En route to Rio: tropical beaches and surfer’s paradise – Barra Grande, Itacaré

Came for the pictures, but got disappointed? So were we. Due to being robbed in Rio de Janeiro we unfortunately have little pictures left of this part of our trip. Just imagine white sand and turquoise waters for a mental picture that covers most of this week in Brazil…

Brazil is big, really big… We knew that before. But travelling around the country only really makes us understand that it’s humongous. Our next destination after Chapada Diamantina is Rio de Janeiro. Some 1500 km of beautiful, tropical coastline separate us from the Cidade Maravilhosa. We thought it would be a good idea to tackle that with local buses and hitchhiking. It turns out we should’ve thought twice.

After a long day of travel we arrive in Camamu after dark. Because of the delayed bus we have missed all boats to Barra Grande, our actual destination, and we’ll have to spend the night here. It’s not the most attractive place and the pizza isn’t great either. There is dirt cheap Campari soda, however, to make up for that. The next morning we do manage to take a boat. After a bit of a search to find the right place we opt for the local, slow boat rather than the speedy and pricy tourist transfer. This means we’ll be sharing the deck with stacks of food supplies, building materials and even a new washing machine for the next two hours.

Upon arrival we’re immediately reminded about Jericoacoara: sandy streets lined with cosy bars and restaurants with a palm tree background. Somewhere among these palm trees is our pousada. We follow Google Maps’ directions and soon begin to doubt whether we’ve booked the right place to sleep: we’ve been walking for 20 minutes outside of the centre on a hot, dusty road and still see no sign of the place. When we finally come across a house we ask for directions. It seems the all mighty G has made up an entire village in Maps that doesn’t exist at all. The street where we are sleeping is actually 2 minutes away from the dock where we arrived… an hour ago. At least it’s a great location after all! Time to forget the sweaty hike and enjoy a beer by the pool.

Our hotel rents out quad bikes and this looks like the perfect way to explore the surrounding beaches on the Marau peninsula. We first head out to what is described as one of the finest beaches of Brazil: Taipu de Fora. And to be honest, that is not really exaggerated! It’s a stunning stretch of Bounty beach lined with coco palms and there is hardly anyone. When we continue our quad adventure we don’t really get far: suddenly the engine sputters and then stalls completely. We try to start it. Nothing. We try again. Nothing. We open the gas tank. Nothing. Not a single drop of gasoline is left. The question is whether it was almost empty when we got it – we understood it was full when our host was explaining everything – or that it was emptied when we left it unattended at the previous stop. Anyway, we have to find a solution. Right before our quad died we saw a house. Hoping for someone that can help we go and knock the door. An old man walks up to us from his armchair and he seems willing to help. Apart from him laughing with “the gringos getting stuck” we don’t understand much of his instructions. But we think he wants us to push the quad up to his house. Almost burning our feet in the white hot sand we manage to do so. Right at that moment another couple on a quad comes by and they offer to go get gasoline. Great, problem solved! Now let’s forget this and enjoy the rest of our day. Soon we arrive at yet another stunning beach. And this one is completely empty – apart from a coconut vendor trying to score some Reais from passing quads. With every next stop that day we think the same: where is everyone, it’s gorgeous here…

We don’t stay long in Barra Grande because there are tons of other places to explore on our way to Rio. After all, the village itself is aiming more for an older – and wealthier – crowd. We’re headed to Itacaré, 60 km south of Barra Grande. We could take the boat again followed by a bus, but we want to test our luck hitchhiking the long road that heads down the peninsula, towards Itacaré. And we are lucky! The first car we see stops and takes us all the way to our destination. He tried to ask for money first but we told him we could get a bus cheaper than that and walked on. 5 meters down the road he stopped again and told us to hop in, for free this time. He didn’t even want to accept anything when we offered him something for his kindness upon arrival.

Much earlier than expected we arrive in Itacaré. So we spend some time choosing our favourite from the many hostels in town. We haggle a bit here and there and in the end we get a nice and very affordable room with AC and a balcony for the hammock. In general this town is clearly catering for a different crowd – mostly surfers and backpackers – and that translates in much lower prices! We settle in our hammock and take the time to update our blog and plan the next week. When we start counting, however, we realise that we’ll never make it to Rio in time hopping from town to town. We’re meeting an old friend of Hannes after Rio and want to make sure we have plenty of time to spend in the city. We decide to stay for 2 more days on Itacaré’s quiet surf beaches so we can enjoy some more treats like the dulce de leite waffles and cocoa caipirinhas – raw cocoa beans are used here to shake great caipirinhas and the fruits are also pressed into a sweet, flavorful juice, miel de cocoa. After that we head directly to Rio. A combo of bus, boat and plane later – this was cheaper than taking a bus – we arrive at the destination we were so looking forward to: metropolis, beaches and mountains, Rio de Janeiro has it all.


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