We had been travelling through Brazil mainly by whatever bus we could find that was heading in our general direction and was an overnighter to save us the cost of accommodation. It was day 37 of our year long trip and we had spent a couple of days in the small town of Jericoacoara on Brazil’s north west Atlantic coast.
27th August 1999: Day 1 – Jericoacoara to Tatajuba (Day 37 overall)
Today we decided to do something a little different and take a walk with our packs up the coast to a town called Tatajuba. The distance was only about 30km but there is a river halfway for which a raft was needed. The raft-men only operate during the day so we thought we’d walk to the river and camp for the night. We would not walk in the day because it would be too hot so we decided to wait until mid-afternoon. The day was spent relaxing, packing and dong a little shopping for the trip. We bought some noodles so we could have a snack along with some fruit and biscuits. We said goodbye to Alberto and Tiaz (our hosts in Jericoacoara) and headed off. Alberto seemed to think we were a bit strange to be walking to Tatajuba when we could have driven! We set off at 4pm and walked over the dune before travelling down the beach. Although we had our packs plus food and 6 kilos of water each, the going was good although the sand was a little soft. We stopped to watch the sunset and then again to watch the moon-rise.
After about four hours walking (with two breaks), we came to a small town with the river. Mark waded part way to see if it was cross-able but it wasn’t especially with our packs on. On the way we met a man who just happened to be wandering by who was carrying a large machete. We spoke briefly and he went on his way but he left a few worries in our minds about sleeping on the beach. We found a secluded spot between two bushes and a sand dune from which it would be hard to see us. We decided not to have a campfire and after a dinner of a banana and a biscuit – went to bed in our bivvies. I had a strange dream of the tide coming in and us being washed away but otherwise I slept well.
We all felt good to be doing something a little different from other tourists so that maybe we could begin to call ourselves ‘travellers’. I’ve been trying to determine the different between tourists and travellers and often find that there is not much at all. Travellers just seem to move around more and do it for longer. I think there is much money to be saved by camping every now and then but we are limited by what we can cook (noodles are easy but are more expensive). I remembered the walk on which I passed the time by thinking I wander if I will every read this diary again for I have never read any of my previous diaries. Sometimes I wonder to whom I’m writing it for: me? my parents? or as the basis for some future book? I think there are parts for everyone but all it is not interesting for anyone else. Ponder ponder.
28th August 1999: Day 2 – Jericoacoara to Tatajuba (Day 38 overall)
The sun was hot by the time I awoke but it was only about 8am. I had woken several times in the night and taken a look at the moon passing directly overhead to determine the time. I felt a little like Crocodile Dundee although from previous estimates, I knew I was only accurate to about an hour each way. We brushed our teeth and set off to cross the river and find some shade. It took about 10 minutes to reach the river and there were several rafts ready to take us across along with one or two of the passing jeeps for 1 real per person. As usual, the rafts were punted across and we disembarked a couple of minutes later. The raft-men shouted Portuguese directions to Tatajuba but we followed the tyre marks of the jeep trails.
On our left was thick mangrove swamp and on our right was the river and eventually the sea. The sun was quickly sweltering and we couldn’t find anywhere to offer us shelter other than the swamp trees. We reached the top of a sand dune and were able to spy a few lone trees set part from the rest. It was a perfect little spot. The thick branches and leaves offered good shade and some fallen logs provided simple backrests. Beach-ward the same dune which we had come from provided an obstacle to the jeep route so they wouldn’t bother us either. We found enough dry wood to start a fire but we didn’t light it yet for we were going to wait until lunch. Instead we read and diary’d and generally took it easy. All of us were feeling a bit stiff and Jono had heat rash too.
Just before we were due to start lunch, a sudden and ferocious wind picked up. The sand was whipped up and flung in our faces sting all bare skin. It got into everything very quickly – eyes, ears, nose and just stuck to the rest of our faces. The bags were soon covered in piles of sand and we could only keep spitting out the sand. Even covering our heads in t-shirts was not completely effective and our attempts at building a shelter didn’t work either. In the end, we abandoned the camp and trekked on to find a more sheltered spot.
A few hundred meters further on the swamp began to dry up a little and we found a pleasant spot on the landward side. The were some logs and a small lagoon nearby where we could obtain some water to cook with. There was a bull nearby but he didn’t bother us with more than an inquisitive look. With the wood shavings from a nearby felled tree, we started a fire and took it in turns to use the pans to boil water for the noodles. Balancing them was a bit of a problem and a few ended up in the fire but it eventually worked fine. With the noodles, we added some sweetcorn and tinned frankfurters. Mark had nicked some tabasco sauce from somewhere and we added some of that too. With our bananas and biscuits, it was a good filling meal. We rested until 4pm when the sun was cool enough to walk under comfortably. The wind had not quietened and the sand-spirits whipped us in the direction we were heading. The scenery was dunes, sand and sky.
We had travelled a little inland to cut off a corner and couldn’t even see the sea. We would often trek slowly to the top of a tall dune in an attempt to see our destination but apart from sand, all we could see was a distant thin line of trees on the horizon, possibly indicating a river. After a while, the sun began to sink below the horizon. We did see three other people walking the same direction but they were ahead and moving more quickly. The moon had not risen by the time darkness fell so we had to follow the glimmering line of surf to navigate our way. Jeri had all but disappeared from view behind us and ahead we could no light except possibly the faint glow of the larger town of Camocim far beyond the horizon.
We walked for what seemed like ages and then a couple of lights appeared but still quite far off which we thought might be our destination – Tatajuba. It took another hour or so to reach the point where we could cut inland towards them. The moon had appeared now and offered a fain light but ahead of us we saw the reflection of the lights on a river. We waded through mud up to our shins across the river bank but could see there was no way to cross with our bags. Instead, we headed off to find another camping site. Halfway up a dune surrounded by trees on a small shelf seemed a relatively good spot and so we threw open our bivvy bags and went to bed falling asleep straight away.
29th August 1999: Day 3 – Jericoacoara to Tatjuba (Day 39 overall)
From the top of our dune in the daylight, we could not see a way to get across the river to the village of Tatajuba. Few people seemed to be awake and we weren’t sure how to indicate our needs anyway. We could see the river stretching up and behind us for as far as we could see. First we agreed to get to a higher place where we might be able to see a little more and a large dune to the north sufficed. From here, our predicament was further complicated by the extensive marshlands which cut us off for a long way back down the beach.
I saw some people on the other side of the river so did my best to look as lost as I could from two hundred meters against the rising sun! It seemed to work because three of them launched a fishing boat in our general direction. We walked down the dune and had to wade through some more sandy mud before we could get in the boat but they carried us across for R1 each.
In Tatajuba, we seemed to get a lot of attention from the locals probably out of curiosity as to why these three foreigners with 50Lbs of equipment were standing on top of a dune at 8 o’clock in the morning. We headed to a pousada (Verde Fohla) where we asked for some breakfast for we were very hungry. It was a good one with a fried egg but the special Tatajuba Marioc cake tasted like reinforced plasticine.
The onward ‘bus’ to Camocim we had planned for wasn’t running which left two remaining options: 1) a jeep to Camocim which I could only negotiate down to R40 for all of us, or 2) a trailer lorry that left at 3am and was only R3. Since the entire cost (including the pousada) was about the same, we opted for the latter since it would give us a chance to rest and explore Tatajuba.
The town was tiny and spread over quite some distance. The total population of 771 didn’t include the various horses, cows and pigs which wandered freely. The wind was still strong but we found shelter in the coconut trees and spent some time trying to crack a fallen coconut open. We eventually managed to extract the core and it was very tasty but after our fill, it was more fun to feed the pigs who looked very thin and would eat out of our hands. After a further game of coconut baseball, we tried negotiating our way back but the rising tide had started to turn the hard mud into a swamp. The various remaining trails often led to dead ends and the water crept slowly higher. Crabs were darting in and out of their holes as we strode by. The mud which the crabs dug out formed little walls to the radiating paths they would take giving off the impression of dozens of muddy stars littering the ground. After many wrong turns and a bit of hacking through, we finally emerged town side and made our way back.
We agreed to have dinner at the pousada for R3.3 each as there was not much in the way of a shop and we still hungry. As it turned out, it was another fish similar to the one we ate the other day with more bones, but it tasted good. Alongside was lots of rice and beans but they charged extra for the cokes. We took an early night retiring to our hammocks so to prepare for our 3am wake-up.