channels of the delta where, as dusk falls, scarlet ibises fly in from all directions to roost on the trees of one particular island where there are no predators, allowing them to breed in safety; a spectacular sight. I don’t know how the boatman didn’t get lost in the dark as we returned through the delta channels back to the pousada.
One of the delights of travelling in this region is the variety of fruits and juices: acerola, açaí, caju (cashew), maracuja (passion fruit), goiaba (guava), mamão (papaya), laranja (orange), limão (lemon and lime), and mango.
After a short visit to the old town and port of Parnaíba, a detour was made off the Rota das Emoções for a couple of nights to visit the Parque Nacional de Sete Cidades (Seven Cities), so-named by explorers because the rock formations formed by wind and rain look as though they are the ruins of an ancient civilisation, a thought which the rock-painting protected by overhangs may have encouraged. We had the park more-or-less to ourselves although much of it is closed to visitors for protection and scientific research. With temperatures in the 30s, it was a strenuous hike along the 13km of trails through the dry caatinga vegetation to visit all the amazing “cities”, but well worth it.
Returning to the coast, we arrived at Camocin and left the 4WD to be ferried across an inlet to be met by a beach-buggy and driver for an exciting ride along the beach, over the dunes, crossing lagoons on small ferries, and reaching Lagoa Grande to choose our fresh red snapper for another alfresco lunch under a thatched shack, with a family of pigs digging for crabs as company.
A short distance along the coast was Jericoacoara, the end of the Rota das Emoções and a great place to hang out on the beach and in the bars, restaurants and boutique shops lining the sandy streets (there are no tarmac roads). To one side the clean, white-sand beach stretches towards a large dune – a favourite sunset spot – and to the other side, cliffs and rock-features such as the coloured Pedra Furada steal the show. The tide goes out a long way to the warm tropical waters of the Atlantic – not surprising that Jeri has become such a favourite with Brazilians.
So that was the end of the first week of my journey to the North-East. The Rota das Emoções had lived up to expectations: a great mix of scenery, historic towns and means of transport, as well as great weather and cuisine made for a fantastic journey! Still to come was Fortaleza, Belem, Salvador da Bahia, Lençóis and hiking in the Parque Nacional de Chapada Diamantina, Petrolina, and the Parque Nacional de Serra da Capivara with its extensive rock art and evidence of the oldest human settlement in the Americas. The North-East of Brazil has so much variety to offer. The distances between places are large but well worth the effort to see.
Read part one of Alan's journey here.