Jericoacoara, Ceara (2 of 2)

I asked a local fisherman what makes the place so special. He explained that Jericoacoara has more than one reason to be considered a paradise. The place is a set of several different sceneries, altogether in a very beautiful and harmonic combination. And not only to be seen, but to be felt. The intense contact with nature, and the sensation of freedom that the place transmits, where every place is so wide, and no kind of behaviour is restricted, will mark Jericoacoara forever in your memories.

Another, more pragmatic traveller told me that Jericoacoara is a resort where all the hard core travellers come through on one station of their trip. You come here to hang around in the bars, enjoying the romantically lit night life (lack of mains electricity forces use of lanterns, candles), listen to stories and contemplate what might have been…

However, as we climbed onto the roof of a beachfront bar to sip our early morning beer and watch the fisherman pursue their age-old craft none of this mattered. I was with friends. A year of travelling, work and regrets drifted away. As is normally the case talk was inconsequential, just the fact of the sunrise, the beach and the sea breeze – that was what really mattered – my friend even offered to pay for the beer – which was an unexpected bonus. Just before we headed off for some sleep we climbed the 40m high dune that stands impassively looking out to sea. “Duna do Pôr do Sol” (Sunset Dune).

In his seminal paper on sand formation, which I had unearthed by chance a few winters ago in a cold London library the British explorer Ralph A Bagnold wrote that standing on such dunes “instead of finding chaos, the observer never fails to be amazed at a

Sunset Dune

Duna do Pôr do Sol

simplicity of form, an exactitude of repetition and geometric order unknown in nature on a scale larger then that of crystalline structure. In places vast accumulations of sand weighing millions of tonnes move inexorably, in regular formations, over the surface of the country, growing, retaining their shape, even breeding, in a manner which, by its grotesque imitation of life, is vaguely disturbing to the imaginative mind”.

Bathed in the early morning sun, and with heavy eyelids I simply wished for the oblivion of my hammock. A pristine day was dawning and I was very tired.

On the eve of the last night of the millennium, a night where anything was possible, we dug deep in our travel-tattered bags for our new white clothes which we had bought especially for the evening celebrations. I tried to get to the bottom of the symbolism of wearing white, but even the most verbose of my friends just shrugged their shoulders, passed me a beer and said “This is Brazil – this is life”.

On mass the entire population of town climbed to the top of the dune for midnight. We jostled for a good position. I am not normally a great lover of crowds, but perhaps because this was a special night, or more likely because this was Brazil I found the atmosphere invigorating and charged with unpromised potential and passions.

Of course, no one had thought to bring a watch, so the coming of the millennium drifted slowly over the dune. Champagne bottles popped everywhere, most of which seemed to end up being sprayed over me (the local supermarkets had been selling a special bottles of millennium wine especially for this purpose), the world’s largest private collection of military ammunition was let off and the local town fired off a few dozen fireworks. We had entered the new millennium. The guy standing next to me stripped off his t-shirt to reveal a white vest. The message printed in crude characters was clear – Bad Luck Nostradamus.

I was just getting into the hand shaking and kissing routine which greets every new year (I especially enjoy the kissing bit) when I was grabbed by the hand and lead off to the sea. With timing synchronised swimmers would be proud of, the entire population jumped backwards seven times into the luminescent surf. Along the length of the beach was a line of slightly inebriated Brazilians, all dressed in white bouncing backwards into the sea. Again the ritual mystery was lost of a confusion of thunder flashes, kisses, sprayed champagne and drunkenness. I am not sure if I will live forever, never leave Brazil, have seven children or have good health – no one seemed sure. Rather like England’s performance in the World Cup – taking part seemed more important then understanding the significance.

And then, just as the partying was hotting up the lights went out. The whole village was suddenly plunged into darkness. The only light came from the pale phosphoresce of the sea and the twinkling stars. An eerie silence drifted over the place. For a precious few moments we were left standing knee deep in the surf bathed in the light from the first stars of the millennium. At last Jeri had fulfilled all its expectations.

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