By Joshua Rapp Learn, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The sun set over the water to the west, spinning rays of iridescent light bending around the windsurfers out catching a few gusts with the last glow of day. The beauty of the sun rays off the coastal oasis of Jericoacoara is so inspiring that for many, it’s worth staying up all night to catch the sunrise off to the east.
In the party-fueled pace of life at the hippest village on Brazil’s northeast coast, it’s not that uncommon to be up all night. Despite its popularity among tourists though, Jericoacoara is still little more than a glorified fishing village where the roads are sand and dune buggies are the common transportation of choice.
On top of its isolation in the Northeastern state of about 2000 km from Rio and nearly 300 km west of Fortaleza, the nearest city, there are actually no paved roads that get anywhere near the village. Getting there is part of the adventure, and involves a seven hour bus trip from Fortaleza to the town of Jijoca. From there, an open back truck ushers you through dirt roads, tearing straight across the sandy beach dunes for the last stretch.
Jeri’s development as a popular tourist destination has come about relatively recently. It has only been around two decades since the town even got electricity, and even today street lamps are forbidden by local law. The village became a sort of backpacker’s paradise during the nineties, with people being attracted both to the down-to-earth way of life and the beautiful surroundings of sand dunes, palm trees and ocean.
Fortunately, for people who enjoy the idyllic, secluded nature of the village, the entire area became a National Park in 2002. New laws allow the government to control the development of tourism and building in the area. Although a new airport runway in Jijoca, big enough to receive planes crossing the Atlantic from Europe, threatens to disrupt the current balance of peace as it reaches completion later this year.
Despite the village’s isolation, there is still plenty to do for nightlife, especially over the weekends when local tourists from Fortaleza come up to enjoy the weekend away from traffic and concrete. Planeta Jeri, an electronic club on the beach, tends to be the focus of much of the early night’s activity.
As anywhere in Brazil, if you can’t afford a drink inside, there’s nearly as much of a party outside by the more reasonably priced drink carts on the sandy street. Later on, many of the locals head out to the local Forró club to dance until sunrise deposits the last survivors on the big sand dune west of town, aptly named Por-do-Sol.
Besides being merely picturesque, the sand dunes offer a number of activities. Many tourists rent sand boards. Amongst the dunes there are a variety of sand slopes around town – you can choose steepness depending on your level of skill or courage. Many local Capoeiristas can be seen practicing their acrobatics off the ledge – the sand proves fairly forgiving for the novices.
There are also a couple of different places in town where you can organize a dune-buggy tour among the rippling sand hills of the national park. And if you ever work up the will to leave Jericoacoara, you can even organize a dune trip all the way west to Camocim – the next stop on Brazil’s northeastern paradise trail.
You won’t have to look to far to find a pousada, but a good list with different price ranges can be found at Jeri Brazil. Jeri’s Hostel has a great vibe for around $R35/night. You can book beds at http://www.hihostels.com.