August 21, 2010 – August 27, 2010
Yesterday was a wonderful blue sky day with very hot sunshine and we spent it on Sanchos beach. It's been voted the most beautiful beach in Brazil. Whilst that's a difficult judgement to make, I really think it is my favourite beach anywhere! A crescent of white sand gently shelves into the water with a rocky outcrop at each end. Backed by 40 metre high rose marbled cliffs with a line of Atlantic rainforest beween the cliffs and the sand and some coconut palms, white egrets roost in the trees and crabs, fiery red with yellow lightning markings or else black as the rocks, or white as the sand scuttle over their chosen habitat. To get there you must climb down a ladder inside the cliff and then down some stone steps to the sand. We snorkelled and swam there all day and then built a sandcastle to defend much to the astonishment of the few beautiful young Brazilian couples who had also made it down the ladder. This morning, sadly, the weather broke and all day so far we have been deluged in warm, tropical rain. We went to a bay on the Atlantic coast where visibility is less perfect and there are some small waves. Here the turtles come to feed. I saw 10 or more. They were huge, some one and a half metres in length and quite happily continued to bite off the seaweed, chewing it over while we floated inches from them. We also saw Lemon Sharks catching fish and playing in the surf it seemed. Our guide showed us a large Lampardu shark lying down under a shelf of rock in the shallows and there were enormous sting rays, lobsters and another octopus. The water was not very deep but it was still difficult swimming as there were waves breaking that would sometimes knock your mask askew or send water down into your snorkel. Now I'm huddled in the open dune buggy in my waterproof while the others play in the big waves of the adjacent atlantic facing Leao beach. I am in constant fear of a current dragging one of them off, but it doesn't matter what I say, they continue to stray out of their depth, so it's better for me not to watch.
On the beach , see test in blog
We had asked the children before planning the trip what they would they had wanted out of it. Lisa was keen to go for a month with the rest of the summer seeing her friends. We dictatorly ignored her as we had taken 10 weeks off work and gradually whittled her down to a week at home before school. With so many wonderful places to see it finally got down to 3 days. But Harry and Lisa did say with all those mountains and cold weather they would like to end the trip on the beech. So after much reading of what weather to expect at that time of year,costs and greed we chose Fernado de Noronha. 370 km northeast of Brazil lies the island .One hour ahead of mainland Brazil and only 3 hours behind the UK its the only place in this time zone except south Georga island far below off Antatica. 4500 meters of old volcano popping its head just above the Atlantic waters. We flew in from Natal and parked next the islands terminal building which was dwafted by the small propellar plane and met by Adriana who spoke english amazingly who had arranged our accommodation. Joab's place was on the Praia da Conceicao beech. Bizarrely for an isalnd pradise the only dwelling on the beach. In fact the whole island was unusual as a tourist retreat. Twenty years ago . the island of 3,000 people had very few tourists. They lived in small concret dwellings scattered around the island mostly in the small village and the port. Then amazingly for Brazil and the world in general . they made it a national park. limited development and put a cap of 200 tourists a day that could come to the isalnd. The average stay being 5 nights and Lisa's maths makes 1,000 tourists on the island. No hotels or holiday complexes. Beautiful beeches,coccunt tress, and 3 to 4 tourists per beech and this is high season. some how the "Eco" lobby got their way and stopped ANY development. The prices are high evan for Brazil which I surpose keeps the locals happy. You are charged a tax of $125 for 6 days each on entry to the island but no crouds and no Club med on this most beautiful place in the world. But money talks , may be Thommason holidays has not heard of it or that it is too difficult to get to. The only problem of the system is the limited availability and that many might be priced out of coming here. This seems a trend in Brazil, the "Eco" price tag. Some times like in Bonito the inflated price but fewer numbers , seemed a genuine attempt to protect the sights but all to many times it was an excuss to charge more . "Ecolodge " a favourite and had a 30% price tag. It was like jumping on the Aloe Vera bandwagon . Once I saw a brand of toilet paper with had on the the lable "with aloe vera" on it, you knew the trend had burnt itself out and had gone down the pan. Joab's house was in the Viall da Conceicao, a colonial concrete building that was built as a "along the way"station for a telegraph cable from Rio under the Atlanic to Italy. Joab was an immensely friendly man who look 100% portuguese and was built like a "prop forward", if they play rugby in Portugal. He wore a gap 100% of the time and because of the heat was made of netting which made him look like a butch "Benny Hill" character who worked in the catering industry.He could not speak a word of Englist and the only form of communiation we had was my pidgin Spanish and his "thumbs up sign". He shared this building with 10 other families , on a paradise beechwith cocunut trees,crstal clear sea and an eye catching accient black volcanic plug standing proud of the lush green canopy and towered above our beech and was an ever present landmark on the tiny island. No Brazilians wanted to stay here as they wanted better "facilities" for their Brazilian Reis. Their own shower room instead a quuick dash to the other side of the corridor. Europeans were happy to pay a smiggin extra to be on the beech and to be able to watch the waves through palm trees with your early morning coffee. A touch of History( read past this if you like) We had met the Spanish in Peru and Bolivia and read about the Conquestadors in mexico and Pizarroes amazing victories over the Incas.But how come their Iberian neighbours were here in South America and why just Brazil? Christopher Columbus had discovered a new land mass the "West Indies" in 1492 and now had interested Spain into this race for trade in profit of spice and all things nice. Portuagual had been in it for years and had been sailing down the west coast of Africa and had rescently rounded the "Cape" and up the east coast to India. Within years this would finish the venetians, and the Ottomans who a few years before had taken the overland "spice roads " to India and china . The Pope now fearing trouble in his flock between Spain and Portugual decided in 1493 to divide the "new world " between them. Everything greater than 100 leagues west of the Cape verde islands off Africa could go to Spanish control and East of this line to Portugual ie Africa ,India and china. The Portuguese panicked a little and in 1493 renegotiated the Treaty with Spain and changed 100 leagues to 270. Why? no reason given. In 1500 a well organised Portuguese expedition that was meant to be travelling to India got"lost" at Cape verde and 6 weeks later "discovered Brazil" and claimed this for Portugual having all the necessary legal work done 7 seven years before. The Portuguese must have known about brazil at least in 1493. May they found it before 1492 and "someone" had discovered the new world before Columbus. May be in the depths of the Portuguse archives? That would be a discovery. But.......thats why they speak Spanish in Columbia,Peru,Bolivia,Mexico etc but Brazil speaks Portuguse. So I can blame the Pope for not being able to speak the lingo in Brazil. Buggies The next day we headed off in our rented buggy. Some sort of VW beatel hybrid with huge rear wheels and tiny seats for the kids who held on a rool bar/roof with white knuckles. Sounded like a TVR with no exhaust and handled like a cross between a lawn mower,wheel barrow and a fairground bumper car. The weather was "changeable ", but in the way of blue sky and sun, a sudden downpour of hot rain for a hide under a mango tree or just get wet. Baia dos Porcos had Ageean blue water interspersed with black volcanic outcrops that made ideal snorkelling. So clear. Parrot fish,sting rays floating ominously on the bottom. The steep sloping ridges of rock of the ilands of Ilhas dois Irmaos falling away from the bright colours into the sands below. A sea aquarium with fantasic visibility. Around the headland golden sand beeches lining this Inner sea all the way back to our volcano mountain. A supper of seafood risotto that I would dream of making in a small restaurant while people and buggies hurried and slipped down the wet portuguese rough cobbled hill out side . Opposite ,through the downpour, the only colonial style building on the island in deep Caribbean red, as the coocunut trees bent in the warm wet wind produced shadows from the interminant street lighting. The next day...?which day ..as the days blurred past now for weeks. I knew the date as my watch had it but for monday, friday or saturday we may have an argument and all get it wrong. ..the next day Lyn and I got up early and spent 2 hours waiting for sight of hundreds of dolphins at the Baia do Golfinho's who a voided us. Never mind, a good chat about parenting skills and off to collect the kids to Baia do Sancho. You had to climb down ladders to get to the beech. It took an hour to take in the view,the water, the sky, the back drop of yellow cliffs and coconut trees. I had to take tens of photos of this paradise to remind me later on a rainy day when at 55 my knee hurt and the paracetamol would not work. Once the camera was tucked away I was able to relax and enjoy this beech. Just off the golden sand and onto the black rocks in the shade of a tree we placed our bags. Numerous small lizards could smell our packed lunch and had circled my very old blue day sack with its different ages of stains,tears,and broken zips. I had pinched this off my dad may be 25 years ago and had used it every holiday since. It fulfilled every function asked of it except the waterproof lining had gone years ago and would need hanging up with the wet soggy swimming costumes at the end of the day. It felt more at home in the dry Andes than the tropical rains of a small volcanic island 4 degrees off the equator. Dad would smile if he knew what his bag that he had lost years ago had seen and would be distressed by Lyn's comments of "You must get another bag" and left to gather dust attic dust and slung in a skip by grandchildren in another 30 years time. But ah yes the lizards sorry....crawled over the bags climbing in and out searching for the goodies. A shock after a swim opening up the rucksack for a pair a pants and 3 or 4 lizards shoot out. Brazilians get up early , get there early often in small organised groups and leave at noon for the traditional Brazilian /Meditteranean large lunch and siesta leaving the beach to the Coppocks who arrived late. The late afternoon arrivals would be completely baffled by a large defensive sand castle with foreigners standing with in shouting at the waves. Brazilians don't do sand castles and post cards. A fine cultural experience awaits them in England when the Brazilian Real overtakes the Pound and odd local customs are laughed at back In Rio. So we sat down our backs to the burning sun and the second application of sun factor 50 and ate a lunch or a second breakfast. Joab's breakfast was delicious and the Brazilian Real rather too strong for us to buy lunch. Chocolaite cake , cheese and ham rolls and a sort of jamey bun with chopped up coccunut inside were as subtlally as Will could ,smuggelled away into the blue rucksack while Lyn gave knowingly stares when fellow guests were looking our way . I was especially proud of the watermelon, pineapple and mango. Evan more proud of myself was that I had emptied out he tumperware boxes that contained the medications for all those numerous illness possibilities, so that "being mother" on the beach I could offer uncrushed rolls ,cake and peeled fruit. My knee felt great on the sand. Vissions of awful times years past when the kids were small on Dorset beaches where the knee, off the secure footing of shoes on tarmac, felt week and not really part of me. and difficult to walk on the uneven sand. Now I chased after Harry nearly catching him. For the previous ten years using fluppers would inflame the knee and make it swell ,now I sped out rounding the islands on concurrent days. But I have been here before , hoping and daydreaming on other activities I could do and being brought back to earth when the knee swelled and would take 6 weeks to settle back to normal. Supper in a "per kilo" restaurant ,pay what you eat ,a bargain for Lisa ,expensive for Harry and fattening for me as stingy coppock had to eat what the kids had taken but not eaten. Out by the small port of a few fishing boats was an apparent sunken wreck of a greek boat. I have always had a vision of snorkelling over wrecks. Lyn,Harry and I spent 2 hours snorkelling out trying to find it before giving up. Instead we found something equally wonderful. Large sea faring turtles . It was not the right time of year for them but here they were about 10 of them feeding , then swimming off gracefully as we disturbed them. Lisa and I dived down with the aid of propullsion from our flippers forcing our buoyant bodies down to try and touch them. Since they were feeding in shallow waters we easily got down to their level. The turtles , who looked just like their Blue Peter version except larger and with flippers, turned their heads in surprise at a grey headed and "salt and pepper" chested human with loud trunks and his accompanying mermaid lookalike. We followed them talking it in turns to touch the back of their shells . I had visions of holding their sides and being pulled along, but they were too quick to get a "Nimo" experience . Two days later we came across the wreck unexpectedly. We were being pulled behind a boat on a rope with a small wooden board on the end which you could manipulate to force you body under the water and down as far as you ears,length of rope and breath would take you. Harry suddenly pointed out a vast structure coming up ahead. Eerie shapes of anchors, funnels, and the vast bulk of the hull lumed out of the depths below . We turned our boards and headed down and watch the broken masts become clearer and rush towards us. A quick breath and down again, a sudden fright of 2 gigantic funnels ahead and up and over them. The boat did three passes of this old sunken ship with Titanic film visions as we dived down and over. Made my day. Out past "Air France" point , named as the island was used by the above named airline as a refuelling station by Transatlantic flights between Rio and Paris, Harry could see the "outer sea" which faced the Atlantic which had large breakers. So off to Praia do Leao we went for a fool around in the waves. Lyn stayed in the buggy as it freightened her to see us in the ways. Brillant white foam crashed over our heads as we bodysurfed , dived under the waves and played a new game of " chicken", standing back towards the waves not knowing when it would hit. The beech was empty as black cloud and rain had set in for the afternoon yet the sea was warm. The strong current pulled us across the beech as we rode the waves and every 30 minutes we had been dragged down the whole length of the small bay. Running out of the waves, nearly treading on a stingray, we would have to sprint back to the other side of the beech and start again. The buggy was great fun in the rain. It was like driving through the fields of Agincourt in a extreamily flatulent machine , huge back wheels sliding everywhere with occasional deep muddy pools to get Lyn shouting at me . The deafening noise when you put your foot down on the gas which encourages bad behaviour. Today we left muddy tracks on the road over to Baia do Sueste which was a good place to see turtles feed . The water had relatively poor visability as it faced the Atlantic and we thought a rainy day a good day to visit. A french lady was standing there dripping and telling us " the sharks were great." "sharks". Lisa refused to go in. Lyn insisted to have a guide to swim out with us which I was quietly glad about. We put on buoyancy aids as the combination of waves breaking on shallow waters over a old corral reef meant we needed to keep as high in the water as possible . Turtles the size of large floor bean bag came towards us in the slightly murky water. Lobersters hiding under ledges and octopi propelling off changing colour when landing on different rocks. But where were the Sharks? The thought of seeing a shark nose to nose in the is soupy sea excited me evan though they were harmless to men. Occasionally the guide or Harry would shout out through their snorkels, Lyn and I would flipper over but to a non shark interest. Then it came out of the light brown blur.Aa small one ?? 1 meter , but it swam like a shark , had a shark nose and eyes and a label saying " Iam a shark". In the commotion to get away I knocked Lyn's snorkel and she remiinded me many times that she missed it. We saw later some flashes of gray in the waves which the guide said were sharks and a large 2 meter one hiding under a ledge. The 5th day we had no buggy as we had hired it for 4 days and had planned to explore our beach. It was difficult to get the balance right here. Patrick, one of my work colleages said I was a control freak , which had more than an element of truth in it. But the days in which I did not force the family out, we sort of faffed about not rally doing anything , leaving the accommodation at 1 or 2 in the afternoon thinking " its time for lunch". But today was "organised relaxation ".Late breakfast and not having to get the kid up and out. If they wanted to watch a film in Spanish with Portuguese subtitles in a aircon room while out side was paradise , so be it. I sort of wondered about our parenting skills . The kids if left to their own devices always turned on the TVand flicked channels, got their ipod out or the computer with some trash game. They would do this for hours or half a day if left to their own devices and would moan repeatedly if you peeled them away and complained that they had not seen this or that yet. What about walks , plaster of paris moulds of animal foot prints, dens and getting muddy. I think it would have been easier if not so tired I had the energy to be more inventive and hopefully the repeated initiation of non electric activity would rub off on them. The easiest way would have been to get rid of the TV but I like to watch it now and again. But watch out kids when we get back. so ...yes ... organised relaxation . A snorkel, swim and a great fish soup. The "inner sea" is a series of sandy bays separated by rocky outcrops but at lowish tides you can walk most of the distance from Joab's house to Baia de Porcos. It was our last day but the flight was not till 6pm. Bay after bay of golden sand ,blue crystal water and lush green backdrops. May be one or 2 tourists sunning their mahogany bodies and not moving except to "do the other side" or to cool off and pretend not to have a pee in the sea. At praisa da cacimba do padre we had a a "fish" in a banna leave served with a bowl of smoking coal to keep the flies off. We sat arround in the universal Brazilian yellow plastic Skol(brand of beer) chairs and delayed calling the buggy taxi to take us a way.
Beaches, palm trees, sand. Heaven! we hired a buggy so we could go round the island which was great fun but the roads were so bumpy we were jumping around in our seats. So harry and i went on the bumper and just held on. :D
Unfortunately 9 weeks of each others' company has finally ended Harry and Lisa's good will. The main problem is that Lisa is very homesick and so all sorts of little irritations that would normally go unnoticed grow large for her and make her upset. Naturally she is getting lots of extra hugs from her parents and the odd extra pack of chewing gum to help her through this difficult time... but this is seen as unfair (probably rightly) by Harry who is making less fuss despite missing his friends too. They seem to be constantly squabbling over nothing with Harry niggling Lisa to provoke the occasional full blown floods of tears. To me it seems incredible that our family can be sitting on a glorious white sand beach in the sunshine while Lisa and Harry are scrapping like a pair of capuchin monkeys over a piece of breakfast ham. I think Will and I need parenting classes as we are clearly doing something very wrong!
We have reached the tropical island of Fernando de Noronha, 4 degrees latitude below the equator and in its own time zone out in the Atlantic level with Greenland in longitude. It is the end of the rainy season so the island is lush green and the unpredictable short warm showers stop the heat of the day from becoming unpleasant. The island is volcanic and a 300m rocky pinnacle sticks up starkly, the central hard volcanic plug of magma, around which erosion has reduced the height of the remainder of the island. Our Pousada is on the Concerciao beach marked at one end by the pinnacle and at the other by a rocky outcrop popular with the fish and great for snorkelling. Yesterday we went to Praia de Porcos, climbing to it over the rocks at low tide. We arrived at lunchtime and there was hardly anyone there. Lots of large rocks in the water, coral-coated for snorkelling and the cove backed by large black boulders and a few trees for shade. The few people on the beach had put their things high up the sand in the shade and then disappeared into the clear water looking at the fish. We settled down to eat our lunch and noticed some movement by the other people's bags. A hundred or so tiny black lizards, camouflaged on the black boulders were on the alert and furtively looking around for danger. They scuttled here and there but ever closer to the tourists' bags, darting back to the rocks when startled. No sooner had we noticed this than we saw that we too were surrounded by the lizards. They must have a very keen sense of smell as their beady eyes looked up at our cheese sandwiches expectantly. When a crumb was dropped one lizard would seize it and then race off for his home, taking evasive action from a dozen rivals on the way. As they gradually got used to us they got braver, and Will had to physically remove one from his rucksack. Hired dune buggies are the most popular way to get around the island. Only the central spine road of the island has tarmac. The other secondary roads are extremely bumpy, either dirt tracks or old Portuguese cobbles long in need of relaying. Over these, on a hill, it feels as if the buggy is being made to go down stairs like a scene from 'The Italian Job'. Snorkelling, we saw an octopus who changed his shape and surface characteristics to resemble his surroundings; knobbly mottled cream and brown or smooth dark red. He looked me straight in the eye and would sidle across the rocks curling and uncurling his tentacles, thinking, "Can she still see me?" perhaps.
In Noronha you can only own property if you are from Noronha, and the islanders have decided to keep it low rise and simple which makes it unique as a holiday island. On the day of our flight we climbed round the Morror do Pico (the tall volcanic plug at the end of our beach) into the next bay and then walked along beautiful deserted beach after beautiful deserted beach, stopping to swim sometimes until we reached a beach restaurant at Praia da Cacimba do Padre for fish served on a banana leaf and fresh coconut to drink. The day before we had kept to to our own Concerciao beach, snorkelling round the rocks and sunbathing on the golden sand. In the mid-afternoon Will took the children with him on a boat which dragged them along behind on a flexible board that could ride either under or over the water. Instead I wandered up the beach to the Duda Rei beach bar and watched the sunset reading my book with a delicious Caipirhina to sip, listening to gloriously laid back live Brazilian rhythmns from a young band under the palm trees. It was true heaven until immediately after the sun went down a million mosquitoes appeared from nowhere and so terrorised the audience and musicians alike that the stage was silent, emptied and cleared of equipment in minutes, the bar closed and as all lights were extinguished shapes of people were vaguely seen running from the beach, flapping their hands to escape the blood-sucking insects. Todo bem is Brazilian Portuguese for all is well, and it can be used as a question or a contented answer... "All's right with the world"... it certainly feels so!
Rent from Joab for 130 if staying with him or "Tropical " at 150 reis via Adriana. No company has car insurance so just drive carefully.
Adriana speaks english while the whole island does not. she can arrange travel,accommodation ,buggies,tours with no extra charge it seems , may be the comitioon comes from the Puosadas. Conntactable and I would recommend .