Last month we made our dream trip to the north coast of Brazil a reality! For anyone planning a similar trip I will do a full travel post soon but just to give you the short version.... This is the route we took:
We had just over two weeks and starting in Fortaleza we stopped at Icaraizinho, Ilha do Guariju, Jericoacoara, Taiba, Uruau.
If I had to summmarise our experience and top tips I would say this:
1. Unless you have a month to do this trip, hire a car. We did and it cost us more than our flights, but it was well worth it. It gave us the flexibility to go where we wanted and the ability to pack in as many stops as we did because we weren't wasting time waiting for public transport. Plus it was an adventure! TOP TIP - get a decent map! We were lucky to be given one by a couple we met at our first stop - without it we would have got even more lost than we did! Thank goodness for the people who were
However - hiring a car in Fortaleza isn't as simple as it is in other places. We ended up using Localiza but we actually booked it through Karen at Ozone travel (more on her later). If you don't speak Portuguese make sure you have all of your paperwork with you and if possible have your reservation both in English and Portuguese. The people in the rental office in Fortaleza do not speak English - not a single word and we had to rely on other travelers who acted as translators and our paperwork.
2. Book downwinders in advance. We were told that these would be easy to arrange when we arrived in each spot but this was not the case. In some instances we couldn't do the downwinders at all. In others we managed to do what we had planned but not before we'd spent an evening searching for people to help and paying over the odds. Still, it was worth it :)
3. If you're going all the way up to Jeri, speak to the girls at Kitesurfando! They are absolutely awesome for organising downwinders and can organise all kinds of trips. We did one day trip to Tatajuba and they were informative, relaxed, fun and punctual. They also hired a new buggy to accompany us (we'd heard horror stories of people hiring old bangers that are far from safe!). If we ever find ourselves back in Jeri we'll definitely do one of their over night trips.
4. One the way to Jeri, hire a guide to take you down the beach road from Prea and over the sand-dunes. On the way back, save yourself $20 and freestyle it! Once you've done it once with the guide it's actually fairly easy to navigate back and much more fun doing it on your own - as long as you have a 4x4!
5. Don't assume that Ilha do Guariju is flat just because it's called the flat water sea! It's not! Whilst still an awesome place, with great people, it's not the freestyle paradise that we thought it was going to be. The wind has to come over a sand dune and is mega gusty when it picks up - and it's usually howling around 30knots. If you do decide to stop there, White Winds is a new, high end complex that has just opened up. We stayed at Wind Village which is really nice but doesn't have a bar - not too much of a problem because Pura Vida next door (run by a great guy called Joseph) has awesome food and a friendly bar.
6. Take lots of cash! Once you've left Fortaleza, cash machines are a rarity and even hotels quibble at the sight of a credit card. We took US dollars and changed them at the currency exchange at the airport.
7. It's true what they say - it's WINDY in the summer! I'm 5' 6", around 120 lbs and in July I didn't need anything bigger than a 10m. North of Taiba, I only used the 7m and 8m.
8. Don't miss smaller places along the coast like Icaraizinho. We stayed at Villa Mango as a treat and would highly recommend it - it's absolute paradise and the friendlies and most relaxed place we've ever been.
9. There are some hidden gems south of Fortaleza - particularly if you're looking to get away from the crowds. We chose to stop in Uruau as some of our friends run Pro Kite . If you just want to go to one place, run by awesome people, with gorgeous accommodation and delicious food and progress, this is the place for you. With a small flat water lagoon and a wave spot this place has something for everyone.
10. Enjoy Brasil! There is so much more to this coastline than kitesurfing. The spots differ so much in their offerings from flat water to waves, lagoons and downwinders and it's easy to get lost in the excitement of the sport and forget about the amazing culture surrounding you. Northern Brazil is stunningly beautiful, surprisingly safe and full of warm, welcoming and friendly people. Many of the locals here still live off the land and it's not unusual to be able to sit down at a Baracca (beach bar) and watch the fishermen bring your lunch in....
So those are my top ten tips! Contact me with any more questions!