When it is sunny, dry and warm – and the latter is never an issue – then Fortaleza can claim to be a very attractive place. When you are drenched all day by equatorial rains though, it offers no physical or any cultural shelters. Yesterday, although the captain had confidently predicted “27°C/80F with the occasional shower”, there was no way to escape the ubiquitous, hot water dousing. Even though it was sunny and dry as we sailed in front of the long stretch of beach cum apartment buildings, the skies had changed clothes by the time we got off the ship. Half an hour later, many of the city streets were covered by inches, sometimes a foot, of water. And where it spouted out of the sewers, it had changed color as well!

Such circumstances are of no real concern to the machos of the city, as they make their casual way between the thick raindrops dressed in cotton shorts and flapping shirts, on razor-thin loafers, displaying their finely muscular, tanned bodies as they move. They are drenched all right, but the water-glued look is part of the sexy image! Unfortunately there are less “machas”; as a matter of fact, the “famous Brazilian Beauties” have, until now, been a very rare sight indeed. Perhaps that is because we visit the cities when they are still, or already, sleeping?

All told, this a city for beachcombers, as they have about 15 miles to comb! It is hard to imagine that they wouldn’t find what they are looking for over such a distance? Of course, sunny weather is a must; yesterday the beaches were desolate and deserted. For amateurs of less flashy or fleshy attractions, there is not much to lay your hands on! The cathedral was touted to be a little bit of Notre Dame of Paris, and another bit of the Dom of Cologne. In my humble opinion it was just a little bit of a cathedral, notwithstanding its plentiful and radiant tainted glass. Outright special though was the appearance of a statue of Saint Joseph: he held his only son, Jesus, on his left arm and was keeping a fatherly eye on him while Our (=His) Lady Mary, seemed rather uninterested. Either many a Brazilian is convinced that Joseph has indeed, presumably from the inception onwards, been an active father or, who knows, the macho’s of yonder have already been making concessions to feminist pressure – even in Brazil!?

In summary: if you travel in the dry season (May through January, normally speaking) and if you like wide open palm dotted beaches, by all means go to Fortaleza. Apart from the 15 miles of city beaches, the area all around is a beach lover’s delight. And for the bad swimmers, there is also an added guarantee: they are unlikely to drown easily,for this is the saltiest water on this side of the Atlantic. If I can stay afloat off Key Biscayne, which is a proven fact, then it is a plausible, albeit untested, hypothesis that (even) I can swim off Fortaleza!

Meanwhile the ship has set sail for places south, first we visit Bahia de Salvador, and a few days later we will dock in Rio de Janeiro. The weather at sea today is fantastic: 30°C/86F, sunny of course, with a fresh little breeze. Delicious, the perfect conditions for getting a well-deserved rest.

Prinsendam, Day 19 – Sunday Jan 23rd, 2011

Sub sole tropicano!