44 – Brazil – islands, Jacaré and carnival
44 – Brazil – islands, Jacaré and carnival

44 – Brazil – islands, Jacaré and carnival

Have you ever looked closely at Brazil on a map? Do you realize how big the country is? You could in fact cover Australia with it and fit 206 Switzerlands, or 16 times France in it! In the little we saw, we discovered varied landscapes, interesting architecture, welcoming people and experienced very rainy forests as well as many many rivers. All of this in our next few articles.

Checking in and free bus tickets

We arrive on the island Fernando de Noronha early in the morning, a few hours before our friends on their catamaran Touka. We discover later that this island is a dream destination for a short holiday for all Brazilians. Before going on shore, Jean-Luc has his hair cut… by me! Very courageous of him. Then, we go on shore and settle all the custom and immigration papers, which are dealt with by a very friendly harbour master. They even offered a coffee!

But without one Brazilian Real we can’t even get to the first supermarket (which is needed after 9 and a half days at sea) or a bank or at least a hole in the wall… We find the bus station as we don’t fancy walking 3 km at 35°C in full sun. Most probably we look a bit lost until a very friendly gentleman pays all our bus tickets to get to the first village (Illika and Touka = 7 tickets!) and doesn’t want a refund or our Euros. We’re speechless!

Beautiful, but all has its cost!

The following days we discover the Island of Fernando de Noronha by bus and on foot. The south of the island is basically all protected area, that you can visit only if you’ve paid the park entrance fee of about 70 € / person (after already haven paid an environmental fee of nearly 20 € p.p to the harbour master).

On top of that, the access to most of the beaches is either limited in time and people, or can only be hiked to with a guide. But the guides and places are fully booked months in advance – but nobody tells you that before you haven’t bought the entrance tickets!

Money is spent very quickly on Noronha. Also, restaurants and even groceries are very expensive. So, we only buy what’s absolutely needed for the 4 days there and the remaining 3 days to get to Jacaré, our destination on mainland Brazil.

Let’s go surfing

Not only the south with multiple bays, but also the north coast is stunningly beautiful with its long-stretched beaches. We spend a full day at the beach and in the waves with all kinds of boards with great fun. Watch Alexander’s little video of that day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw5TzCSd84Y

The challenging part was when the two men had to get back out to the anchored dinghies. A little worried, we (as well as everybody else on the beach) watched them struggling out over the surf and crashing waves. The mothers (Margot and I) took the children back to the harbour by bus.

Arriving in Jacaré / Brazil

We had decided not to go more south on the Brazilian coast than the marina of Jacaré as the currants and winds make it difficult to come back up north once past this point. We hang around in front of the buoyed channel at Cabedelo waiting for the sun to rise; approaching an unknown place is always quite tricky in the dark. A couple of hours after sunrise we drop anchor close to the pontoon of the Jacaré marina. Jacaré means alligator in Portuguese, but we get told straight away that there are no caimans or alligators here. But we do see little monkeys in the trees of the marina – amazing! – as well as donkeys and horses grazing freely in the patch of grass next to the club.

The club

We really enjoy the atmosphere at the Jacaré marina club: a big open but covered area with tables to work at or to have lunch or at moments even a Caipirinha. A small library with plugs for computers and WIFI connection at all times. At disposal for everyone: a grill, hammocks and a small pool (unfortunately sometimes not usable, its colour being questionable – yes Neil! Questionable 😉…) and a couple of rusty bikes, good enough to take you to the next mini market.

Every Saturday morning children from the surrounding come for a Capoeira lesson. Daily there are sailors arriving, meeting up, exchanging information about sightseeing or the next anchorage or the wind forecast. But also talking engines, sails, batteries, compressors, generators and looking for technical solutions together.

Not all fun

We had something to deal with rather quickly after arriving: Alexander had developped an infection on his little finger and we needed to find a doctor. Obviously it was the weekend… But someone managed to get antibiotics (illigally) which unfortunately didn’t quite do the job. So Monday we went to the public hospital (after having tried to get an urgent appointment in several privat clinics). After waiting a few hours we got an appointment for the next morning early. All went well and it was dealt with in a very professional and friendly way.

Carnaval in Olinda

With an Uber taxi we arrive at our cute guest house in the centre of Olinda one day before the carnival opening ceremony. The meaning is to see it all without and then with the carnival. We spend all of our first day walking our feet off in this very colourful and pretty town. It is surprisingly quiet, but then it’s probably the effect being one day before carnival? On top of that, everything and everybody seems to be preparing for the big event, so museums are closed.

The ”opening day” of the carnival is not very spectacular in Olinda, but lively anyway. Food and drink stands are spread around the town’s historical centre and a live concert as well as some groups in costumes are banging through the streets without any clear organisation. We didn’t see anything looking like a procession that we know from TV. We get informed later, that it isn’t very structured in Olinda.

Better in Recife?

Being only a few kilometres away from the 2,5 million-city of Recife, also popular for their carnival, we book a hotel for one night in the centre. We couldn’t have chosen better; we are located exactly beside the bridge with their famous giant carnival rooster! Well, the hotel management did try to give us a room that looked more like a broom-room, with only a small opening overlooking an inner shaft and the lifts… Jean-Luc went back down to the reception very quickly (really very quickly!). And when he’s really angry, he suddenly speaks many languages fluently, including Portuguese (with some Italian and English…). Anyway, after a few minutes of rather noisy discussions, the reception team decided it wasn’t a good idea and we were given a new room, this time with a perfect view! It helps to speak Portuguese…

We spend the rest of the afternoon and evening in the crowds, going from street to street, from stand to concert and then on to the next one. I can’t really say that we enjoyed being pushed by and rubbing up to wet skin of unfamiliar people, but it was certainly a unique experience 🤣.

Easy shopping in Brazil

Back in a very modern world, after all the months in Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, we even take time to go to a gigantic shopping mall. You get lost in it! Inexistant in Switzerland! We buy shorts, t-shirts, swimming trunks und underwear – all desperately needed. Beside that we also enjoy windowshopping and realize how quickly you can get tempted to buy things that are clearly not needed, especially living this no-frills-life!

Back in Jacaré we have a few days to deal with boat questions, get back to a certain rhythm with school and plan our trips to the inside of the country and amazonian rain forest.


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