Lost World – Part I – Brazil Costa Norte

Lencoise Maranhenses

13 Aug Lost World – Part I – Brazil Costa Norte

his is the first real travel update on my Lost World trip. I started the journey from Rio de Janerio with the intention of making Cartagena, Colombia in three months overland. This is still my intention and I am literally a portion of the way closer to making that eventual goal. The north east coast of Brazil is a pretty raw location. Looking at a map there is no real direct route and the coast is dotted by some major cities (Salador, Recife, Fortaleza, Sao Luiz), a ton of sleepy fishing villages, and their seemingly endless beaches. Honestly endless stretches of beaches. It is second only to Australia for the most uninterrupted beachscape on earth. If you’re a sun baby, this area of the world is one you must visit. Welcome to my first indication of Brazil’s Costa Norte.

I left Rio two weeks ago and hit the road hard. This trip is covering up to 8,000 something km overland, meaning basically a lot of time spent in a bus. The first stretch (Rio – Salvador) definitely qualifies as the longest bus journey of my entire life, which can be seen as both a good thing and bad. Good that it was the first trip of many and I got the longest out of the way right off the bat, bad that the intended 25 hour journey ended up being 36 for no apparent reason what so ever. This makes me think that any suggested bus time in Brazil is actually going to take at least two hours longer depending on the said distance. This has proven to be correct over the last three weeks.

Losing ten hours off the get go meant I had to kill a day in Salvador. Luckily Salvador wasn’t all that fantastic and the day I lost did not go missed. I don’t really want to go into the details of every location and what I did on this day and what I did on that day, and whatever, etc. Personally I wouldn’t want to read it, so I’m not going to write it.

The trip thus far has been an absolute blast, I have had some great weather, had a couple of truly unique experiences, one scary robbery/stupidity situation, and met a number of fantastic people along the route. Some of whom are an Italian dude named Francesco and three German girls, Vanessa, Philine, and Stephanie whom I have been travelling with for the majority of this first stage of the trip.

So where to begin…? How about the most exciting/interesting, the robbery/stupidity situation. On my second day in Lencois, Bahia (awesome place, google it) I visited a cave which plays host to a local swimming hole. The cave is fed by an underground stream producing a surreal, crystal clear, lifeless pool. The Poco Azul is 30m deep by who knows how many meters long, eventually there is a rope that cuts off the intrepid snorkeler from the looming darkness of the foreboding pools distance. I went with Francesco (said Italian) and two other German girls we had met. The morning went really well and we enjoyed our swim. Upon return to the rented car I opened it up and placed my day pack on the roof of the trunk while the others put away their stuff. I got some water from my pack and joined the others at the front of the car talking shit about that day and travelling and where to next, etc. A few minutes later we were off, without my bag.

I of course didn’t realize this until about a minute into pulling out of the parking lot. “Shit” “I left my bag on the roof” I said, quickly stopping to check if it was still there, it was not. Turning around and heading back to the lot produced the same results, no bag. Enter slight panic. I spent three hours searching for the bag, realizing it was definitely not there and I needed to start making moves in regard to replacing the most important content, my passport. F**K!

So long story short, I drove back to Lencois, visited the police and filled a theft report. I then asked the police to notify all of the remote posts around Chapata Diamantina National Park about the chances of finding a Canadian passport discarded on the side of the road. They adhered my request. Onset depression and speaking with the Canadian Embassy and bank in Toronto. Time to replace cards and worst of all, replace passport. I decided to stay in Lencois one more day just to see if the cops found anything. They did not. But a local hiking guide did.

The very next morning, the pousada got a phone call saying someone had found a bag with a towel in it and the name of the pousada (dos duendes) on the towel, saved! In the bag was a passport, camera, cards, diving mask, swim trunks, literally everything except for the cash I was carrying the day the bag was stolen. I got the bag back the next day and had an incredible conversation with its finder. All around crazy experience of luck, stupidity, learning, human nature, big lows and even bigger highs. Have you ever been robbed when travelling? What’s your story?

To get back to the overview style, from the hiking and days spent exploring Chapata Diamantina, Francesco and I decided to head back towards the coast and the small city of Olinda. Olinda is also where I had asked CIBC to send an emergency credit card, which arrived relatively fast by South American standards, taking only 7 days to make the journey to the Canadian Trade Office in Recife. Upon arrival in Olinda we met the three awesome German girls (Germans have been a bit of a theme thus far into the trip, their everywaaaahhh), and quickly realized we were heading in more or less the same direction. It’s funny that the solo traveller is never really alone, unless they decide to be so. I met Francesco in Salvador and we decided to travel in land. I met the three German girls in Olinda and we decided to travel north to Pipa. Now I still travel with Francesco, Vanessa, Phillipe, and Stephanie, making our little crew five strong with great laughs and good times all around.

The four of the above mentioned crew headed to Pipa two days earlier than I, as I needed to wait for my card to arrive from Canada. It was nice to have a little downtime in the sleepy colonial town. I spent two days writing, running, taking photos, watching movies, and drinking. There was some eating in there at some point as well. Vacation, basically. I also spent the time reflecting on how much worse the situation could have been and how lucky I got. I have started an email feed with the guide and doctor (client at the time) who found my bag. Both men are well into their fifties and have an amazing outlook on life. The day they returned the bag I proposed a thanks and offered to buy them their meal. They agreed on my persistent persuasion and we sat down enjoying an incredibly engaging conversation about life and the meaning of purpose, fate, belief, etc.

I reflected on this during my down time in Olinda and have concluded that you must act with positive intention, always, no matter the personal sake, the sake of loved ones, or the sake of complete strangers. Basically, to do what you believe is the right thing always and to get somewhat biblical do for others as you would do for yourself. I guess it’s up to the individual to determine what that is, but must say that the people who found my bag on that fateful day did exactly as I would have done and I am forever grateful for it.

Once I got my card from the Canadian Trade office I headed north for Praia da Pipa to reunite with the crew and spend a couple days on the beach. It was perfect! Great spot.

From Pipa we headed to Jericoacoa (say that ten times fast) and continued the beach theme north east Brazil is so famous for. Both of the above mentioned places are awesome and each deserves complete blog posts. However, I do not want to delve into the guidebook style and as previously mentioned am trying to avoid it. Just look them up, if you have gotten this far into my post already. Especially Jericoacoa. The google images are incredible, plus I’ve added a few of my own below.

After three days in Jeri, it was time to move on. One of the huge highlights of this Lost World first segment is by far Lencois de Maranhenses National Park. It is one of the most spectacular landscapes I have ever seen and one that I could photograph for days on end. Perfectly shaped pasty white sand dunes filled with crystal clear fresh water as far as the eye can see! Amazing!!

Composed of large, white, sweeping dunes, at first glance Lencois Maranhenses looks like a normal desolate desert when in fact it isn’t actually a desert at all. Lying just outside the Amazon basin, the region is subject to a regular rainy season. The rains cause a peculiar phenomenon where fresh water collects in the valleys and dips between the dunes. These small pools spot the desert with blue and green lagoons that reach their fullest volume between July and September.  It is a beautiful sight.

We spent three days touring the area Lencois Maranhenses (with one awesome flight, see above photos) eventually prying ourselves away from the natural beauty and continuing on the journey north. We hit the road again busing it to Sao Luiz and the 500 year old colonial town. This was the last spot our crew would travel together and we made the most of it. From an amazing couple days spent lazing around to an incredibly memorable last night dancing up a storm at the local disco. If you four are reading this post, thank you for such amazing experiences and the travel love. It was fantastico!!

In Sao Luiz I finished the last 300 pages of Shantaram in two days (epic travel novel) and gave the weathered copy to Francesco as a going away present. In return he gave me is travel hat which will come in handy during my bout across the Amazon and up into the jungles of Guyana and Venezuela. For the girls I got a couple of anklets which they loved and we parted in a sad embrace.

That night I headed to the base of the Amazon River delta and Belem (where I am currently). I have a couple things to organize here before heading by boat across the delta to Macapa. The trip is 24 hours and marks the beginning of the second portion of my Lost World trip. From Macapa I will travel by bus through the super remote area of the exact tip of north east Brazil and the border of French Guiana. I will cross into FG and travel through Suriname and Guyana eventually doubling back slightly into Brazil at Boa Vista before heading again north into Venezuela.

I will work this three month trip into four sections, North East Brazil (this one), The Guyanas, Venezuela, and Colombia.

The last three weeks have been an adventurous start to my Lost World trip and have truly revamped my love for solo travel. A new journey always ignites the senses and I am a firm believer that travel is the perfect medium for insinuating creativity and boundless imagination. I have added a few of my favourite photos from North East Brazil below and plan to have an FB album up within the week. I am also editing my first short video and hope to have it live next week as well. So stay tuned! 🙂

Where was your favourite jungle environment visited? Have you been to Guyana or Venezuela… any tips for the next section of my intended journey? Boa Viagem!!

Greg Snell
gregorsnell@gmail.com
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