Pipa is a small town 85kms south of Natal that attracts surfers, hippies, wealthy Brazilian tourists, European package tourists (because of its proximity to Natal) and backpackers. Consequently, the place offers loads of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops selling lots of gorgeous things at hugely inflated prices and other places that catered for this mixed-bag of visitors. Its fusion of chic bohemia mixed with budget-backpacker-hippy-haven was actually quite nice - especially when compared to Natal, although I didn't see much of the place as the pousada we were staying in (which I'd definitely recommend - pousada xamã
) became quite an attraction in itself with its massive included breakfast, pool, sun loungers, aircon, DVD & TV, pool table and games all less than 5 meters from my room...and me being very lazy tended to hang out there (tolerating the cleaning-obsessed dragon who was the owner and who would sometimes flip out over the constant moving of the sun loungers) choosing to indulge in beers and books rather than have to walk to the beach in 40 degrees heat. There's a beach you can go to nearby where, early in the morning, there are lots of dolphins swimming in the small bay and you can get quite close to them as they play around you. However, Pipa is expensive (particularly by travelers standards) and caipirinhas are 4 times more than in most other placed and one costs more than the bottle of cachaça, the few limes and a bag of sugar you need to make lots of them which is a rip-off. In the evenings there are usually street performers doing their thing - from young kids playing music to hippies juggling with fire and people doing capoiera classes and the bars are overflowing by 11pm.
We had come here to see the eclipse and on the morning of the 24th, we all got up at 4.30am to walk to a natural red-rock plateau that juts out overlooking the Atlantic sea. We were the first there and asmore people started to turn up a bit later, they all started to gather along the edge watching the sky in anticipation like we were staring at a gigantic screen, waiting for a film to start. Disappointingly, there were lots of clouds in the sky - particularly on the horizon - and seeing as this was a sunrise eclipse, it wasn't the ideal condition we'd all been hoping for. However, at about 5.10am the sun started to rise and appeared behind a fluffy grey cloud like brilliant 3 jewels. As it started to get higher, you could see that the first contact had already happened as it continued to appear and disappear behind the clouds. Nearing totality, the light began to change into an amazing kind of twilight and everything went really quiet. Then, as if someone turned down a dimmer switch, the light faded dramatically into darkness and we all sat there amazed and transfixed for just over a minute whilst the sun was in totality. There was lots of cheering and clapping and then darkness phased back into light and colours changed rapidly into all sorts of incredible hues. We could see a thin crescent of sun as the moon drifted across the sun and out of totality. It was very different to the eclipse of '99 I saw in Hungary which was at midday and cloud-free, but on this occasion the clouds just added to the surreal-ness and beauty of this very early morning eclipse and it still was an amazing sight to see. Incredibly, not one of the locals we had met even knew what an eclipse was let alone that one was happening and I wonder what the fishermen thought as it went pitch black as they were out at sea....
During this time, there had been a 10 day Sundance festival planned which was supposed to be located somewhere a few kilometers from Pipa. The whole event has been badly organized and was very expensive to go to and needless to say, the festival didn't happen as they only sold about 140 tickets. Instead, the same organisers put on an outdoor party that was supposed to last for 4 days just by the plateau where we were. This also was a wash-out as not many people turned up and in the end only lasted a day and a half. After the eclipse we went to the party and were disappointed by the dire tunes the DJ was subjecting everyone to, the lack of any kind of party vibe and the fact there was no shade (it was already boiling hot at 8am) so we stayed only an hour and headed back to the tranquility of the pousada and the prospect of cold beer and a swimming pool. When we got back, we found a few eclipse goers spangled by the pool already on their first beers at 9am so we got out all the speakers and MP3's we could gather together and had our own pool party which got more bizarre, yet very, very funny as the day went on .
We met some great people in Pipa and ended up staying there for a week hanging out and doing not much at and then we resumed our search for the ideal place to rent a house and headed down to the next state of Paraiba to a small town called Jacuma.