Dust clouds rise from the rhythmically stOmping feet of dozens of Brazilian Indians during a ritual campfire, in stark contrast to the sea of skyscrapers that makes up the monstrous metropolis surrounding them. Brazil is gigantic and, to the majority who travel here from more developed parts of the globe, difficult to comprehend in all its contradictions and diversity. One aspect is clear, however: with the Amazon Rainforest, nearly 5,000 miles of pristine coastline, and the 220-plus waterfalls of Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil’s natural beauty is unbeatable. The country leaves an indelible print on the retina of all who experience it.
Long Shot in the Dark
You can park your motorcycles here and hire a jeep to go to Jeri.”
Astonished, I stare at the boy. Is he joking? Why wouldn’t we be able to ride the last 30 miles to Jericoacoara on our KTMs? As if anticipating my question, the boy answers it before I have time to speak: the sand is too deep for our motorcycles and there’s no road. Only local guides know the route, he says, and without a guide we will certainly get lost. Not even for an instant will I consider leaving our bikes behind. Besides, what will it cost to rent a jeep? But the boy is relentless. He keeps insisting that we will get lost and that we at least need a guide. He has convinced Lia, so I give in as well and we hire him. We deflate our tires at the gas station in preparation for the sandy track ahead, and set off.
Sweat pours down my back, caused more by my anxiety than by the tropical heat of northeastern Brazil. The effects of both have already begun taking a toll, but the end is nowhere in sight. For Lia it is too difficult, and she changes places with our guide on the back of another motorcycle. Meanwhile, he weaves around like a fool and only just manages to keep her bike upright. Which is more than I can say, because there I go! It’s more falling off than falling down. I try to stop the bike from toppling but can’t hold the heavy weight, and I get stuck with my foot pinned under a pannier. Luckily, Lia and the boy are quickly there to lift my KTM up. We continue on, but still I keep sliding through the sand like an aimless mop. This ride is absolute hell! If we keep going this way it will take forever to reach Jericoacoara. Our guide sees that I keep having trouble and we exchange motorcycles. I’m now riding Lia’s bike, which is slightly less packed than mine and lighter on the sand. It’s just this little bit of difference that keeps me going and keeps me from falling off again. At least for now.
Night falls, and still we have not reached our destination. Jericoacoara feels as distant as it did hours earlier, when we first set out. We arrive at a rickety bridge in such ramshackle condition that we bypass it completely, choosing instead to form our own wide path around the body of water. Here, the sand deepens, and the path becomes even narrower because of dense bushes and trees. I watch our guide struggle ahead of us to get my motorcycle through, while heaps of sand spray up from his rear tire. Miraculously, I also manage to get through and stay upright.
I am still sweating uncontrollably when out of nowhere the deep, loose sand suddenly hardens beneath my tires. I warn myself not to become overly relieved, that this is only a temporary respite. But then: what’s that I hear next to me? I focus to listen above the rumble of our KTM motors, and finally I recognize the sound I’ve been longing for hours to hear. We ride in the pitch darkness next to the surf of the Atlantic Ocean! For the first time since this hellish ride began I feel flushed with joy and triumph. I allow myself to savor this moment, despite the knowledge that it is still dangerous to ride more on intuition than on sight. But how awesome, with the noise of the surf in my ears and splashing drops of water in my face! At last, the end seems within our grasp. Ahead of us, lights shine brightly along the shore of the beach: it must be Jeri. Indeed it is. Utterly broken but satisfied, I crawl off my KTM.