Endless blue sky, incessant wind and those unmistakable red sand cliffs – this is Canoa Quebrada – a bit of a hippie town just shy of the equator in Brazil’s state of Ceará.
You’ve got to love its name when translated to English.
Travelling east along Brazil’s north coast and with Jericoacoara now behind us, this looked like a nice enough place to stop for a couple of days.
Being off-season as we travel means we’re seeing fewer people, so every town we visit isn’t feeling overly crowded. Just us, the locals and any occasional out-of-towner. In fact, things were beginning to look a tad sparse in the human department here in Broken Canoe.
I know it’s a sleepy coastal town, but where is everyone?
Finding the location of where we were staying posed to be a bit of a problem. It wasn’t where Google said it would be, and the couple of locals we asked hadn’t even heard of Chalé da Vila Hospedagem.
As I stood in a sliver of shade from a power pole where Google said the chalé was located, looking after the bags and admiring a rather picturesque Igreja Sao Pedro, Dean ran around trying to find our home for the next two nights. Coming up empty handed after what felt like 45 minutes, we tried one more person.
“Oh yes, it’s just down that road”, she says.
Well, that’s what we thought she said, in Portuguese.
Brazil, you really need to lift your game on street signs and numbers. And don’t get me started on those carros-som – or sound cars – that constantly drive around town with a giant speaker strapped to its roof, blaring advertising, irritating jingles and political messages at the highest possible volume.
End vent time.
Close to a kilometre from where Google cocked things up for us, down a cobbled road and then a short sandy track at the top of the red cliffs – we found our home.
Of the three rooms available at this B&B (sans the second B), we scored the one on ground level overlooking the lawn, a rustic picket fence and that stunning turquoise ocean. Apparently there was a resident monkey in the garden, but considering I never saw it, maybe a certain someone had been in the sun for too long.
A double bed, minimal furniture, a fan (no air-con), our own hammock and a bathroom where hot water isn’t even an option. No need for it, really, as I doubt the weather ever gets cold here. This is as basic as it gets for AUD$40 a night. Wifi is included, of course.
Unusual sounds at night, as well. Oh, that was just the surf – just 30 metres away. Heavenly.
Before we even hit town we read there was a place that did the best espresso in town. So what did we do as soon as we dropped the bags and walked the ten minutes it takes to get to the top of Broadway?
Yep, you got it.
Not only is the espresso like a breath of fresh air, especially after enduring some pretty bad coffee thus far, but their selection of sweet and savoury pastries, cakes and confectionaries is fantastic. It’s all made here in it’s well-equipped bakery right next to the seating area.
Perfect spot for breakfast, too, as they open at 7. The only negative? They close between 12 and 4. All is forgiven providing they had at least a couple of those stupendous donuts filled with luscious crème pâtissière for us to stuff our faces with.
The beach is what most people come here for, I would think. A quick dip in the warm ocean, kite & wind surfing, a paddle in the tidal pools or spot of exploring with the kids in the rock pools.
Drop by at low tide in the mornings and all is quiet and you’re sharing an expanse of sand with a handful of others.
Come at midday and the air has the scent of coconut oil, wafting off the bronzed flesh of locals lounging or parading around in tight boxer swimmers and g-string bikinis – all sipping on cocktails and chilled coconuts at one of the many cabanas strung along the beach.
When high tide is at its peak the water reaches as far as the stilted restaurants and cabanas at the base of the cliffs. There aren’t that many restaurants down there, and the food they offer is much the same as the next – with seafood playing a big part.
Aside from the beach eateries, Broadway is where the bulk of the food options are; many of which don’t open during the day.
Time for lunch.
Our pick on the beach was the first restaurant we got to – perched up on stilts over the water. Cold beers and a couple of plates of no-fuss food – grilled chicken breast (40) and fish in shrimp sauce (43) – both served with salad and rice. Neither dish was out to impress, which is all fine, but having to dig for pieces of fish beneath a sludge of pirão (cassava porridge) wasn’t selling it for me.
One of the few restaurants that open for lunch on Broadway is Bistro Matutô. A few pastas, a bunch of regional dishes and even a mistão da casa – a feast big enough for five featuring beef, chicken and sausage. Let’s call it a mixed grill, shall we?
No mistão for us, though, just an absolutely delicious guisado frango (15) – stewed chicken and rather tasty and very tender bifé acebolado (17).
You can get them from a few vendors on the beach, but for a quick snack on the go up on Broadway – pastels and coxinhas (chicken croquettes) are the perfect options from one of the bakeries. I’ve had my fair share of coxinhas – mainly at bus stations for breakfast – but it was time to give the pastel a go.
A deep-fried rectangle of golden flaky pastry filled with a variety of things like chicken, cheese, ground beef, shrimp or sometimes guava jam.
I’ll have a cheese one, thanks!
To see Rua Broadway in its prime you need to head there in the evenings when it fills with people and transforms into a lively pedestrian street. All the restaurants and bars are open, there’s music blaring from everywhere and even market stalls peddling handicrafts, jewellery and artwork can be found strung along it.
Not as much street food as I hoped to see – just a lady selling a bunch of her homemade cakes (the coconut tapioca cake is insane!) and a guy pumping out tapioca pancakes. His were so good that we ate them for dinner on both nights we were in town!
Doce de leite, cheese and Nutella, anyone? Or maybe carne de sol and cheese? From the 50 savoury and sweet fillings available, there’s something for just about anyone.
How we got to Canoa Quebrada from Jericaocoara.
Purchased bus tickets from the the Fretcar Office in Jeri the day before travel. $122 for two tickets on the overnight bus. Pick-up location in Jeri is at the Fretcar office, leaving at 10.30pm. Basically it’s a taxi truck that takes you to Jicoa de Jericoacoara, then a bus to Fortaleza bus depot (Engenheiro João Thomé). We arrived at Fortaleza at 5.45am.
Purchased tickets upstairs at the Fortaleza depot at the Groupo São Quebrada (desk opens at 5 am) for $24. Bus leaves for Canoa Quebrada at 6 am and arrives at 9.45 am.