My alarm didn’t go off on day #31, which meant I woke up exactly 2 minutes before my 8 am flight out of Floripa to Fortaleza. Which meant I didn’t make that flight and instead left at 7 pm with a 2-hour layover in Rio before catching a midnight flight up North. A truck picked me up at 2 am from the Fortaleza Airport. I asked the driver how many hours drive to Jericoacoara… dois horas?? Two hours? I asked. And his eyes got big, “Nooo! Quatro!!” he said. Not sure how I missed that memo. Oy vey. Why do I suck so bad at travelling?! Wasn’t so bad though. I stretched out in the backseat of the truck and slept for 3 of the 4 hours. Until we got to the dirt road. Then it was too bumpy and I kept hitting my head on the door. So I groggily sat up and tried to watch the countryside go by in the early morning light. The dirt road seemed endless and there wasn’t a whole lot going on in terms of a village or anything. I started to wonder if he was even taking me to the right place. Around 6 am, we finally turned off the dirt “road” onto the sand. And I found myself at the world famous kite-surfing spot, Praia do Prea or Prea Beach.
I booked 6 nights at a place recommended by a kite-surfing friend back home called “Vila Prea”. It’s a little community of eco beach bungalows tucked away behind palm trees and separated by a raised wooden walkway. Compared to hostel life, this is a sharp 360. I have my own bungalow with a thatched roof, porch, hammock, and outdoor shower. There’s not just one bed, but two! And a mini fridge filled with soft drinks, water bottles, and snacks (chocolate bars!!!). This is absolute heaven to me after a month on bunk beds in noisy dorm rooms. It’s so dark and quiet in my room at night, plus there’s a fan. So I’ve been sleeping like a baby. I’m still pinching myself over this…. making sure it’s not a dream. Missy and Megan – it’s exactly like Flowerbud Cottages in Balangan, Bali. So you know how amazing it is! In the morning I walk to the dining area for breakfast. It’s a large open-air veranda with an ocean view, lined with hammocks and dotted by wooden tables draped in white embroidered cloths. The details have been exquisitely conducted at the Vila.
Breakfast. Aaaaahhh... I will gain 10 pounds here. They serve a buffet of 5 different kinds of tropical fruits: mango, papaya, pineapple, and 2 melons. There is granola, homemade yogurt, little chewy cheese puff things that have the consistency of mochi, cupcakes, bread fresh out of the oven, and 3 different jams. They put out a pitcher of juice made from oranges they squeezed that morning. As if that wasn’t enough, they then offer made-to-order items including scrambled eggs, omelets, crepes filled with flambéed banana and nutella, French toast, and many other things. I want to eat it alllll!!!! This morning I literally had to force myself not to order the banana/nutella crepe. I was starting to feel self-conscious because people started to look at me funny yesterday when I had a plate full of fruit, yogurt, and granola… and a cupcake and cheese puff. Then the crepe came. Then the scrambled eggs came. I could hardly waddle down the steps of the dining hall, and I had a kite surfing lesson to get ready for too!
The first day I took a long nap in the morning after I got there. Then I laid around feeling a bit jet lagged, reading and chatting with the other people staying at the Vila. They are all here to kite surf. It’s a different crowd then I’m used to at the hostels. Instead of late teens and kids in their 20’s-early 30’s, it’s now middle-aged and older professionals. It’s a nice break, to be honest. I’m so enjoying getting to know these talented, interesting people. I’ve mostly been hanging out with a couple from Germany – Yanneke and Karsten – both endoscopy doctors who left their 2 young boys at home. The boys aren’t happy about being at home, as they both are avid kite-surfers. But the parents wanted their own little holiday. They are such a cool couple! Both of them were in rock bands when they were younger. They played me some of their stuff last night and it was actually surprisingly really good. Everyone in a band thinks they’re good, but usually only 10% actually are. Karsten’s sound was definitely grungy, head banging rock; whereas Yanneke’s sounded kind of like The Doors. She was the organ player. There are only a few other people staying here right now as it’s end of season for kiting. I’ve also been talking quite a bit with 2 older guys – Jonas from Lithuania and Christian from Canada. They looooove to tell stories about kite surfing and compare techniques. Obsessed, actually. Is this how I am going to be?? J We shall see!
Later in the afternoon I met with my instructor, Marko, a very tanned and athletic looking guy with eyes the color of the ocean. He was one of the first Germans to start kite surfing in the 90’s when it first became a thing, and even helped invent some of the safety features we now have along with a couple other veterans back in the day. I was told that he is one of the best teachers around, and also reasonably priced. He was 2 hours late to our “appointment”, which apparently in Jeri is a loosely used term. “Brazilian time”, Ricardo, the front desk receptionist, clarified. When I was e-mailing back and forth with Ricardo the weeks leading up to my trip, I imagined him to be a tanned Brazilian boy with dark hair and eyes. Actually, Ricardo is a pale, blonde Dutch man who has baby blue eyes and a Brazilian wife. He is the single most helpful person around. He can do, arrange, book, reserve anything! At any rate, Marko told me our first lesson would be the next day at noon. I was so excited!! Watching everyone else from the Vila out on the water all day was getting me pumped.
That first evening, I convinced the German couple and the 2 older guys to rent a beach buggy with me and go to Jeri for the evening. It’s a 30-minute ride to town. The town of Jeri is very small and completely built on dirt. It’s super cute, though. We made it there before sunset and walked along the famous sand dunes, watching kids slide down the sides of it. A nearby lake showcased some of the local kiting talent. Young ripped Brazilians tore around the ultra shallow water, getting big air and doing cool tricks. Pretty awesome to watch! Then we met up with Marko who took us to his friend’s restaurant for dinner, which was excellent. Everyone but me got the mango shrimp. I opted for their veggie special which was housemade pasta mixed with sautéed eggplant, hearts of palm, and tangy sundried tomatoes. We sat upstairs on a porch, overlooking the street below. Afterward, Marko insisted we all had to try a dessert made next door. It was kind of like a flourless chocolate cake served warm with vanilla ice cream. Then we took the buggy back to our Vila and crashed. It was a long day!
So far I’ve had 2 kite surfing lessons. The first day we talked about wind, safety, gear, and all the basics before taking a trainer kite out for some practice on the beach. Then today I actually got in the water and did tons of body dragging and kite maneuvers. I lost my sunnies and probably swallowed a gallon of salt water. The superwoman drag was the one that got me. Waves kept hitting me in the face and I was taking in water like the Titanic, all the while trying to keep my swimming trunks on and also lookout for the kite which is hard to do when spray is constantly in your eyes. But these minor issues are nothing compared to the feeling you have when your body is being lifted and dragged by that kite…. Wow! It’s amazing! Like you weigh absolutely nothing. I loved weaving the kite back and forth from 12 to 2, 10 to 12, and 10 to 2… over and over again… like on a clock. Just weaving figure eights in the sky and feeling light as a feather in the water. After a few over-zealous turns of the kite and some body slams, I gained a very healthy respect for the power of the wind. The key is to make small movements and think ahead. The kite is on a lag, so you have to already be making the next move before the first one is finished. It requires coordination and finesse, but mostly, feeling. It’s something that will come with time, I think, as you become one with your kite and the wind. Someday, I won’t even have to look at my kite. I’ll just know.
Tomorrow… I get to try the board!!! Can’t. Freaking. Wait.