Barra Grande, a small village in Brasil one hour from Parnaiba and 6 hours from Fortaleza international airport with private transport (9 with the local bus). At this moment a non- touristic village, that might be the reason why the local population welcomes you with open arms – really wide open arms. Next some tips which help you to enjoy your time in Barra Grande even more.
Unless the locals do their ultimate best to understand you and make themselves understandable, it`s not always working out; for instance if you need something very specific at the pharmacy. Google translate makes it easier to communicate with the local people in Barra Grande. English is not a common second language here, most of the local population speaks Portugese, some of them is not even able to write it. Google translate seemed a very helpful tool. The kids who had the chance to participate in school are really good with it. Also the friendly staff at the bakery, hostels and local shops understand the translations. So make sure you’re batteries are fully charged otherwise you will be learning Portuguese very soon. And do not forget to bring it to the shop or dinner (most menus are in Portugese) not yet specified to the tourist. In the end it is getting fun to talk to the local population and you will notice they like to talk with you. Compared to some other places in Brasil this little village is real safe.
Now you have a way to talk to the locals, you should use the local supplies from the village (most of the time there is no other choice in Barra Grande). It is way more fun and even better as the food and drinks in the more expensive little touristic street. By this way you will learn about Brasil, Barra Grande and the culture; the bakery has some little breads (we thought cheese) it apparently seems eggs potatoes and a little cheese, a local sweet. The water out of the tap is not used as drink water. You can buy expensive bottles of water in the supermarket. Or you can buy big bottles (20 L) of water at the local shops and install it to the special tap you always have in your hostel, apartment. Don`t worry you won’t have to walk home with the bottle there is a bike and the owner of the shop will bring it to your place, a little bit of Dutch culture in Brasil.
The local bakery (Padeiro) is open from 6:00 till 9:00 and 14:30 till 19:00 or wen sold out, a good timing for fresh bread is important, a learning process while staying here (you will be surprised what you can get for one euro). The local shops are a little limited in fruits and vegetables, but it`s enough. They have some interesting opening times, see it as a learning process as well. The assortment is changing day by day, sometimes you will be lucky, sometimes not. If you buy al the cookies, don`t be surprised the next days the cookies stay sold out. But don`t be afraid, there are around 10 shops like this located at the square or somewhere behind a local house.
At the square (downtown as they call it here in Barra Grande) you will find some nice local eating huts and bars with pizza, burgers, different drinks. The small eating huts (non – touristic) are managed by families and really good, especially the pizza! Where in the world would they ask; “Bebida agora?” it means do you like your drink now or with the pizza. Another local (non alcoholic) drink you must try according to al the people here is the drink cajuina guarani. said is that it`s made from a nut that only grows around here. Every local in town, every shop owner loves to tel the story about this drink in Brasil.
Do you want to stay in touch with your family? In Brasil things are different than in Europe. Good to know is that the WIFI is 99% better as the phone connection (especially when you are from Europe). So no phone calls or text messages, enjoy your holiday nice and quiet, only at the beach a little bit of signal. No problem because you can use the free wifi at the square in the middle of Barra Grande. Only one detail, you can forget to pay something online if you get a confirmation code by text message, that will not arrive or to late.
Another important thing is that we as westerns pay a lot with our “plastic”money. Since Barra Grande is not that touristic, the register consists out of a calculator and a drawer. The only ATM`s in Barra Grande are not taking any of our bankcards (for 99% sure about that). Its easy to take some cash from the airport in Brasil or if you have a car, the next village 8 a 10 km further, in the back of the village in a pharmacy there will be a small ATM that takes all cards. If you don`t have a car, its a nice hike or fix a ride with one of the local kids, they really like to give you a tour around.
After shopping and food, we come to the important part of a holiday, the beach! The main beach of Barra Grande is a long beach with some beach bars and some kiteschools/rental places around. Also, the famous acai can be found here. At the beach are nice little handmade huts you can use for some shade. Or you might need it building your own shelter against the flying sand if the wind picks up. The good thing about the wind is that there won’t be any annoying insects. There will be a nice show of different kiters in the afternoon when the wind gets slightly better. The water is warm and save for swimming, no strong currents or dangerous animals. Do not expect a lot of tourists sunbathing.
The local beach of Barra Grande is a little smaller than the other beach and a lot quieter (not that the other one is busy, but there are at least some people). Only some local kids are playing around. If you are a kitesurfer they will help you with your lines, pump your kite and will help you launching. Not because they expect something from you, no because, they really like to do it. Don`t underestimate this young kids, they know everything about the place, the beach, kiting, the tide and the wind. The even have built their own kite, a big building bag with some old lines and a wooden stick as bar. You will see them going around with the kite every day in the water or at the beach, and if you want to try… they like to teach you. Also they will take care of your belongings, you will not find that everywhere in Brasil. They won’t touch it without any purpose. This beach is the home of the local fisherman, always happy to show you their boat or catch of the day!
If you are a sun-worshiper, Barra Grande is not the most perfect place although it is very sunny in the summer in whole Brasil. In some months, the months of the kitesurfer there will be a lot (!) of wind at the beach, around 35 + knots. That means: sand gushes around everywhere in the afternoon/evening and it will be no fun at all to lay on the beach. If you are a sun-worshiper its a good idea to take your hours in the mornings, the wind wil be light or not even there. On the beach are nice little huts you can use for some shade.
Play with the tide tabel and the wind forecast. If you visit Barra Grande you have to know there is a huge tidal difference, like everywhere in Brasil. Extreme high tide means a small beach and a large sea. Low tide means the opposite, and means a nice walk around, find shells watch the sea life between the rocks, walk around the fishing boats, take a walk to the lagoon and find some nice little beach pools. In the mornings the wind will be slightly less and in the evenings more so choose te right moment of the day.
Specific for the kitesurfers, Barra Grande in Brasil is a great place during the Brazilian wind season (in this case November) for kitesurfing. Barra Grande will have more stronger wind than the spots around Cumbucco. You will have a 100% wind score. Mostly in the mornings it is slightly less than in the afternoon. Slightly less is 28 knots instead of the normal 35+ (and gustier in the evening). Depending on the tide the water will be nice and flat or really choppy. The tidal difference is big. It’s worth watch the extreme low tide to see where the fishing nets and stones are. The more touristic beach, the main beach is save from stones but a little “busier”.
During the day, an option is to go downwind to the lagoon (end of a river mouth) and kite back upwind or by “donkey taxi” which goes 15 KM per hour …… if you calculate. Next to downwind you can go upwind and find some other nice places and beaches for kiting, some private spots and going downwind end of the day is way easier! Depending in the conditions and the moment of the day it’s a nice spot for everyone. Make sure you bring some small kites.
Besides kitesurfing, shopping and eating there are other things to do in Barra Grande, although not the things you expect if you are a real tourist:
and a lot more still to discover…. enjoy your time in Barra Grande and Brasil!! Have you been already in Barra Grande? Or are you on your way for a holiday in Barra Grande? Share your thoughts, questions and other tips below.
Mariska Wildenberg, a passionate kitesurfer travelling the world in Dutch winter time! 🙂
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