Uncharted Brazil – Arpoeiras to Jeri
We're going the wrong way! Vila Kalango is not this way. It's 3am and Mitu assures me as we stroll down the sand filled streets of Jericoacoara that he knows the route home. But I know he's lying to me by his sideways grin. We turn the corner to see the only lit building still open, the late night padaria. We're stopping in for midnight munchies, known as larica in Portuguese. Midnight munchies snacks consist of fresh baked bread topped with either chocolate, bananas or cheese. The padaria is only open from 2am till 7am for the sole purpose of feeding inebriated souls like ours returning from a night of dancing at the Forró.
A bass guitar. A triangle. One Drum. Two accordions. These are the members of band at the late night Forró dance hall. The dancing is a double rhythm. Two beats to the left, two to the right, with spins. My muscles fatigued from our unbelievable sunset session from Preà to Jeri understand the rhythm, but the connection from the brain to the muscle neurons just isn't firing. The women are stunning, and move with the grace and beauty of the Bolshoi ballet. The movement of the hips is hypnotic. But I'm getting ahead of myself. This is the end of my story. It begins in Arpoeiras at 8am the previous day.The wind is already blowing 25+knots, and it we're about to push off from Pousada dos Canoas in Arpoeiras. The silt flats where we found our clams the night before is now filled over a meter deep from the incoming tide. The water is flat, and the turbines are ever rotating. The first portion of our ride is smooth, filled with fishing cages that lay hidden just inches under the water. The fishermen use the tides to their advantage, building pens that fill with water when the tide rolls in, trapping unsuspecting fish that swim into the cages in search for food. When the tide recedes, the water drops, trapping the fish on the silt bottoms leaving only the task of collecting the fish off the silt like clean up in aisle 5 at the grocery store. The pens are all over the shallow water, so it's imperative that you keep your eyes peeled as to avoid colliding with these home made chicken wire cages. I don't want to be collected with the rest of the sea life when the tide recedes.
Our hydration stop is at the end of a fantastically long row of wind turbines. The only objects we've passed for the last 20 kilometers. Standing underneath them with kites in the air, our 20+ meter lines seem tiny in comparison to the towering propellers. Only up close to can you truly appreciate the scale of these kilowatt-cranking monsters.
From our pit stop point, till the end of the day, our session is one of the best rides of my life. Lit like a firecracker on the fourth of July, my 7m Reo cranks out kite loops as it slingshots me down the line of perfect chest high waves. I chase Justin, only meters behind as our kites samba in the sky, narrowly missing each other as we slip and slash waves in a repetitive opposite rhythm. When I heel side, he toe sides, like we're competing in the world powder 8 championships. Justin is my oldest kite buddy, and we've done this dance countless times in locations all over the world, but never with this perfection in our rhythm. Like champion ballroom dancers, we pirouette the coastline in perfect synchronicity.
For the first time on our amazing voyage, we actually stop at a real restaurant, and not on a secluded beach, snacking on treats behind the Land Rover. Rancho do Peixe is an oasis in the dunes. A fantastic pousada with a spectacular restaurant and kite school located right on the water. Toasted chicken sandwiches, fresh cold coconuts full of their delicious nectar, and açai bowls refueling us with their pure energy. Post lunch, Sebastian, Jalila and myself catch a quick nap in the sun on one of the many sun beds overlooking the show of kiters. Just as the sheep start jumping the fence in my dreams, Wandeson our captain shakes my leg, and tells us all to mount up as it's time to ride the sunset into Jericoacoara.
Jericoacoara is the only place in Brazil where the sun sets over the ocean. And spectacular doesn't even come close to describing the magic. The perfectly golden sunset reflects off the inside of the waves faces like lost treasures sea men sail the high seas to discover. The coastline is high smooth dunes with cliffs jetting out into the ocean. Waves explode on the rock faces like dynamite at the diamond mine. Sebastian, Mitu and myself rip in between each other crushing perfect right hand breaks, hooting and hollering like we've just won the lottery.
In my mind, we have. Holding nothing back, feeding off each other's energy, we destroy every ripple in our path. Sharing waves with two of the best riders in the world, and killing it, my smile says it all. This session has to be one of, is not the best kite memory I have to date. Like a broken record in my mind, all I can here in the echo in my head is wow, wow, wow. This text doesn't even come close to expressing the sheer beauty and brilliance of the session of my life. These sessions are the reason why I started Uncharted Kite Sessions. When I'm old and grey, I won't remember any of the material possessions I own today, but I will remember this session. I guarantee it. And If I get a choice in heaven as to my bliss, it would be this day repeated over and over again.
We round the point to see the massive iconic dune that hangs over Jeri in all her majesty. The golden sunlight reflection of the perfect sand gives a luster of pure gold. Kings have pillaged over such beauty. I can only imagine the first Portuguese discovery boats arriving here centuries ago to see this fantastic oasis. Now I know why they never left.
Landing past the dune, our Land Rover from Surfin Sem Fim is ready and waiting to bring us to our home for the evening, the exquisite Vila Kalango located right on the ocean. But first we have to figure out how to get our gear and 9 people into trucks already full of luggage. In Jeri the gear gets the front seat, and the people go on the roof. Gear secured, we climb on the roof of the Land Rover, brace ourselves for the ride, and roll over the dunes, slipping and sliding into one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen.
There are no streetlights in Jericoacoara. The roads are all sand, and all the lighting comes from the individual little shops and street vendors, creating a glow that is supernatural. Jeri ranks up there with Paris, NYC, Berlin and all the greats as a destination you need to see with you own eyes to believe.
As usual our dinner is sumptuous. For the first time, I'm not the last to arrive. The entire crew, high from the ride from Preà is in no rush to eat. Everyone has a glow and grin like junkies high on opium. The smiles are infectious, and the mood is pure bliss. We can't go straight to sleep after eating, we need to ride out this high and check out Jeri after sunset.
We stroll the sand filled streets barefoot, sinking our toes into the abundant soft sand. These are the best work shoes I've ever owned. Stumbling upon caipirinha alley, we are solicited by countless vendors each promoting their special secret house potion. Like we've been born with rubber arms, we are easily swayed into trying many different mixtures. Mint, pineapple, passion fruit, kiwi, ginger, the list is endless. They are all delicious, and all go down far too easily.
The fatigue in our legs is quickly replaced with liquid courage, and now it is time to dance. We walk deep into the back roads of Jeri, led by beautiful local Gabriella, curator of a local watering hole. She tells me I cannot come to Jeri and not dance to Forró. Upon arrival the dance hall is quiet, and we think maybe this isn't the night to dance. This notion is quickly pushed aside as stunning Brazilian bombshell after bombshell begin to light up the dance floor like Hiroshima. My Brazilian brother from another mother Sugeri and I watch with wonder the grace of these gorgeous Amazonian queens. Gabriella grabs my hand and pulls me onto the dance floor, not asking, just telling. She places my hand on her low back, presses into me, and gives me my first Forró dance lesson. I consider myself a pretty coordinated dude, but this is a whole other level of rhythm. Like a high school kid awkward at his first sock hop, I try my best not to step on her toes and embarrass myself. It's not working. My moves are as graceful as a pregnant yak walking on ice. Not so smooth. But she's a patient teacher, and I'm a terrible student. I can now dance Forró!! It's now 3am, and we're back at the beginning of the story. Drunk and high off one of the greatest days ever, we stumble home dragging our feet in the soft sand, laughing and smiling the whole way like kids on the first day of summer. Today was one of the most magical days of my life. Days like today are what life is all about. And I'm soaking it in. All of it, and I am humbled and grateful by the experience.
- Andreas Lagopoulos
Photos: Bruna Toledo -Surfin Sem Fim- Justin Dalegret