Bahia beach holiday
Trip Start Jun 04, 2005
103Trip End Apr 05, 2006
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Having said a quick ĦHola! to beautiful Rio, and having five days or so to kill before our flight to Venezuela, we decided to head up the Bahia coast to see what it's all about. Getting there, however, involved one of our least pleasant bus journeys - 18 hours aboard a crammed, un-airconditioned bus with a mad racing driver behind the wheel. With the Bolivian bus accident still haunting us, we spent an uncomfortable night trying to get some sleep as the bus took corners at an alarming speed!
We arrived in the large seaside town of Porto Seguro on the afternoon of Tuesday 21 February, and crossed the lagoon by ferry
The bus to Caraiva took about four hours, so we arrived just as the sun was setting. We hadn´t been aware that, to reach the village, one crosses a small lagoon by punt. What a magical way to arrive - slipping silently across the river, with the lights of Caraiva flickering on the opposite bank.
Caraiva is an isolated little place, with no vehicles other than horse-drawn carts, and no mains electricity (generators provide light in the evenings). Rough tracks of white beach sand serve as streets. However, this primitive charm has attracted a substantial set of well-heeled Brazilian holiday-makers, and many of the brightly painted little houses have been transformed into upmarket guesthouses or pousadas.
It was after dark by the time we started our search for accommodation - a bit of a schlep, as most places were pretty pricey. In the end we settled for a simple room at a homestay, and wandered down to the riverfront for some food and a beer
On Wednesday morning, we looked around the village investigating boat excursions up the Caraiva river, whic is apparently very beautiful. However, it seemed even the boatmen were pitching their services at an upmarket crowd - prices were simply to high for us, so we settled for a long walk on the beach.
The beaches around Caraiva are wind-swept, deserted and pristine... endless stretches of white sand fringed by crashing surf on the one side and clusters of coconut palms on the other. We walked a good few kilometres, had a swim and strolled back to the village, in time for the 4pm bus to Trancoso. Well, we figured we´d seen Caraiva, a pretty little spot but with not much to do unless you have plenty of cash.
Trancoso, on the other hand, is a vibey place catering for all budgets, though the monied Brazilian holidaymakers are in the majority. After finding a decent, well-priced room, we headed down it the Quadrago, the historic village green surrounded by colourful colonial buildings (now housing fashionable bars and restaurants), and a cute white-washed church
On Thursday morning, we headed down to the beach and took a nice long walk among beautiful bodies lounging on deckchairs before finding a shady spot under a tree, where we read, relaxed and whiled away the rest of the day (with plenty of swims inbetween). After months of hard travelling, it was bliss simply chilling out on the beach.... yup, a holiday from our holiday!
Bahia's beaches are marvellous people-watching territory. As in Rio, folks are very body-proud and wear the absolute minimum on the beach... bikinis are all g-strings with tiny triangles on top - even the more overweight gals are seen in nothing more. We spied a few lads doing stretches and acrobatic moves, showing off their pecs to best effect. One black chap in white trunks entertained us with his headstands (see pics).
At about 5pm in the afternoon we took the bus to our final stop on the Bahia coast, Arraial d'Ajudar, where we found Carnival in full swing. The main square was festooned with decorations, a stage was being built for live performances and the village was abuzz with a mix of visitors and locals drinking and making merry
In the evening, after settling in, we got some caipirinhas (signature Brazilian cocktail of local rum, lemon and sugar) at a barraca and strolled around. Soon we were in the thick of a carnival parade - a band blasting out vibey tunes and locals in fancy-dress dancing ahead of them. We joined the procession and toured the streets, dancing away to the sound of hot-blooded beats. Great fun! (Unfortunately I hadn't taken along the camera that evening, so no pics, sorry!)
Hunger forced us to drop out of the party for a bit. At an open-air restaurant near the square, we discovered one of Brazil's great culinary delight: the per-kilo buffet (you see them everywhere in Brazil). We piled our plates high, choosing from the amazing array of salad, veggies, pastas and meat dishes, plus freshly barbequed meat, and paid according to the weight of our food. Very good value and excellent quality.
On Friday morning, we made our way down to the beach with our our now customary breakfast of a one-litre bottle of drinking yogurt and some fruit (plus baked goody for Rich). We spent another blissful day walking Bahia´s long, pristine white beaches, swimming, body-surfing... and people-watching, of course.
We decided to spend another night in Arraial to soak up the festive vibe. That evening, the streets were lively with hundreds of people, dressed up to the nines and dancing to loud dance music blaring from the speakers on the stage on the square... we had the feeling there would be some kind of live performance and street party. After a second go at the per-kilo buffet, we grabbed some caipirinhas from a barraca and joined the milling crowds.
Eventually, at about 11pm, some dancers took to the stage and entertained with capoeira-inspired moves, and lambada (which originated in this area). It went on for quite a while, and after midnight the two of us headed for bed... this party got started just a bit too late for us!
Well, our days of lazing on the beach were over too soon... on Saturday morning we headed to Porto Seguro, where we caught an early afternoon bus back to Rio (without aircon again). On Sunday the 26th we flew from Rio to Santiago, where we stopped off for the night before flying to Caracas early on Monday morning... three days of non-stop travel!