After suffering through some rather basic accommodations in Olinda, where I shared showers with armies of ants, slept in hole-ridden sheets and awoke in pools of sweat, it was time for a splurge of sorts. And splurge we did.
Pipa found its way on our around the world travel itinerary after rave reviews from some fellow travelers. We heard of spectacular beaches and a low-key charm. We were not disappointed.
Nestled on a peninsula two hours south of Natal, the bus ride into Pipa was incredible. Arriving just in time for the 5:30 p.m. sunset (typical in northern Brazil even in summer due to the proximity to the Equator), we passed through small towns, lined with barefoot children and homes consisting of no more than a tin roof and a pile of bricks. Though life was simple, lives seemed rich. Set against a backdrop of infinite blue sky, forests of palm trees and hundred foot cliffs that drop into the sea, their homes are surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. Winding around a deep blue lake feeding into the Atlantic Ocean, we were welcomed by a brilliant sky in a symphony of colors above the town of Pipa.
Finding a place to stay is always a dreaded task. It usually comes after hours in one, two or three uncomfortable buses where temperatures are either sizzling hot or frigid cold. It typically follows hours of lugging around our heavy packs on sun burnt backs. It often involves a clueless examination of vague city maps while quizzing puzzled locals in our broken Portuguese on their orientation skills. It generally results in settling for the closest accommodation option and rarely the finest.
We found heaven, this time, however, at the delightful Pousada Xama (pronounced Shama) on the edge of town. Clean, charming and cozy, I felt as if we were staying at a five star hotel. The grounds were lush, with flowers and coconut trees lining every inch of the place. We had a comfy room and a private patio with a hammock where we spent hours reading and planning our days. They served a fantastic cafe de manha (breakfast) each morning and a beautiful pool to lounge in after a hard day at the beach was a welcomed luxury.
The beaches of Pipa, in my novice opinion, are some of the top beaches in Brazil. Much like the surrounding towns, Pipa is perched up on a cliff made of red rock, looking down to the water. There are several beaches to choose from. You can spend your day at Praia de Golfinhos (Dolphin Beach), a dolphin reserve where you often find dolphins swimming and feeding their young at low tide. There’s Praia do Amor (Love Beach), where the water is a vibrant aqua green, waves twice my height and dotted with the area’s best surfers. Then there is a plethora of surrounding beaches tucked into the cliff side where you can walk for miles without seeing another footprint in the sand.
Pipa, for us, was vacation. We were spoiled with our accommodations and beaches, and loved every second of it. The beauty of long-term travel is finding a place you really love and deciding to extend your stay just because you can. A three day visit quickly turned into a week-long stay. We met some great people at our pousada, including an Israeli Argentine couple on their honeymoon, who we tagged along with trying to relive the magic. We spent an afternoon on a kayak trip around the nearby lake and through the surrounding streams and watched sunset each night from a cliff overlooking the beaches. While we spotted no dolphins, we were amazed to see an elusive baby cougar on the hunt while on a hike at sunset.
We spent our Thanksgiving here in Pipa, and while the meal itself could be forgotten, our time in Pipa will be fondly remembered.