Camocim - the village of dunes and freshwater pools
After the four days long sail from Cabedelo, we could only say the view at this anchorage did not disappoint. The change of what had become the usual scenery of mangrove-lined anchorages was quite stunning, there was no doubt.
We were anchored right next to a huge sand dune that monopolises all of the attention in this anchorage and even town.
This anchorage was going, for sure, to stay in our memories for a long time.
When we saw photos of this place, we were mesmerised by the aerial imagery, so inspiring they were. Often these areal views provide an idea of a place that, although real, is not the one we experience when visiting because we walk on two legs and are not birds, this can lead to disappointment, but Camocim was definitely not in this category.
The place is as magical in aerial photos and videos as is when exploring by foot. The scenery is quite surreal, and one can easily forget we are just by the sea and not in the Sahara desert or another similar place.
Our first impressions of Camocim were quite strong, to our Port a stunning view of this huge sand dune, to our Starboard a boring-looking town, to our stern the barges that cross the river with Buggy cars and motocross bikes for tourists and the fishermen by the river mouth, on our bow the mangrove forest a three river arms. Oh, and a strong current, probably close to 3 knots!
Despite our efforts to identify an area of the river where the current looked less strong we ended up anchoring right in the middle, where we found enough depth for us to drop a good amount of chain and swing without any stress. We were clearly out of the way of the river traffic, the barge's path was north of us, and the water taxis south, in here we only had the local fisherman in their pirogues.
We settled in enjoying the pace of the current and watching how The Dream settled in this anchorage while at the same time studying the tide, and where to drop the dinghy to go see the dunes.
It was Sunday, and we had hoped during the week there would be less tourist activity on the dunes than what we were seeing.
Monday morning we had two tasks to address before we could go explore. First, we needed to find where we could get Yellow Fever vaccinations, now that the sailing plan was heading north to Yellow Fever zones instead of south to Patagonia, the other was to fix our bow navigation light that had broken on our last night passage, and John had to do an at sea MacGyver fix.
At 9 am we were already in town trying to find a pharmacy to get advice, but we passed a kid's vaccination centre, so I decided to give it a go and ask them about it. They, of course, did Yellow Fever jabs for kids, not adults, but they forwarded us to another clinic that did adults and was just a couple of streets up from where we were. We walked there, and the nurse there confirmed they offered the jab for adults and the price, the only catch was they only had one dose, not the two we needed. After a bit of chat and calls to see if any other clinic nearby had doses in stock, she suggested we go to the public health care centre (SESP - Centro d Saúde Drª Maria Helena Oliveira Bottona) and ask if there was any possibility of us foreigners to get the jab there, she was absolutely sure they would have stock. She gave us directions, and again it was just a few streets away.
We went to the health care centre, and after talking with the vaccines nurse and then with the health care centre director, it was confirmed we could get the vaccines the following Wednesday we just needed to get the Brazilian health care card done at the health care card register (CARA - Central Regulação Acesso), and we could do that just a few streets away on the same day just with our passports. We walked there, and after a few minutes, we had our Brazilian health care card printed on A4 paper to go confirm our jabs at the health care centre. With all confirmed they told us they would call us the following day to reconfirm our appointment. At this point, we had no idea how much this was going to cost us at the health care centre, but so far we had not spent a cent, so it would be either the same as at the private clinic or a bit less we thought.
We returned to the boat to deal with the navigation lights situation, and that’s when John pulled a muscle on his back and ended up on bed rest for two days. Luckily it rained most of that afternoon and the following day, so we were not so upset with the situation, although it was quite a serious one.
The following day, in the afternoon, in between rain showers a coastguard jet ski came by with two very polite officers that barely spoke a word of English. My Portuguese once again came in hand.
They wanted to inform us that we needed to do the arrival pass and that they had been waiting for us since Sunday when we arrived. We apologised and explained that John's back was giving him serious trouble, and I could not hoist the dinghy by myself into the water. I promised I would visit their office the following day and suggested they took copies with their phones of the documents, that made them very happy, and they left us with a big smile and a wave.
Wednesday morning we returned to town and went straight to the harbourmaster's office where again we had the awkward situation of the dress code being dismissed because we were foreigners (men are required to wear long pants when at the office or you can/will be rejected). We managed to convince them to fill our departure pass to a preset date allowing us not having to return there before departure.
With all that bureaucratic stuff done, we went to the healthcare centre to get our Yellow Fever jabs, but when we got there there was some confusion. Apparently, the person who had called us the day before reconfirming our vaccines should have told us we needed to go to the paediatric health care centre (UBASF - Maria Socorro Silva (Cruzeiro)) to get the jab not here. It was all confirmed and arranged between the two centres, and they were waiting for us. We were just in the wrong place. Apparently, they didn’t have the Yellow Fever vaccine prepared for us at this centre because it was the wrong weekday for that jab for adults, and they thought we needed it urgently for our travels so instead of booking us on the right weekday they arranged it to be given at the paediatric unit that always has a couple of doses ready to be prepared if there’s a baby or kid in need. Luckily this was also just a street away.
All was done very quickly the only catch-22 was that now we needed a local with a CPF number (tax number) to request the international certificate on our behalf on the online platform.
For sure our friends Rita and Rubens could assist us with this strange procedure.
With all admin and health matters sorted out, it was finally time to go explore this amazing place!
First, we obviously went to the sand dunes just next to our anchorage.
We beached the dinghy on what looked like a dried-out small freshwater stream (that must run only when it rains heavily), so it would be easier to get it back on the water on our return. John’s back was still not fully recovered.
We set ourselves for a walk around the big dune that overlooked our anchorage. It was quite interesting to see the puddles of fresh water left on what would be the path of the small freshwater stream. The vegetation grew around it, and small birds enjoyed the bugs they could find to feed on.
The walk behind the big sand dune revealed there were many more to explore, but we were on a mission to get to the top of this one. On this side, it was a gentle slope to get to the summit, nothing like the near vertical face of the dune we could see from the anchorage.
When we reached the top, after a few minutes walk, we could see our boat from a Bird's Eye view. We sat on the edge of the dune and enjoyed the end of the afternoon looking at our beautiful home.
Upon our return to The Dream, we enjoyed the colours of the sand dune change with the last rays of the sun for the day. Tones of gold and pink.
The transformation was almost as mesmerising as the dune itself.
Then a herd of cows appeared, walking to the top of the dune and then disappearing towards its back.
A bizarre sight in this idyllic place.
The night fell, and it was as if the dune glowed brightly in the dark, reflecting the town lights I could only guess.
The following day we decided to take the dinghy out to the Coreaú River entrance to go check the sandbar at low tide.
We wanted to see if the bar dried out completely and although it didn’t it was quite clear that passage would be impossible even for the majority of the small fishing vessels in town. We stopped the dinghy at one of the islands formed at low tide just for fun, a small patch of seabed exposed for about 1h. We could even see the patterns the waves create in the sand.
With our little island disappearing at the turn of the tide we decided to take the dinghy to the beach that faces the sea and bring it up a good amount so we could go for a walk along this very low-lying stretch of sand in the hunt for "treasures". We found uncountable pieces of different sea sponges broken by the strong waves and current, broken pieces of coral, and unfortunately quite a bit of plastic. It was quite an interesting walk on this long beach full of natural debris brought by the Guianas or Equatorial Current.
At the end of the day, we decided to go for a walk on the town beachfront to check out the traditional wooden boats up close. It was so cool to cross paths with some of these boats while sailing the Brazilian north coast, some of them were still, operated exclusively under sail without any engine to help them fight this strong current that runs along the entire north of Brazil, French Guiana and Suriname coasts. Besides being fishermen these guys were true sailors that cross these very challenging bars without engine support, with crosswinds, and they even beach these reasonably big wooden boats under sail in between other boats! During our walk, we were lucky enough to witness one of these boats enter the sand bar, tack their way up the river all the way to the place they were beached in between other similar size boats. Incredible seamanship and teamwork.
A day of sunshine saw us exploring the other dunes behind the big sand dune that faces the anchorage. We were very excited about what we were about to see given our knowledge from the aerial photos.
We took the dinghy a bit more upriver towards a small alcove or indent on the beach where we had seen the water taxi tie up. That area becomes a mid-flat very fast but we had seen some sticks firmly hammered onto the sand used to tie up the local pirogues.
We tied the dinghy to one of them and climbed the back of the big dune that borders the mangrove forest. It was a steep walk, but once we got to the top of it the view was incredible, we could see the mangrove forest and river extending to our right and several dunes with fresh water pools in between to our left.
It was amazing.
We explored this strange place, checking the many freshwater pools until settling for one of the biggest ones for a refreshing freshwater swim before having to trace back our steps to the river and to our dinghy.
With the dunes explored, we were only left with one more adventure. We took the dinghy up the Coreaú River in the hopes of seeing some wildlife on the edge of the mangrove forests that line the margins and form some of the islets mid-channel.
We could see Hawks flying above the anchorage, White Ibis feeding in the nearby mud flats, and we glanced at a few Dark Blue Ibis flying past.
A small portion of the river past the anchorage is partially charted, and with good depths for small vessels to navigate further upstream. There’s definitely a water taxi/bus service used by locals departing from the pier across from the anchorage that comes this way. We didn’t follow them or understood how far they go, but they do seem to do several trips a day to the different villages nearby we can only guess.
We motored some good miles upstream with our eyes glued to the mangrove canopies and water level. Several different birds were feeding in the mud flats and resting on the high branches but were quite shy to our presence.
Contrary to the Scarlet and White Ibis that is very easy to find in the bushes the Blue Ibis is almost camouflaged against the green of the trees and impossible to spot until it opens its big winds and lifts flight graciously passing over our heads effortlessly. A stunning view, impossible to capture on our cameras.
Our dinghy safari was quite an enjoyable one although not successful in the photos department.
With the Labour Day long weekend came the tourists, and the dunes got a bit too crowded for our taste with noisy youngsters, Buggy cars and motor cross bikes tearing up and down what just the day before was an extremely peaceful place. With such fuss, we decided maybe this was our chance to go try out one of the beach restaurants that seem to only open on weekends and try a popular local delicacy we had seen online. River crabs!
With all sightseeing done and an ok forecast, it was time to move to another destination.
***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community.