We arrived in the evening, and after washing off what ended up being a 22 hour bus trip, we wandered out for some dinner. Our Pousada was right by the foreshore in Fortaleza, and as we walked out the door we were immediately swarmed by people on roller blades, skateboards and riding four wheeled bikes. The foreshore area is huge and tiled, making it a great spot for such family activity on a Sunday evening.
We walked one direction to a bit of a jetty, and found a tourist info for some advice on where to go for food, as well as a display of the giant aquarium that is to be built. A giant, extraordinarily out of place looking design that resembled a caterpillar from outer space.
Nearby restaurants where in the opposite direction, so we walked back along the foreshore for a while, dodging crazy people on wheels and stopping to watch some roller bladers jumping over a bar they had set up, and doing slalom through some little cones. It felt like being back in the early 90's! After some pizza we turned in for the night.
On Monday morning we set off to explore Fortaleza. Being a Monday we knew most cultural things would be closed, but we wandered around regardless.
We walked through a few areas where cultural and museum buildings where, but the buildings themselves were nothing to look at. The markets were quite impressive, with 4 of 5 storeys of stores on open balconies surrounding an open central area. We didn't even get hassled too much which was nice.
Fortaleza, meaning Fortress, has one fort from what we can gather, though as its a currently operating military facility we couldn't actually check it out.
Other than that, we only really found a tourist centre that had some handicraft shops and a tourist info. We had been trying to work out how to get from Fortaleza to a town called Barreirinhas via the coast in an affordable way, so we thought we might ask the tourist info. The lady there tried to help, but she was unable to find out if it was possible by bus without going all the way to São Luís and backtracking. We now know she couldn't find out, because its not possible. Tarred roads do not go all the way through here, so 4WD and boat transfers are required.
We then came across a travel agent so we thought we would give that a try. The lady there rang someone else who spoke English to help us out, a guy called Gabriel at another travel agent. We explained over the phone that we were looking to get to São Luís via Jericoacoara and Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, and he said he could put together a tour for us for R$300.
This sounded far too good to be true, so we asked is that per day, or in US$, and he said no, its R$300 per person. We agreed to meet at his office in the afternoon to get more information.
We had some lunch and hung around for a while, then went to Gabriels office at 4pm as agreed. He went through the details of the tour, and then asked us to wait while he added up the price. After adding everything together, he looked very pleased with himself, as he had come in under the estimate he gave us, it would only be R$2,500 per person!
What? You said R$300, not R$3,000! We soon realised after a bit more discussion to see if we could get it to a more affordable price that although Gabriel had pretty good English, he tended to mix up his 10's, 100's and 1000's.
He tried so hard to sell the tour to us, but there was no way we could afford it. And we felt especially bad as it turned out he owned the pousada we were staying in! However after all this fussing about, we ended up needing to stay an extra night in Fortaleza than planned so we could actually work out where we could afford to get to, so he did get something out of us.
We grabbed a sandwich from the supermarket for dinner and hit the internet to plan the next stages of the trip. We also had to think about booking a tour for the Amazon, and some flights to get there and to French Guiana, so we had quite a lot of planning to do! It took the rest of that night and a lot of the next morning to get everything booked in that we needed.
On our extra day in Fortaleza, instead of visiting cultural sites that would have been open on a Tuesday, we decided to hit the beach instead. We walked a fair way along the foreshore, long enough that it was about 3pm before we had lunch at a beachside bar/restaurant.
We then walked back along the beach for a while before deciding on a spot for a sunbake and swim. It was really windy, and we thought that hiding behind a breakwall might block some of the wind, but it didn't help at all. After being sandblasted for a while and cooling off in the water, we headed back to the pousada.
We had a craving for pasta, so found a reasonably priced and popular restaurant and had a really nice meal at a table by the window. Just as we were paying our bill a man poked his head in the window and struck up conversation. He explained that he grew up in New York and had been living in Brasil for the last 12 years, and asked us where we were from, before proceeding to ask us if we could buy him a meal. He walked off in quite a huff after we said no for about the third time.
Unfortunately the easiest and cheapest way to Barreirinhas turned out to require us going all the way to São Luís then back tracking to Barreirinhas. So the next day we caught the 18 hour bus to São Luís that arrived at 7.30am, followed by a 4 hour trip to Barreirinhas.