My Dune Buggy Adventure In Pipa, Brazil

Pipa is a resort beach town in between Natal and João Pessoa, up in the north of Brazil near it’s shark-infested most eastern point. I planned to stay for only two nights but got sucked in because of the nice beaches, laid-back nightlife, and relatively cheap accommodations.

Before Pipa I was in Natal, a generic but safe city built around huge sand dunes. There I paid $35 to take a tour of some northern beaches in a dune buggy along with two other Italian tourists. During the tour we stopped every 15 minutes at some tourist station (it’s a trap!) where we had the opportunity to overpay for food and souvenirs with dozens of other tourists, mostly Brazilians vacationing inside their country.

The most irritating stop was in the middle of an enormous dune that offered impressive views of sand and ocean. Even though it was an inhabitable piece of land, there were three guys waiting right there on top of the sand mountain. One was selling snacks and the other two were selling photo-ops with their exotic animals, a bright green iguana and some sort of marsupial from the Congo. Tourists from buggies already parked paid a buck or two to have the poor creatures placed on their necks while photos were taken, screeching at the animals’ movements on their bodies.

I had a feeling the dune buggy drivers were getting commissions for stopping at every single tourist trap. This was later confirmed at lunch time when we were taken to a restaurant in a ghost town and asked to pay $20 for an all-you-can-eat buffet without any other options nearby. Turns out the drivers eat for free if they bring tourists to the restaurant, an ingenious business ploy by the owner.

I was unsatisfied with the tour. The fun seemed to be driving the buggy instead of riding in the passenger seat, so a week later in Pipa I jumped at the chance to rent one. It was a bit expensive at $110 for the day, but for several days prior I ate cheese and bread sandwiches for dinner, drank cheap Skol beer instead of caipirinhas with Sagatiba, and sold my body on the street, all to cushion the blow to my budget.

Buggy
The hog (click this photo and others for bigger size)

My biggest fear was getting lost. The map from the agency was like one you’d get when entering an amusement part—definitely not drawn to scale. But turns out I didn’t even need the map. In my buggy I followed the water and it took me down well-worn paths of buggies before me, alternating between sand, rock, and dirt. I was getting the hang of driving the beast and ready to tackle more challenging terrain to see what it was made of.

Dirt

Buggy on a boat

Beach

Hippo lunch
Birds feasting on a dead hippo

I passed a kitesurfing area and flew down the beach going what I guess to be about 40 mph. There was not a soul around and I enjoyed the isolation from tourists, vendors, and crippled 10-year-olds begging me for money. But then the beach got narrower until finally I was wedged between rock and ocean with a shallow pool of water about eight inches high blocking my path. I had a feeling I could blow through it but high tide seemed to be rolling in and I didn’t want to take a chance.

I backtracked a couple miles and found what seemed to be an alternate sand road going up a steep hill. The sand was thick and unruly so I backed up a good ways to get a running start. I slammed on the gas and flew up the path for the first thirty or so yards, but the buggy abruptly came to a stop with the engine still screaming. I tried to reverse but it wouldn’t move. For five minutes I sat there going forward, backward, forward, backward, forward, backward. I stepped out of the buggy and noticed that I dug the rear tires a third way into the sand, with the muffler literally resting on top of it. I was hopelessly stuck, in the middle of nowhere.

CONTINUED: Part II

Stuck

Related Posts For You

newest oldest most voted
Jake DaSnake
Guest
Jake DaSnake
Offline

What do you mean “sold my body on the street?”

speakeasy
Guest
speakeasy
Offline

Awesome. Glad to see the travel stories coming back. There’s more to life than game.

Carl Sagan
Guest
Carl Sagan
Offline

cool.

liking the travel stories as well.

The G Manifesto
Guest

Tours suck.

Glad you rented your own.

Every G needs a good “stuck in the sand in the middle of nowhere” story.

– MPM

The G Manifesto’s last blog post: Manny Pacquiao VS Miguel Cotto: Post Fight Thoughts.

College Game
Guest
College Game
Offline

I am in Central America and I got tired of the crowded school busses that cart people between towns, or depending on meeting gringos to travel with, as I am rolling solo. So, I bought a motorcycle, and am cruising around Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras solo. Its a bit dangerous but fast, and as I now know, the best way to travel.

bez
Guest
bez
Offline

So you’re in Dipa riding a Pune Fuggy and you get stuck going back and forth up the deep end? Sounds like the right kind of trouble to me!

bez’s last blog post: The Well-Rounded Man.

Charles
Guest
Charles
Offline

haha great story, wish it wasn’t to be continued, but the way you’ve been posting latley i won’t have to wait long. Keep up the good work

Dave
Guest
Dave
Offline

Joao Pessoa is the eastern most point and there are no sharks here. (only the estate agents)

If you want know about this great city have a look at http://www.paraibaparadise.com

It has everything you need to Joao pessoa and more

Dave’s last blog post: Lula Calls Obama and Hu Jintao on Global Warming.

Il Capo
Guest
Il Capo
Offline

Reminds me of my motorcycle tour in West Africa. Only instead of being stuck in sand I punctured my rear-tire in the middle of nowhere. I learned two very important things from that event:

a) Always bring a spare (duh).
b) That you can actually ride a motorcycle with a flat tire as long as the flat is the rear. You can go at least 3 miles (didn’t need to go further) at low speeds before it fails.

Mrs. Chocolate
Guest
Mrs. Chocolate
Offline

Natal is beautiful, but the nightlife compared to SP sucks! everything end up too early (around 4 am). The food was amazing and also the beaches.
Don’t forget to visit Praia do Gostoso… is very nice.

Paper Alpha
Guest
Paper Alpha
Offline

What about kidney and bone marrow sales? There’s a thriving black market for these in many countries.

trackback

[…] goes on a dune buggy […]

trackback

[…] goes on a dune buggy […]

Marmot
Guest
Marmot
Offline

I wonder how the dead hippo got there, considering that they’re river/lake animals. Maybe someone placed it there for tourist amusement? wink