My love affair with Brazil began like most of my teenage dreams – with a curly-haired boy who listened to punk rock. Fast forward six years, and that man with a mop is my Brazilian-born husband.
I’ve been lucky enough to explore my husband’s homeland on multiple occasions. Our yearly pilgrimage is one that I cherish, because each and every time I visit, I fall in love a little more. The culture, the people, the colours, the music, the landscape, the food… it’s hard not to want to leave North America in the dust and become the Brazilian beach goddess of my bohemian fantasies. Alas, we have other aspirations on this continent, so for now, I’m here to share some of our stories with you.
If you ever find yourself on the shores of Bahia, I urge you to make the trek to Itacare. While it is quite literally, a trek, south from Salvador – it’s worth it. Before we rang in 2015 with Pedro’s family, a group of us decided to take a road trip to the small fishing village, turned surfer’s paradise. After a series of hilarious hijinks (Cards Against Humanity waiting in line for the ferry boat, a flat tire 45 minutes away from Salvador, a quick stop and snack at one of our crew’s family home in Nazare while our car got fixed, so many potholes, and a detour over a crazy “bridge” in the middle of the jungle), our little car and crew made it to our roots livin’ getaway.
Our adventure was a little extra special, because Pedro’s cousin and his girlfriend are a couple of culinary dynamos. Dante is the sous-chef at Alex Atala’s, D.O.M., in Sao Paulo. Which (if you’ve never heard of it) is ranked Number 7 of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World. Let’s just say, we ate really well on the beach (thanks Dante and Kafe)! The trip was a foodie-with-hippie-sensibilities dream come true.
Itacare is like nowhere else in this great wide world. Each day, we hiked through the Atlantic rainforest (it wasn’t easy) to sit on the shores of deserted beaches. We raced the sunset (and the snakes) through the forest, and cut down giant jacca with machetes from their trees. We sipped Bahian coconuts, with tons of delicious meaty pulp on the sand. Ate tuna ceviche so fresh, we might as well have pulled it from the ocean. There were so many cervejas. Devoured red snapper and okra smothered in olive oil grilled in a fire pit we dug with our hands. We crafted shelters made from fallen palms to shield the gringo (me) from the sun’s rays.
While the others slept on the beach, I sat in quiet meditation. Staring out at the ocean from upward dog, the waves crashed against the shore. Itacare cracked my heart wide open, and filled it with so much love.
To be honest, I still can’t believe these experiences were my own. It all seems so surreal. How did a girl from a small town in Southern Ontario end up on the shores of a deserted beach in South America? I think about the crazy twists and turns of fate that had to occur to put me in that place, and I am just so grateful.
My love affair with Brazil began with a curly-haired boy who listened to punk-rock. And that boy showed me the world, and more importantly, how to love.
10 TIPS FOR YOUR TRIP TO ITACARE:
1) Wear sunscreen, and lots of it.
2) The smaller the swimsuit, the better.
3) While there are beaches in town, I highly recommend taking the hikes to Praia de Engenhoca (the best) and Praia de Jeribucacu (a close second).
4) Eat all the acai your heart desires.
5) Drink all of the coconut water, and it best be from a coconut.
6) Stay in a “pousada” (Brazilian hostel / inn) if you’re on a budget
7) Try Stand Up Paddleboarding at Praia da Concha.
8) Head to Ponta do Xareu to watch the sunset. It’s magical.
9) Get the quiejo qualho from the guy on the beach. It’s sketchy, but so delicious.
10) FYI, they speak Brazilian Portuguese in Brazil. Try Duolingo (the app), or kick it old-school with a phrasebook to brush up on your Portuguese.