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Gareth Leonard

Lost in Paradise

Sometimes adventures don’t go as planned. I guess that’s what makes an adventure after all – risk and uncertainty are the alluring aspects.

On my third day in Recife, I borrowed a friend’s car and laid out a route to go see some of the regions best beaches. Strapped with a GPS, plenty of snacks and fully charged cellphone, I crisscrossed my way out of the city and onto the state highway.

The plan was to visit two different locations; Porto do Galinhas and Praia dos Carneiros.

Porto do Galinhas is highly regarded as one of the best vacation spots around, however, it was Praia dos Caneiros the garnered the most votes when asking to locals for travel advice.

I was told, “Many Brazilians will tell you to go to Porto, but Praia dos Carneiros is what you really want!”

With that in mind, I made the hour drive to Porto for my first stop of the day.

Recife-PortodoGalinhas

If you translate Porto do Galinhas it means Port of Chickens in English, and this lovely little beach town seems to take that title seriously.

The first thing I noticed after parking my car and walking towards the beach was the abundance of chickens everywhere, in every form. There were chicken-shaped garbage cans, chicken souvenirs, chicken knick-knacks and even a Michael Jackson tribute chicken statue.

Recife-PortodoGalinhas-Galinha

Luckily the chicken theme subsided when I got to the beach. Small, flat-bottom sailboats known as “jangadas” lined the long, sandy coastline waiting for visitors.  Snorkelers bobbed in the distance as they explored the natural pools just offshore.

Recife-PortodoGalinhasBeach

The coral reefs here have created a wall of protection from the harsh ocean waves that keep the water warm, clear and calm.

I thought I’d save my swimming for the next stop so I kept my feet in the sand and went for a long walk along the never-ending beach to take in all the sights and sounds.

Recife-PortodoGalinhasMusic

Completely content with the beauty of Porto, I was excited to discover a place that people ranked ahead of this.

Bidding farewell to all the poultry, I programmed my GPS and hit the road for Praia dos Carneiros (aka Sheep Beach).

As time and distance past, dark green rolling hills replaced humble coastal villages. The landscape was changing but frequent signage assured me I was heading in the right direction.

Recife-Driving

About a half hour into the journey, I started seeing signs for Praia dos Carneiros pointing in different directions. Unsure and untrusting of the mixed signals, I stayed course with my GPS.

A few more miles and the paved roads transitioned into bumpy, dirt paths, but still, my GPS and my Google maps weren’t wavering.

I continued down the street where the coastline appeared again. Big beautiful palm trees lined up like soldiers protecting the sea, and I thought that meant I was on course.

Recife-PalmRoad

Just then, I turned to follow the directions and the road ended. I could see plenty of deserted beaches in the distance, but no sign of my destination.

Did I make it?

For such a popular spot, I thought there would be more information, shops or at least a few people. I was all by myself.

Recife-EmptyBeach

I turned the car around and drove in search of someone to help. It wasn’t until I almost reached the paved portion of the road when I spotted a few women walking their dogs.

They explained to me that I came the wrong way around the river and that the beach I wanted was on the other side. I had to drive almost a half hour back to get around it.

Frustrated with the street signage and lack of information on my GPS, I stopped at a local gas station to confirm the directions.

The sun was fading fast so I had to pick up the pace if I wanted to arrive with any daylight left.

I passed through the village of Rio Formoso as instructed and finally started seeing more frequent and consistent signs for Praia.

After a few too many U-turns and closed off private entrances, I finally rolled up on the public access to Praia dos Carneiros.

By this point, the sun had escaped me but I was determined to reach my goal regardless.

Except for a few night runners, the beach was quiet and empty, but I could still imagine its enchantment. The wide palm tree-lined coast stretched as far as the eye could see and the sand was soft and clean.

Recife-PraiaArrival

I took my shoes off and let the moon light a path for me along the water. This wasn’t exactly what I had planned for my day, but it was an adventure none-the-less.

Any adventure that ends with your feet in the sand is a success to me.



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