Penguin Island, Antarctica 2008

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

MONDAY, MARCH 7 - Fortaleza, Brazil Day 2

We have a short tour this morning. We were supposed to be here until 3PM but the Captain has announced that we are sailing at 1PM so we will cross the Amazon sandbar at high tide and be on time to pick up our pilots, two of them, for the Amazon two days from now.

Our tour is to meet shortly after 8AM, so we order breakfast in and it arrives about ten minutes to seven. We get to the theater early and get tickets for bus #1 and are called to go ashore almost immediately. On the bus, destination services has taped our reserved seat notice to the window beside the seat so that it cannot be easily removed or destroyed like the couple did the other day.

Once loaded, we head out for Cumboco Beach, north of the city. We are continually surprised by the size of the cities we are visiting along the Brazilian coast. Neither of us expected to visit one city, much less several, with several million residents. In order to be called a city in Brazil, the area must contain at lest 2,500,000 inhabitants. Salvador de Bahia and Fortaleza meet this criteria and, we are told, Manaus, up the Amazon, does also.

During our 45 minute drive to the beach area, we see a very modern city with nice high rise apartments and office buildings,
a small historic section from the cities early days in the 1840's
and nice beach areas right in the downtown...all very clean.
The infrastructure is quite modern. We also see, and our guide points out, the poorest area of the city but it does not strike us as negatively as the slums of Rio which were nowhere near as bad as some we have seen in other parts of the world.

Even though it is Monday morning, it is also Carnival time (a three day holiday) so the streets are quiet and very few businesses are open. Our guide points out that Carnival goers partied until three or four this morning and will sleep in until early afternoon. Then they will do it all over again!

As we approach Cumboco, we begin to see the sand dunes for which the area is famous. These sands are not native to the region but are made of sand blown across the Atlantic from the Sahara Desert over the ages. The bus stops at the Sunset Beach Club where we are given a chance to go to the restroom before boarding our dune buggies.

The buggies began to gather to pick us up. Each one holds a driver, a passenger in the front seat and two passengers sitting in the back...holding on to the roll bar for dear life. As usual, there are those in a crowd who feel they must press forward and be the first in line and in a car. We let them go. There are cars enough for all and Carolyn needs to sit in the front seat of a car. After the initial pushing and shoving, we split ourselves between two cars. Carolyn gets her front seat and Dick joins and English couple who have staked out the back seats in another car. Dick climbs in front and all the cars take off, mostly single file, for the 45 minute ride.

Both of our cars are driven aggressively but we do not feel in danger unless one of the cars rolls.
 If that happens, the people sitting in back are in real trouble as they would be thrown out and probably have the car roll over them. Fortunately, the drivers seem to know what they are doing and even though we take some very steep drops down the faces of some dunes, we never have the feeling that the car is out of control or about to flip.
We stop, after about ten minutes,
at Banana Lake where there is a sand boarding slide down to and, if you are very good, into the lake.
What with all our group and the people already there enjoying the lake and the sand slide, there is quite a crowd. There are people in the lake cheering the sliders on; people, like us, at the top of the slide, cheering the sliders on as well as locals selling drinks. A little later, the stalls will be selling grilled meats and other foods but it is a little early yet.

Some of our group take a shot at the sand slide for five reals ($3.33) a turn. Some do well and others not so good.
It looks like fun but sweat and sand do not mix, in our opinion, if you do not know where and when you will be able to clean up.
Back at the cars, the English lady offers to switch seats with Dick and they do. That last 60° drop may have been the reason for her generosity! We continue on with an exciting ride up, down and over the dunes
to a stop where we can look down into a pretty lake with nice houses on its other side.
At this stop, the husband and wife shift seats. Now, each of us will have ridden one segment in front and two in back
From here we cross a paved road and drop down onto the beach where we tear along, taking photos and waving at the people on the beach.
There are lots of people, set up in family groups, and they are waving at us too. After about two miles on the beach we arrive back where we started at the Sunset Beach Club. Here we are given a green coconut that has had it top cut off. A straw is protruding and we have been told to try this refreshing drink. YUCK!
You can have ours. It is not sweet, as expected, but rather tangy with no real taste. Out comes a bottle of water; much better! Dick’s open sandals are full of sand so he goes to rinse them out where the swimmers are showering off. The resort is nice and packed with people!
About 10:45AM we head back to the bus and begin the return trip to Fortaleza.
Once back in town, we head to the historic section where we stop at an old prison, built in the 1840s, that has been turned into a location for a handicraft market.
It would have been fun to explore this in detail and they are selling lots of fabric type goods.
But, we have only 30 minutes. We do find an old lady sitting in a hallway who is making lace by the tatting method.
It is amazing to see her hands fly. She is working over a soft, stuffed ball. It is about the size of a soccer ball. Tatting requires the use of pins to separate the threads and to define the pattern.
We are told by our guide that the pins she is using are large, evil looking, cactus thorns! Her spindles, which hold the individual threads, are made from pieces of wood, polished smooth from use, and topped with a smooth, round ball made from a seed. This seed is about an inch in diameter and the spindles, including the seed knobs, are about six inches long. Her skill and speed are amazing. We bet she has been doing this for most of her, estimated, 80 plus years.

Here we wish we had more Brazilian currency as we would have purchased lots of her work. Carolyn finally settles on ten meters of edging lace about an inch wide. Cost? Seventy reals or about $47. Oh, for several hundred more reals!

From here, we drive to a photo stop at "English Bridge." This is a partially restored pier where the original harbor lay.
There is a beach beside the pier  with families swimming and kids surffing.
We could have done without this and spent more time in the market.

Now, back to the ship. We arrive at 12:40PM and there are two buses some minutes behind us; a little late as we are supposed to sail at 1PM. We go to lunch and listen to a series of announcements explaining why we have not sailed on time. It seems that some of the tours have not returned on time. We finally sail at 1:45PM.
The afternoon is quiet, we have a nice lunch in the dining room and then go for a swim as we sail away. Later, Dick goes to Team Trivia where his team wins for the second day in a row. Carolyn’s plan is to relax on the veranda with her book but that turns into a two hour nap!
We have a good dinner and head to bed early...our morning in the sun seems to have drained us. Another good day!

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