Reaching Brazil awakened a real sense of accomplishment. We had arrived on another continent using wind and solar power – it is astonishing how well nature rewards patience. Accomplishment in the bag, we had coincidentally arrived in a host country best equipped for celebration.
Our introduction to Brazil was exotic – we had landed at a small village beside a river which stretched to a peninsula on the one end and into a large city, Joao Pessoa, the other way. We entered the Paraiba River north of Joao Pessao and reached Jacare Marina Village in Cabedelo early in the morning.
Ongemak had to be anchored in the river until high tide would allow safe mooring. This restriction didn’t apply to us and so the Ongemak crew, together with the crew from all the other yachts met in the marine to celebrate our crossing with many of the best local cocktails: caipirinhas.
“Our” marina is French owned by proprietors Nicholas and Frances – both really great guys. They had reserved a walk-on mooring for Ongemak to which we were to make our way at 4:30pm when high tide would allow. After a few too many caipirinhas and a deep, deep nap, this was no easy feat and the pouring rain added to the scene. Still, Oloff expertly slipped Ongemak into place while the crew ensured we were fastened to the Marina’s instruction. Muir, after tying Ongemak up perfectly, remarked that he had not yet woken up and that indeed he was in his “moor-in” (read Afrikaans).
We felt welcome straight away but still needed to be formally welcomed by immigration. Signing a boat and its crew in requires a three step process of which one is only able to complete one a day. That’s just how it is. After a day of celebrations, we rested well before attempting step 1: Immigration. It was a long-winded process with one of the most OCD meticulous officers inspecting our passports and boat papers. It was a treat watching him. By the time we finished, it was Friday afternoon and steps 2 – 3 would have to wait until Monday.
Saturday was fresh market day in Cabedelo. All the yachties took the train for R$1 (equivalent of R3.60) and ended up in fresh food heaven. After Namibia, St Helena Island and Ascension, we were used to exorbitant prices for any freshly grown produce. Here, we bought avocados the size of rugby balls for about R$6. Limes, coriander, tomatoes, onions, etc, etc, etc were bought at a steal and that same evening, we made tons of guacamole and Isolde prepared the last of our Barracuda as a thai green curry which we shared with our friends on Noanka.
Sunday was Oloff’s birthday and coincidentally also a day Nicholas from the Marina cooked a buffet lunch and had a Bosa Nova band playing live. Isolde created an iconic “Atlantic crossing” cake and all the yachts met there for lunch, dancing and to watch Brazil’s first 2018 Fifa Wolrd Cup match.
Monday snuck up on us after a weekend of celebrations and so, Muir and I headed to the Customs office without the required papers. It would take only another two days and a trip into the big city to complete our mission. Nonetheless, we didn’t let this interrupt our date night and we headed to a hotel on the beach in Joao Pessoa where we spent the evening in the beachfront, watching hundreds of city dwellers running, cycling, skating and blading up and down the never-ending promenade. Our breakfast was all-we-could-eat after which we had a long-awaited chill at the pool, overlooking the ocean whence we sailed.
Joao Pessoa was a pleasant surprise. From the ocean and Cabedelo, one sees the city for its hundreds of white and pastel coloured high rises. Arriving on train however brings one to the “old city” with dilapidated yet beautiful old buildings colouring the streets. Old town seemed like a massive department store with each street specialising in specific product types. If you were looking for electric parts, you could pick and choose between many neighbouring shops. Same goes for furniture, electronics, lighting, car parts, etc.
At the time of completing our paperwork, Francois (Muir and Oloff’s younger brother) and his girlfriend, Agata, landed in Joao Pessoa for a visit. Isolde captured their visit beautifully on video. Have a look:
This would be the first time that Ongemak had two semi-permanent guests and we were all very surprised at how easily six of us lived and slept on Ongemak for over a week. It was such a pleasure to add these two special people to our journey and explore a bit of Brazil with them.
Our wave of goodbyes started with Aga and Francois on Thursday, 28 June. On Friday, the yachties filled a bus to a Sao Joao Festa held inland in Campina Grande. A huge arena with multiple music stages, hundreds of food stalls & bars, and thousands of people are colourfully decorated to create a vibrant atmosphere. It was a treat to be able to participate in this annual festival and spend time with our favourite yachties.
Ongemak spent 25 days actively sailing from Africa to South America. It took less than 7 hours for a plane to fly us back to South Africa.
Ongemak is safely waiting in Brazil for the continuation of our journey and we look forward to going back. For now though, we get to see our beloved friends and family in real life here in South Africa!