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Source: Destinationless Travel

High Profile Magazine

Pipa, a Little Piece of Tropical Paradise

After months of lockdown in the UK with seemingly no end in sight (restrictions are forecast to continue well into 2021!), Rafael and I decided that we would extend our biennial Christmas family visit to Brazil by leaving earlier in December than we normally would – and coming back later in January too. Both of us are able to work remotely and so – with a time difference of only three hours – it seemed a bit of a no brainer to work from Brazil, where the sun was shining and where restrictions had been (almost) entirely lifted.

But, before the family Christmas and remote working, what we really wanted was a holiday! So, after a weekend in São Paulo catching up with friends and family, we headed up to the north east of Brazil, for a trip that I wasn’t sure was going to be easy in the time allocated: we had a lot of ground to cover in a little under two weeks – a 1,500km drive on roads that sounded less than promising from reports in guidebooks and on online blogs. But I’d had a look at Google Earth and roads that a year ago were being reported as dust tracks had clearly been paved – being able to see the roads in advance was quite reassuring (though possibly falsely so: Google Earth definitely doesn’t show the number and size of potholes we were later to experience (worst of all, at night – with animals of all shapes and sizes wandering onto the road too!)).

We flew from São Paulo to Natal, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte (a flight of about 3 and a half hours) and picked up our hire car at the airport (I’d managed to get a pretty good deal on a rental which allowed us to pick up in Natal and drop off in São Luis, rather than having to make a round trip, which would have been completely impractical in the time we had available). From the airport we drove south-east, straight to our first destination, Praia de Pipa (or ‘Kite Beach’). The little town is just referred to as ‘Pipa’ – and it actually has a number of beaches, the main one being ‘Praia de Pipa’ and others being ‘Praia dos Golfinhos’ (‘Dolphin Beach’) and ‘Praia do Amor’ (no translation needed), which was where we were staying.

One advantage of travelling during the COVID pandemic was that booking accommodation and restaurants was easy – in fact, in retrospect, there was probably no need to have booked anything at all – and we had been able to book into one of the most sought-after places in Pipa: Pousada Terras dos Goitis. We arrived late at night but immediately knew we had landed somewhere special: after being warmly received in the beautiful reception, we were made to feel completely at home from the outset.

The ‘pousada’ is actually a collection of 10 or so extremely comfortable chalets – each beautifully furnished (dark hard wood floors, four poster beds with mosquito nets (not that we experienced any mosquitos), spacious bathrooms, fully equipped kitchens etc., and set in their own grounds (with private outdoor seating, sun deck etc.). So you have a little bit of your own private luxury in the jungle, where you are surrounded by rich tropical foliage, illuminated by enormous azure butterflies and colourful birds – we were even visited by a little monkey one morning! At night (invariably after one cachaça too many…) we would fall asleep to the sound of the waves crashing on Praia do Amor, just a few metres away. And wintry lockdown in London quickly seemed a very, very long way away….

The owners of the pousada are a gay couple who sold their house in Barcelona in order to embark upon this project about ten years ago. The process had taught them that things usually take longer in Brazil…. and that there is absolutely nothing you can do to make things happen more quickly: you just have to accept the situation and go to the beach or drink a beer while you wait! As well as being wonderfully relaxed and welcoming, they were incredibly attentive to their guests: not only had they made sure that each chalet was beautifully furnished and incredibly well equipped – as they said, they wanted people to be happier and more relaxed even than they would be at home, and that meant providing them with everything they would expect to have at home (and more – if they asked for it, which Rafael invariably did!) - they also went out of their way to understand the particular needs of individual guests and to respond to them. They are truly passionate about what they do, and that makes for a wonderful stay for their guests.

We actually only had three nights in Pipa, but it seemed much longer, so restful was our time there: as well as the comfort of our chalet, we enjoyed long walks on deserted beaches, simple lunches at roadside ‘churrascos’ (our favourite was a wonderfully simple place, where you could eat all you wanted, choosing from delicious fresh food including grilled meat and fish, salads, rice, black beans and farofa, for a little over £2 a head!).

We’d often then spend the afternoon by the pool before heading to the beach again in the evening to make the most of the beautiful evening sun and to take endless photographs of the beautiful scenery (or rather, of Rafael!) and to drink 50p caipirinhas from the barracas on the beach!

In the evening, we would stroll into the centre of ‘town’ (about 10 minutes’ walk along dust tracks) to eat in one of the many excellent restaurants that Pipa has to offer (for what is little more than a village, it’s a pretty fashionable place, but has not been over-developed and has retained a simple (but undoubtedly chic) charm). Lots of seafood – especially moqueca – and delicious tropical fruits, some of which I knew, but many of which I’d never seen before – which started a guessing game we played with my family in the UK, sending them photos and asking them to guess what they were. Though I was careful not to bombard them with too many photos of beaches and paradise – that might have been insensitive!

Then back to our chalet to enjoy the noise of the waves and the cicadas in the trees from the hammocks on our terrace – and just one last cachaça…. Our next destination was ‘Canoa Quebrada’ – or ‘Broken Canoe’ – a drive of nearly 450km, so an early start required!

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