“.. Tristeza não tem fim
A felicidade é como a pluma
Que o vento vai levando pelo ar
Voa tão leve
Mas tem a vida breve
Precisa que haja vento sem parar
A minha felicidade está sonhando
Nos olhos da minha namorada
É como esta noite, passando, passando..”
(Antônio Carlos Jobim…
– A Felicidade)
Thursday, May 10, 2018. Ascension Day.
During my first Surfin Sem Fim, a while ago, I met Marco Dalpozzo as a friend and mentor. We talk about Brazil, Italy, the Netherlands and about kitesurfing. Marco invites me to join him on the longest Surfin Sem Fim so far. The Ultra Man. 1,000km, 11 days, from São Miguel do Gostoso to Atins. “If you want: train and come”. A once in a lifetime opportunity. Between this day and the start of the trip I have somewhat 100 days. To improve my fitness and skill on a surfboard.
Challenging. But possible.
We receive a message from Marco two weeks before the trip. The purpose of our journey. Of us, as a team, doing this journey together. Together with nature, each other, the wind. Poetry. Multiple pages. In Portuguese. And one sentence in English: “The poor Jelle will learn Portuguese …..”.
“Day 0.” Pousada Mi Secreto, São Miguel do Gostoso – Manary Praia Hotel, Ponta Negra, Natal
Two days ago the taxi driver gave me a ride from the airport to the beautiful pousada Mi Secreto. “Do you speak English?” I asked. “Não, so português”, he replied. Followed by an hour and a half of silence. The same driver now picks me up. Two days of self-study pay off. We talk animatedly, with a lot of “Mais devagar por favor” (could you please repeat that more slowly please), about the Northeast of Brazil, Amsterdam, football and what we encounter along the way. In Natal I’m happy to reunite with Analice, Jalila and Marco. We enjoy a delicious dinner with different kinds of fish, drink one caipirinha and two beers (this turns out to be our diet, our daily doses of alcohol. Sufficient to enjoy, not too much to be able to perform the next day.) And we enjoy a good night sleep at Manary Praia Hotel, Ponta Negra, Natal.
Day 1. Ponta Negra, Natal – Aldeia, Maracajaú | 50km
Manary Praia Hotel, Natal. This seems completely different from what I am used to. I have never kitesurfed in a big city before. The team now consists of Augusto, who will follow us in the car, Analice, who makes the most beautiful pictures of the world, Jalila, André, Marco and me. Marcela, Nelson, Sebastian and Tiago will arrive today at the airport of Natal and join us a few beaches further. The rhythm of the wind and waves seem different here than at home. It takes some time to get used to that. My carefully built-up self-confidence therefore sinks directly to the bottom of the ocean. The view is spectacular. The waves hit the walls that protect the city from the ocean, and we pass a huge bridge. The environment, from your surfboard, is both impressive and intimidating. We reunite with Marcela, Sebastian, Tiago and Nelson. Tiago and Nelson will be with us both on and off the water, to make a film about the trip. I’m not sure whether they’re (kite)surfing athletes with insane video skills, or videographers with insane (kite)surfing skills.
We arrive at Maracajaú Kite Center, enjoy a meal at Restaurante Tereza Panca and spend the night in Aldeia, Camping / Chalet. The next day we’ll go to São Miguel do Gostoso. For the ‘corner of Brazil’ we are early in the season and the wind as from Touros will be offshore (“Terral”). As far as I’ve learned at home, kitesurfing in offshore wind is an absolute ‘no go’. However, the majority of the team dares to take on the adventure. As from São Miguel do Gostoso we will be accompanied by a jetski, for 3 days on which we are likely to have offshore winds.
Day 2. Maracajaú – Pousada Mi Secreto, São Miguel do Gostoso | 50km
What a beautiful place this is. We go back to Tereza for breakfast. The jetski is available from São Miguel do Gostoso. So we will cover a part of today’s stage in offshore wind, without assistance on the water. I find this somewhat exciting, but also sense a feeling that says: “you do not want to be in the car. You want to cover the full 1,000km by kite.”
We have time. I therefore decide to go on the water. With floating vest. Without taking any further risks. Simply sail straight ahead. I know this part of the coast because I stayed in São Miguel do Gostoso for two days before the trip. As soon as we lose sight of the lighthouse behind us, and before us on the horizon a huge windmill park appears, we should arrive. The closer we approach the coast, the lighter the wind. It takes some working the kite to create enough pressure to reach the beach. We are here. Pousada Mi Secreto, São Miguel do Gostoso.
Day 3. São Miguel do Gostoso – Amagali Pousada, Galinhos | 70km
We enjoy breakfast at Pousada Mi Secreto. Then we go for a walk with Jalila, Nelson and Marco, meet Paulo, from Dr. Wind, the kitesurfing school next door, and walk to Kauli Seadi’s pousada. To be very honest I never heard his name before this trip, but Kauli Seadi is pretty much the Brazilian Stephan van den Berg (who probably most Dutch readers, and many non-Dutch readers, know). A living legend, who has just opened a beautiful pousada in São Miguel do Gostoso. He shows us around the pousada and his
kite center, under construction and almost ready to open for this season. Inspiring to witness an athlete turn his sport into a business and into such a beautiful beach front pousada. Thank you Kauli.
The jetski has arrived. We are ready to leave for the next stage with offshore wind. It turns out to be an art to see the lulls coming and dodge them. An art I yet have to master. After an hour of sailing, there is suddenly no wind and my kite drops in the water. From my position I cannot see or hear the jetski. I do not panic, but still think “what if” and make a mental note to, when back home, start training to become a better swimmer. The kite catches wind and I can continue. After the third lull I no longer fear and it becomes a sport to find the right path. Like a skipper on a sailing yacht sometimes decides to take a detour, and to arrive at his destination faster thanks to better wind.
The sand and rocks change from beige to terra brown and red. It is spectacularly beautiful here. With our kites in the sky we walk and continue our journey on the river. Thanks to this river we are able to make it to our destination for that day, Pousada Amagali, Galinhos.
Day 4. Galinhos – Brazil Kite Dream, Praia de Soledade, Macau | 30km
This must be one of the shortest and one of the most beautiful stages on our journey. We kitesurf over the river, between islands of green. We take the time to shoot the most beautiful images. At sunset we arrive at Praia de Soledade, Macau. Analice shoots, I think, one of the most beautiful photos until that moment. At Brazil Kite Dream we are welcomed by Bruno and his family. We must definitely taste their home brewed beer. It tastes great and after the efforts of the past few days we are already tipsy after two
Day 5. Macau – Casa di Paulo (a sua “pousada” para sempre), Tibau | 90km
The departure from Praia de Soledade is messy and hilariously funny. The beach lies in the lee, the tide is low and the exposed ground is gray mud in which you sink to your knees. To make it worse, in the gusty winds our kites drop out of the sky. In the water, for the lucky ones. In the mud, for the less fortunate. As soon as we are out of the river, it turns out to be a light wind day. My board and kite seem built for this and we make pretty good progress all day. With Ceará in sight, about two thirds crossing the bay of Ponta do Mel to Icapuí, the wind drops completely. We wash ashore.
Then again we’re lucky enough to experience the Brazilian hospitality. On the beach we meet Paulo. Paulo lives around the corner on a comfortable holiday park and offers us to have diner and stay with him and his wife. We are welcomed with more snacks, food and drinks than we can handle. Introducing each other Marco mentions he is from Bologna. Twenty minutes later Paulo’s wife invites us at the table, presenting, coincidentally or not, spaghetti Bolognese. Wow. We can sleep in a real bed (although a
hammock (“rede”) is very common in Nordeste) and the next morning we get spoiled with a wonderful breakfast. All our words of gratitude are replied by Paulo saying: “My pleasure. If you travel here again sometime, consider this house to be your pousada.” Thank you, Paulo.
Day 6. Tibau – Vila Selvagem, Fortim | 90km
Everything is ready. Luggage packed. Kites pumped. No wind yet. An alternative plan would be that Marco and André try to go by foil and those who cannot sail go by car. The latter will perhaps eventually be inevitable one day on this journey, but we want to avoid this as long as possible. We want to travel 1,000km by kite, not by car. A light breeze picks up. Marcela and Sebastian decide to try it with kite and surfboard. I have a “get out of jail free card”: the Harlem Light. A huge 14m kite that I thought and hoped
not to need in Brazil. If they succeed, then I should also succeed. The coast is beautiful. The red-colored rocks form a plinth around the ocean, and around the forest beyond that stretches as far as the eye can see. Our car appears in front of us, in the dunes. One of the worst places to stop. At high tide there is no beach and the hill is covered in obstacles. I manage to land the kite. When the rest of the team arrives, they do not stop, but continue. I find out why. There is no wind in this corner and it seems impossible to
get away. After four attempts it is after 17:00. I decide to pack the things and walk back to the car. Augusto drives the car through woods, over paths that are clearly not crossed for some time. Nelson navigates with his phone. The “road” is there, based on the satellite photos, but whether we encounter obstacles is a surprise. We open the first gate and close it behind us. After another fifteen minute drive there is a huge gate. On the other side we see an asphalt road and traffic. That’s where we want to be. The gate is secured with a steel chain and lock. Augusto grabs a stone and tries, in vain, to break the lock. An older man appears on the other side of the fence. Augusto, Nelson and the man have a short conversation that I cannot understand. The man leaves. I ask “what was that about?”. Nelson replies: “he told us to look for the person with the key”. “Wow” I think, but Augusto jumps over the fence on the side and starts searching. It is getting dark. We sit in the car and wait. The scenery seems like a budget horror movie: a bunch of naive tourists trapped in the car in this desolate place. However, after half an hour Augusto appears on the other side of the gate, accompanied by another gentleman. With the key. I cannot believe my eyes, but the gate is open and we can go. Thank you Augusto.
Day 7. Fortim – Carmel Charme Resort, Aquiraz | 70km
Vila Selvagem, Fortim. Today we are joined by probably the most charming couple in Brazil, Serena and Tonico. They come from Canoa Quebrada and join us today to Fortim. I’m on a roll, in front of the group and “feel like a captain” for just a little while. Today I also experience the disadvantages of this. Our car is on the beach in front of us. Later I understand: for the photos and film. At that moment I assume that we have a break there and I stop. With more luck than wisdom, I reach the beach without a scratch. Returning to the water I’m less fortunate. A wave sets me back closer to the beach. Working the kite I drag myself back into the water. Then I feel a stabbing pain in my hip. The water is full of rocks here. Sharp as oysters. Quietly whispering “salt water heals everything” I try not to think about what damage could be done and navigate into deeper water, back to safety. We stop at Barra Nova. There is a beautiful lagoon which, it seems, is less crowded than, for example, Cumbuco and Taíba. We continue. I kind of have to find my rhythm again. The wind is on-shore and the waves are quite steep. Then we arrive. The beach is covered with beautiful rocks. Like crystal. We are welcomed with a shower, a huge swimming pool, beer and snacks. Carmel Charme Resort – Aquiraz.
Day 8. Aquiraz – Vila Marola, Taíba | 90km
Today is the longest day so far. Not necessarily the distance, 90km, but the time. The trip will include 3 stages: Aquiraz – Fortaleza (Praia do Futuro), just in front of the port of Fortaleza. Then around the port to Cumbuco and from Cumbuco to Taíba. In Fortaleza a television crew is waiting for us, to report about our 1,000km ultra journey. Around 14:00 we leave for the 60km from Fortaleza to Taíba. The trip around the port of Fortaleza is hard to describe. The city is not specifically pretty, but it’s ‘ugliness’ is beautiful to
witness from the water, from your surfboard. In the distance the palm trees of the cosier coastal towns appear on the horizon. Fishermen wave and greet us from their sailing boats. At Cumbuco I am confused for a moment. There are many, many kites in the air and the group disappears from my sight for a moment. I consider whether they stopped at Windtown or continued. I know this area and the sun is going done. Clock is ticking and I decide to continue to Taíba. Shortly after Cumbuco I find the group again. I am
tired, slow and I make a lot of mistakes. Are we there yet? The sun is down and in the twilight I see dozens of kites in the distance. That must be the lagoon at Taíba and just before that is our destination, Vila Marola, Taíba. We are about half way on our journey. The first long day is done. Three more in a row await us: Icaraizinho, Preá and Barra Grande.
Day 9. Taíba – Villa Mango, Icaraizinho de Amontada | 110km
To be able to make it to Atins before September 4, today we skip one destination, Guajiru. That makes today a long day. More than 100km from Taíba to Icaraizinho. After our arrival after sunset in Taíba yesterday evening. We leave at 11:00. A bit late, I think, given the distance to cover. My legs feel rusty. The first 20km I feel like I’m unable to ‘dance on the beat’. Like stepping on your partner’s toes, I stumble across the waves and often lose my board. The ultra-experienced team is not bothered by this and they quickly become colorful dots on the horizon. Only Jalila, who prefers not to rush, stays closer. I make it back to the team at Guajiru, today’s original destination to be. We have traveled more than 50km in less than 2.5 hours. My 10m kite is too big in this strong wind and I change to 8m. Perfect. The next few kilometers I am ‘captain’ again. The wind is perfect and the water surface between the long waves flat as a mirror. A dream. We pause about 30km before Icaraizinho. We lost sight of Marco along the way. The car, with André on the lookout, turns to search. We wait. On the beach we meet Rafael Teles. He runs a restaurant down here at Praia da Baleia. It is incredibly beautiful with how much hospitality and enthusiasm we are welcomed on every beach. Thank you Rafael. Marco fortunately appears to be fine. His kite spontaneously deflated. We replace his gear and continue our journey. This must be the best part so far. Half an hour before sunset, surrounded by gold light and local surfers, we arrive at the beach of Pousada Villa Mango, Icaraizinho de Amontada.
Day 10. Icaraizinho – a casa do Surfin Sem Fim, Rancho do Peixe, Preá | 90km
Ontem chegamos à indescritivelmente linda pousada Villa Mango, Icaraizinho de Amontada. Se o vento e a deusa do mar Iemanjá quiserem, hoje, depois mais um dia de 100km+, chegeramos à casa do Surfin Sem Fim, no Rancho do Peixe, Preá. O melhor poeta do mundo não consegue pensar nisso. A natureza é o maior artista.
Yesterday we arrived at the indescribably beautiful pousada Villa Mango, Icaraizinho de Amontada. If the wind and the goddess of the sea Iemanjá want it, today, after another 100km+ day, we will arrive at the house of Surfin Sem Fim, Rancho do Peixe, Preá. The best poet in the world could not create this. Nature is the greatest artist.
In kilometers it is a long stage, but the whole team feels relaxed. Because we know this area. Because we will arrive at the house of Surfin Sem Fim, Rancho do Peixe. The tide is quite low and the fish traps are visible. We navigate an endless stretch of water through the fish traps over flat to choppy water. I experience a new kind of fatigue. The legs are still fit, but my eyes just want to close for a little while. As if you fall asleep during kitesurfing. Bizarre!! The group sails close together for about the entire day. A bit too close, we learn, two hundred meters before the finish, Rancho do Peixe. Marco accidently sends the lines of his kite in Sebastian’s. Nobody gets hurt and we can laugh about it. Today is a party. We’re home.
Day 11. Preá – Pousada BGK, Barra Grande | 115km
Rancho do Peixe. I’ve been looking forward to today. Excited. Afraid. We have been here before. At the 600km ‘iron man’ from Cumbuco to Atins. On the Barra Grande day we left at 10:00. Due to unforeseen circumstances we finally arrived in the dark. I have prayed to Iemanjá, and to the god of the legs (there probably must be one god of the legs up there) the Barra Grande day will be a smooth day this time. My prayers are, partially, answered. At Rancho do Peixe the wind is offshore this morning. About 12, 13 knots. Very tricky because the wind also drops from time to time. The plan was to be ready by 09:30. We decide to wait until 11:30. The wind finally arrives. About 25 knots side-shore. Perfect. After a short briefing and a last minute kite change (8 instead of 10) we start at 12:00, two and a half hours behind on schedule, for the longest and heaviest stage of our trip. My nemesis. The trip to Barra Grande. The first half hour I still feel a bit stiff. Probably the 300km+ of the past 3 days play a part in this. After the hill at Jericoacoara, I find my rhythm again. After two and a half hours we have already covered 65 of the 115 km. That is promising. But let’s not yet cheer before we get there. We still have a huge river to cross. A river mouth looks like a gigantic hot tub. A volcanic eruption of water. With tired legs it is difficult to stay on the board. At the end of the afternoon we pass a fisherman’s village that I remember as the last stop before the finish. I know we are almost there.
With Barra Grande in sight at low tide we have to be careful not to hit any of the rocks hidden under the water surface. We’ve come a long way and I collected plenty of scratches and bruises. I therefore slow down the last few meters. Constantly scanning the water surface for possible obstacles. The arrival on the beach of Pousada BGK, Barra Grande, is emotional and unforgettable. We are welcomed with applause. The heaviest stage has been completed. We have 3 days of 50 / 70km to go to Atins. All gear is still intact. As are all participants. We arrived with the sun still in the sky, just above the horizon. Despite – or thanks to – the late start, a perfect day. An incredible achievement actually. 115km (straight line) downwind in less than 5 hours. Don’t ask me how. My legs feel like chocolate spaghetti, but I feel more proud and happier than ever before. No words. You’d have to experience this for yourself.
Day 12. Barra Grande – Pousada Casa de Caboclo, Ilha das Canárias, Delta do Parnaíba | 50km
We are in Piauí. The state with the shortest coastline of all coastal states in Brazil, and the third out of four states on our trip. Today we sail into the Parnaíba delta. The feeling is difficult to describe. You must have experienced it once. So much natural beauty and richness to share with such a small group of friends. I hope the world is wise enough to leave it that way, and not to spoil the environment with ‘progress’. We sail up the river, facing the sunset. And sleep like babies in a simple but comfortable pousada on Ilha das Canárias.
Day 13. Ilha das Canárias – Pousada Jagatá, Tutóia | 50km
We are in the land of the wind. I have been sailing with my 8m for days and did not have to change any gear or settings. The strong wind blows into the river. Sailing back upwind to the sea seemed like a fun challenge to me, but we go back to the river entrance by boat. We sail past Ilha dos Poldros. Given the shorter distance, we are not in a hurry and can enjoy the waves as much as we like. There is no time pressure to reach the next destination, Tutóia. The last part is a bit difficult. On the river, surrounded by
land and obstacles, the wind is very gusty. In Tutóia, we are warmly welcomed at Pousada Jagatá.
Day 14. Tutóia – Vila Guará, Atins, Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranheses | 60km
We’re almost there. I remember the windmills, the high waves and onshore wind at the iron man’s final leg. Conditions are about similar today. The body’s ability to recover is something incredible. I should be exhausted. But I have plenty of energy. To take every wave. To enjoy the sun. To enjoy the feeling of playing a match already won. Of course this is not a race, but completing the journey still feels like a victory. We are in Atins. We did it. Now what? Bizarre. Less than two weeks ago we left, without knowing exactly what to expect, from Ponta Negra, Natal. Now we are here. This is probably already be a bit of a journey for people, travelling by airplane, car (4×4) and boat. We did it, with our feet, kite and surfboard.
Ante a nossa viagem downwind o Marco escreveu uma mensagem. Uma mensagem com muitas palavras em português. E com uma palavra em inglês: “o Jelle pobre vai estudar português”. Muito obrigado por estas palavras motivacionais. Mas penso não estamos pobre. Acho estamos muito rico, porque possamos velejar aqui, no nordeste, com essa equipe especial.
Não tenho palavras para descrever minha gratidão a toda a equipe, Analice, Nelson, Tiago, Augusto, César, Jalila, Marcela, Sebastian, meu irmão André, e meu mentor Marco e a todas as pessoas maravilhosas que conhecemos ao longo do caminho.
Pictures by Analice Diniz.