A Travellerspoint blog


Pristine beaches in the Atlantic rainforest

sunny 30 °C

One of my oldest friends in Arraial d'Ajuda, Leo, I wouldn't see for blocks of time. He spent alot of time in Itacare. He's a surfer and Itacare has good waves and is a surfing spot. I was invited many times and told it was beautiful and very different from Arraial d'Ajuda. For years I said yeah yeah I'll get there. Going through a restless phase I ran into him and asked to let me know when he was going again. He called on a Saturday night and said he was going the next morning. I packed and told the house caretaker of my plans and went to sleep anticipating a new adventure. He had a car that was low to the ground so we drove slowly as to not damage the underbelly on the uneven dirt roads. He played reggae all the way. So we're driving slowly and groovin' to reggae. That was the rhythm which was all too fitting for Itacare. It would be a 6 hour drive. Itacare is north of Arraial d'Ajuda. Arraial d'Ajuda is part of The Discovery Coast and Itacare is located in The Cocoa Coast. The cocoa industry once thriving was devasted years ago. The cocoa tree is short and needed shade so the Atlantic Rainforest was preserved as an accidental byproduct. It was a beautiful day and it was a pleasure taking in the changing scenery. You can tell what part of Bahia you're in by the different types of coconut trees. Itacare and the Cocoa Coast have taller skinnier palm trees. As we made our approach an odor was present that I couldn't identify. We were passing a chocolate factory that was once either the biggest producer of chocolate in the world or Brazil. Visits can be arranged but our goal was to get where we were going. When we arrived we parked the car and went straight to the beach. The town is very small. There are two stretches of the main strip. On the way to the beach there are restaurants, shops, alot of surfing gear and rental places, ice cream shops and supermarkets, and bike rentals. My main thing was to check out the inhabitants. Or in other words see who was there. Alot of young beachy surfer types, Brazilians from other parts of the country and Europeans. Of course at this particular time in the afternoon the majority of people were at other beaches and doing other activities. The nearest beach was not even a 3 minute walk away. It was nice but not spectacular. Leo explained that we'd go to the intense beaches in the days to come. Still it was a different type of beach that I was used to, but had that "Bahia" feel. I happily checked out the chicks, liked the visual of the different type of palm tree and noticed the scene. One part of the beach was chill and the other had beach bar-restaurants and music playing. Some people just tanned, others were romping in the waves, of course drinking and eating, and a general vibe of fun, fun, fun. I felt at home. Leo got me a room in a hotel owned by his friend for a very cheap price. I didn't want to stay right on the strip because I was wary of noise all through the night. After all most people are here to party! Leo stayed at a friends' house and we agreed to meet later after a shower and a good rest. As with all beach towns in Brazil the town is empty and most places close during the day because everyone is out at beaches. The evening begins at a slow pace. It begins to wake up. Alot of couples, young people trying to figure how to stay as long as possible and the natives. The main strip has restaurants with outside tables with a view of everyone passing. Clothing stores selling tropical fashion w/alot of handsewn and locally made items. Souvenir stores and always an abundance of tee shirt stores, cyber cafes and food markets. We chose a restaurant mainly because of the guy out front soliciting customers. He was funny. I cook everyday and don't like eating out very much. I'm also a vegetarian who eats fish. Rather than pay for a meal of what may not taste good or be expensive I always ask if they have PF. That is something very good to know of while traveling in Brazil. It means a meal of rice, beans, salad and fish or chicken or meat for a cheap price. This way I know what I'm getting and i'st usually what I want. Leo struck up a conversation w/two girls sitting next to us who were from Sao Paulo vacationing in Itacare for the first time. After we walked around then went to a restaurant and danced Forro. Leo and his match seemed to hit it off. The next day was BEACH DAY. Hopped into his car and headed outta town. I love when I don't have an idea of where I'm going. We drove for about 20 minutes on the the road we took getting here in the opposite direction. All of a sudden we stopped, parked and walked into the forest. This was serious Atlantic Rainforest. No signs or real trails. You have to know where you are going. Refreshing, thrilling and fun as we walked for about 40 minutes. At one point we were on a cliff overlooking a beach called 'Little Hawaii', but we didn't descend we were going to a beach called Jeribucacu. As I stepped onto the beach emerging from the forest I saw what looked like an illusion. It looked like a beach from prehistoric times. Totally untouched, empty, coconut trees, lots of sand and a vast expanse of beach. It was a place unto its own world. My eyes popped open. Leo saw my face smiled and said "I told you". There was a guy w/what looked like a very big 12 yr olds wooden lemonade stand selling coconut water, water, beer, sandwiches and pineapples. That's it no one else hawking anything. Standing there my first moments I felt at one w/nature. Because it's a bay it seemed closed off and private. All mine. W/beach development, eco-tourism and world changes I thought the beach spoke to me. It said "I've been here since the beginning of time, this is what I've always been and you can't change me!". As the day wore on I felt energized, I loved it more and more. Leo surfed while I tanned, exercised, did sprints(the sand is level w/lots of space), and played w/my spalding pink ball. Couldn't ask for more. The few people who were there were spread out. One thing for sure we all knew that we were lucky. Just before the time came to leave I thought oh no we have to make that long trek back. The day's pureness gave me an inner light and energy that strengthened me in so many ways that the trip back was easy. Dinner at the same place and I got to get a feel for the town a bit more. The next day was a beach called Prainha (little beach). We walked not even 5 minutes past the beaches that are right in town into the forest. Once again you have to know where you're going. Passing streams, ascending, walking through the rainforest, posing for pictures on cliffs overlooking the ocean for about 45 minutes. In a spot that I thought was hightly unlikely a guy was selling pineapples. I thought what a ridiculous place to sell this. While the first slice was bursting w/flavor in my mouth I realized his genius. This trek may be too difficult for the elderly or those out of shape. Once again we arrived at a bay that was mind blowing. A totally different type of beach. A different level of crazy beautiful. It just took me away. Once again Leo surfed and I ttanned, exercised and sprinted. These beaches lead to introspection and inspiration. These beaches are little secrets. Coincidentally we ran into those two girls we met at dinner that night. I saw Leo and his girl holding hands and I gave him a sly smile. They asked to go back w/us cuz they didn't know the way. The next couple of days were filled with white water rafting, waterfall climbing, eco-bike riding, zip lining and enjoyng life. There's not much to the town of itself. Once you leave the main tourist hub the town is very ugly and should only be seen once only to see what it is. There are alot of Israelis who make this part of their Bahia route. It's funny seeing the Israeli guys shirtless and in surfer pants posing as surfers. Totally out of shape and refusing to wear a shirt even in restaurants. Itacare has pristine beaches, heavily preserved Atlantic rainforest, and lots of eco/adventure tourism. It's also a very romantic spot. It's easy to be secluded in luxury and affordable hotels. Just coming here for the beaches and doing nothing else is enough!

Posted by TheBeatofBahia 13:08 Archived in Brazil Tagged waterfalls beaches rainforest kayaking surfing waterfall sports bahia brazil climbing rafting itacare yoga capoeira eco-tours eco/adventure Comments (0)


Another dimension of paradise

sunny 30 °C

One of the delights about this region is that there are many beautiful places close by. I heard about Caraiva for years from friends who said it was paradise. And yet again I said year after year yeah yeah I'll get there this time round. You have to understand my head at that time. I was in love w/Arraial d'Ajuda. A new life opened up to me. Friends, Afro-Brazilian dance class, riding my bike everywhere, living on the beach, improving my portuguese, connecting more and more w/nature, and discovering myself. Leaving here and traveling to somewhere else just wasn't in the cards. But everything changes. I decided I was going to Caraiva. I spoke w/my friend Andrea, whom I am close to. She owns a bakery and pastry shop. Croissants and sweets that I told her if she opened a shop in NY there'd always be a line around the corner. She lived in Caraiva for years before there was electricity. Oh I didn't mention it's like going back in time. Power arrivied in July of 2007. She gave me tips and called a friend who owns a hotel there for me to stay. On the way home I ran into my friend Fabrizio. I've known him and his sister for years and are truly good and cool people. He has a hotel there. I told him I was going and he said he was to and I could stay at his place. Things like this happen all the time. I floated home w/a smile on my face knowing that it the right time to go had arrived. Fabrizio was taking someone w/him in his truck which was a two seater and suggested that I take the bus. I caught it around 7:30. I said around 7:30 because in Brazil sometimes schedules aren't schedules. The ride was about three hours. We stopped for about 20 minutes for breakfast. Once you leave Arraial d'Ajuda you see how wide open the region is and you get a sense of the Atlantic Rainforest. The road was bad and the driver must have gotten off driving too fast over big holes in the road and watching us fly outta our seats. I had an idea of what to expect but it vanished as reality came into view. When you arrive you have to cross a river in a canoe w/a fisherman who pushes the boat w/a long stick that touches the rivers bottom. No cars or motorcycles are allowed. The streets are sand lanes. It's surrounded on one side by the river and the other by the ocean. You cross over into a totally different world. I found Fabrizio's hotel by first finding Andrea's friends' hotel. Of course they knew each other it's that small a place. I walked w/my bag on the streets of sand amazed at its simplicity. Fabrizio's hotel was rustic and nice, lots of dark wood, w/a big open restaurant and kitchen. All of the hotels here are simple. There are also houses for rent which are always fully booked during high season. I ate lunch and headed for the beach. Wherever you are in Caraiva you are near the beach or the river. When I got to the beach I turned left and walked while bouncing my ball to where the river and ocean meet. Wow! The water is cold. The river is a still, captivating image that draws you into its beauty and pristineness. The weather was iffy giving way to passing light showers. Everyone took cover where a woman was selling food. I saw my friend, Maria, from dance class who I've known forever w/her son at the river's edge. We were surprised to see each other. The feeling you get is that of being in a place that's a treasure. The day brightened and I stretched, tanned and felt glad that I was there. Fabrizio told me to go to a beach bar at 4pm. Everyone would be there. That meant something would be happening. When I arrived I was stunned. People, alot of people were playing juggling volleyball (juggling bowling pins, passing and throwing over the net). I'd never seen anything like that. Others were juggling balls, balancing balls on their head and doing handstands. It was bizarre. I thought how absolutely odd that everyone in Caraiva does this. How was it possible that everyone in a place does this? What about Caraiva would attract these people? Then I found out it was a convention of jugglers.

Then it started. I knew tons of people. Everyone said they never saw so many people from Arraial d'Ajuda there. I knew at least 30 people, and people knew me who I didn't know. It felt nice and put me at ease. At the hotel Fabrizio invited friends to stay. It was full of all cool people. I walked around this part of the peninsula which is very small. You're always near the ocean on that side and the river has its own rhythm. That night there was a show. I laughed for 2 1/2 hrs straight. Two of the convention guys were the hosts. One in a clown suit and the other in a dress (not drag queeny but funny) and acted like he was drunk. At the beginning they distributed to the audience empty crushed beer cans. If any performer sucked they were pelted w/beer cans. Hysterical! It was open mike night. One after the other they'd go up. Some juggling, some doing other tricks, some comedy. The first two walked on glass. One laid down while the other walked on top of the other. Alot of times they dropped balls or whatever. They weren't really pros but had a love. Some were truly amazing. There wasn't an air of competion at all. I felt wonderful being in Caraiva after seven years!!!!! This is total nature. All government protected land which doesn't allow human use of of resources. On the mainland is an Indigenous Reserve which is part of a national park. This is where the Portuguese first sighted land and settled (Monte Pascoal). Hence the name The Discovery Coast. Once you're here you leave the world behind and wonder why you thought you ever needed it. I found a new place...gotta tell ya bout the sky. I looked up and since the moon was just full the sky didn't have that darkness against the stars but the stars didn't look real. Felt as if I was in the Hayden Planetarium. It gave me upon arrival a feeling of space. Here you get a direct connection to the earth, sea and sky. As I mentioned electricity arrived a few years before, but all the wiring is underground. There are no electric poles and lines above ground. It's dark. With a full moon that's how the streets are lit. Ooohhh! The next night a group of us went out for drinks. There are restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors, shops and dance clubs and cybercafes. All very relaxed. I didn't stay very long and returned to the empty hotel. I sat ouside. I felt as if deep inside my true self was allowed to come out. As if there was a force present. A state of absolute wonderment. Caraiva attracts 'pretty people' from all over Brazil. Those who want pure nature and no noise. Alot of volleyball at the beach, there was a show for kids one night, certain nights have dance music of forro, reggae and different vibes. Always packed cuz everyone goes. One afternoon I was lunching w/friends. Aquaintances kept coming outta the woodwork. Lu who I hadn't seen in a few years was living here working w/medicinal herbs. A bunch of us were lunching when her friend, Thais, passed by. She showed us camera video of whales. Whale watching? Whale watching here? Yep. I didn't know. This is also called The Whale Coast. Thais is a marine biologist who conducts whale watching excursions. We made plans for me to go. (I did and it was thrilling and now I offer a whale watching eco-tour w/her). Wow, look what happens here. So many magical things. One afternoon a few of us went to the river side and rented kayaks. We were on a calm river and paddled through mangroves. I laughed because had I been in NY I would probably have spent that Sunday riding my bike trying to avoid opening taxi doors, and here I was kayaking. This day we didn't go very far and took a left to the mangroves. Going straight led into the Atlantic rainforest. As you paddle w/the sound of the gentle rippling river and the beat of your heart all you see and feel is rainforests power beckoning you w/an inviting smile. This is the real deal. 500 year old trees so big that it takes 20 people to hug it. Fabrizio introduced me to a guy who grew up there and knows the rainforest like the back of his hand. Besides exploring the rainforest we visited the Indigenous Reserve which leads to the Monte pascoal National Park. We also did a walk along the beaches to Satu Beach and Espelho(Mirror) beach. Walking along the shore w/crystal clear sea and the forest accompanying you is marvelous. Natural pools are everywhere for a cool dip. Another fun thing wedid was a buggy ride in the other direction until the sea has to be crossed either by small boat or a swim to Corumbau. Another pristine little known piece of paradise. Eco-biking, snorkeling, running along the beach(the only bad thing that happened this trip is I pulled my right groin muscle sprinting on the beach). This is the epitome of ecological tourism that respects and supports the Indigenous community. My first night when I sat outside it was so peaceful I heard the stillness. Caraiva is another dimension in silence.

Posted by TheBeatofBahia 11:22 Archived in Brazil Tagged beaches rainforest kayaking sun bahia brazil snorkeling porto capoeira eco-tours seguro caraiva Comments (0)


Love at 1st sight

sunny 30 °C

When I was living in Costa Rica in the 90's before it became COSTA RICA I wanted to go to Brazil. I didn't know anything about the country, where it wa or where to go. I heard about Rio and guessed that was the place to go. My last several years in Costa Rica I spent more time in Guatemala. I traveled alot to Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. I wanted new adventures and decided the time had come for Brazil. My second best friend lived there for a few years so I sought his advice. "Oh no don't go to Brazil (Rio) you'll get killed!" So I returned to Costa Rica for what turned out to be for the last time. Most guys go to Brazil for the beautiful women, string bikinis and parties. Not me. The meditation I practiced, Vipassana, is offered worldwide. I went for a 10 day session. I won't say retreat because it's not sipping tea and philosofisng. It's more like bootcamp. I secured a spot and bought a plane ticket. Excited I headed to the airport. When the reservation agent asked for my visa I asked what visa? I got the visa the next day and returned to the airport. I arranged to stay at someone's house for the night before heading to the meditation center, biut that was changed when I'd arrive a day late. A fellow passenger called the meditation contact for me becuse he spoke portuguese. I caught a cab to the meeting place of the van that would transport a group of meditators, and off I went. We spent the next 12 days outside of Rio in a very tranquil environment.I also experienced the deepest and most profound meditation until this time, and I've done 13 of these. After I was 'dumped' in Rio. I told the other van riders that I wanted a hotel near to a gym and the beach. From 12 days in utter silence to the middle of a bustling city was mind blowing. Also I was accustomed traveling from country to country totally at ease speaking spanish. I cursed the Portuguese for months for having colonized Brazil. That first night I went to a restaurant and had to order three times before I got a meal w/out meat. The morning we were leaving the meditation center someone asked what I was doing for breakfast the next morning. We met and he took me around Rio. That simple gesture changed my life and my experience in Brazil. He opened his heart and his home to me. He along w/his sister are my best friends in Brazil and I am a part of their family. After a few days in Rio I wanted to leave because I wanted less city madness, more nature and I don't like staying in hotels. Another meditator invited me to his city which was the directly north of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Espiritu Santo. It was a beach town called Guarapari. A small city with beaches. I made friends and fell in love w/Brazil. I stayed for three months. When I returned to Rio 3 months later I first went to Rio to see my friends and get to know the city better. Then I returned to Guarapari but after a few weeks I knew that I wanted to be in nature. At one point while in Nicaragua I met a Brazilian and asked him to make a list of beautiful places in Brazil. I took out the paper closed my eyes and chose the city of Porto Seguro. I didn't know where it was, or know anyone there and my understanding of portuguese was still practically non existent although I spoke spanish and people understood. I made friends w/people who once again showed me love and opened up their hearts and homes to me. They helped me start the process of learning portuguese. Off I went on the bus not knowing what to expect. People said how beautiful Porto Seguro was and how the beaches were to die for. A cab driver got me a cheap hotel. We're still friends 12 years later. I couldn't believe I made it. I ate breakfast, shaved and showered and hit the streets. I asked the first person I encountered "where's the beach?" Off I went. When I got there I couldn't believe it. It was ugly, really ugly and empty. I wondered why I was told contrary. That night feeling self-conscious, alone and like a tourist I ate at a restaurant along the coast on a strip of restaurants, shops and strolling tourists. The next day somehow I heard about a place called Arraial d'Ajuda where the nice beaches were. I asked someone where do I catch the bus? There isn't a bus but a ferry. A five minute ride away and a world of difference. Where Porto Seguro is more cityish, Arraial d'Ajuda has the village and native vibe. I got to the beach and my first thought was to get my bags before the check out time and get a place here. I walked a little and saw houses and small hotels (the hotels are not the 26 story monstrosities but rooms and bungalows around a pool). I inquired as to the price and saw the room and returned shortly. Happy as a lark I settled into my new Brazil. Staying at the hotel were 4 Argentinians who I made friends with. The next day they invited me to accompany them to another beach. We caught the bus and after about 45 minutes arrived at Trancoso. From the bus stop on a dirt road we walked a short distance through a patch of mangroves and arrived at the beach.

When I stepped onto the beach my mouth dropped open and stayed that way. That was how I always imagined beaches in Brazil. White sand that didn't end, turquoise sea and coconut palm trees all along the coast. It was like steppping into a giant pcard. The most amazing thing is all the elements, the sky , sea, sand, palm trees all filter into you and in a second tranform you. All the pure beauty, the clean energy reach all the way inside of you and make you happy. There I was w/new friends, a new place and miles of beach for as far as my eyes could see. It was actually quite difficult to hang onto myself. I was stunned. Something so wonderful exists? I felt as if I'd explode w/joy! We walked and walked. There were a few beach bar-restaurants but there was just beach and space. We stayed at a bar restaurant playing music. I was in a hammock between two trees w/a straw in a green coconut. How unimaginable and great was that? The water in Bahia is warm. You can stay in it for hours and still don't want to get out. 'Twas a beautiful day, hot and sunny, music w/speakers on the coconut palm trees, drinks, lunch and my new found friends. My pattern was to tan for awhile then dip in the ocean and repeat all day. W/a smile on my face of course. I made it to the Brazil of my dreams. Trancoso is a place where I'd spend 6 hours. I'd never spent that much time at the beach before. Trancoso changes your rhythm. It makes you stop and slow down. You don't have a choice, the force is that powerful. The Brazilian tourists freak out cuz they know they're in paradise. Everyone is just happy and relaxed. You appreciate the beauty of the world. You either tan all day, laugh with your friends, listen to music or the waves, dip or swim in the ocean, watch the waves and people, check out the natives who have all of this as their backyard, or the most likely is to do all that was mentioned. You can walk for 5 or 10 minutes and be totally alone. No one near you or in sight. You can walk literally for hours. Inspiration, introspection, meditation, relaxation and rejuvenation are all at your fingertips. It creates a world w/out limits. This is in part why in the 70's here was 'discovered' by hippies and then attracted artists, craftsmen, designers and the spiritually in touch. Another attraction is the town. It's always been a sleepy fishing village. One has to ascend to the town from the beach. The main square is called "Quadrado", the square. It's actually funny because it's nothing special. It's a soccer field that is worn and torn from playing. At one end is one of the first churches built in Brazil. On the othe three sides are shops, restaurants, and very small hotels all painted in tropical colors, very Bahia. It's very chill. People selling trinkets, earrings, bracelets and other hand made crafts are dispersed along the square. During the day you can lunch, enjoy yogurt, hang out and take in the amazing view of the horizon and beaches from behind the church. What's incredible about here is there's no fanfare. It's just what it is. A place that is back in time in this time. You're in a place that represents the natives of Bahia. No rush, no hassles, no dress up, just be who you are and do what you want. Like everywhere in the world change has arrived. I consider myself a Trancoso purist having fell in love w/here 10 yrs ago. The well heeled of Sao Paulo(Brazil's NY) escaping the hustle and bustle of city life for beautiful beaches have flocked here, and are willing to pay a premium and do. Because 90% of the tourists are from Sao Paulo we joke that Trancoso's area code is that of Sao Paulo. Crazy expensive hotels and boutiques are part of the mix now. But it hasn't affected the essence or its spirit. Everyone wants the same thing - to relax, party and feel the good vibes. NIghtime is totally a different happening. The "Quadrado" is lit by candlelight in all the windows of restaurants, shops and hotels. It's usually dining out, going for a drink, strolling and just hanging out. There are usually certain nights for reggae, forro or other music dance nights. Tropical chic and jet set cool that lets you unplug then plug into yourself!

Posted by TheBeatofBahia 10:13 Archived in Brazil Tagged brazilbahiatrancosoportosegurob Comments (0)

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