Tchau bicicletas! Bahia, we will miss you!

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June 1st 2014
Published: October 7th 2014
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Pataxo manPataxo manPataxo man

selling handmade whistles that sound like birds (perfect for the coming World Cup!)
We followed a small unpaved road to Caraiva, a remote rustic village in southern Bahia. We had to get the ponchos out many times but we also got to see a rainbow in the cloudy sky. In order to reach the village, we first had to get a boat across Rio Caraiva. And then? No roads, no cars, just 2 sandy alleys with a couple of shops held by hippies (and they only got electricity in 2007!) and a long-deserted beach… We rode our bikes to the indigenous Pataxo village and camped on the way (although we shouldn’t have…). This was the last leg of our biking trip in Bahia. In the end my Dad and I made a list of things we liked about our cycling adventure in Brazil. Obviously we loved it!

We only spent 2 days in Caraiva because the weather was disappointing. It kept on raining the whole time and we didn’t get to enjoy a single minute of sunshine. It’s too bad because the place would definitely be sensational in the sun. Caraiva is so peaceful and beautiful. The tiny village is strung along the mangrove-lined river on one side and a long peaceful beach on the other. It’d be paradise for a few lazy days of sunbathing.

We cycled to Barra Velha, the Pataxo village 6km out of Caraiva. The village was asleep but we met some kids and asked them if they had any handicrafts. They called their mom who came to us with some very dusty bracelets made of seeds from the trees. She went to get a tooth brush and cleaned the beads in front of us. It made us smile and we got a few souvenirs. The Pataxo (who number about 3000) are Bahia’s largest indigenous group. My guidebook says that they are facing an uncertain future. “Historically the Pataxo are survivors. They were a strong tribe who held against the Portuguese, and up until the 1800s were one of the most feared indigenous groups of the interior. Their resistance hindered frontier expansion, though by the early 19th century their power had waned. Today the Pataxo practice subsistence agriculture, supplemented by hunting, fishing and gathering. The region of southern Bahia boasts incredible biodiversity, with many of its plants and animals found nowhere else on earth. Despite the wide acceptance of the healer’s powers within the community, the Pataxo are
And we did find the sun!!! And we did find the sun!!! And we did find the sun!!!

Was this Praia do Curipe? I'm not sure anymore, but it was located between Trancoso and Caraiva and it was beautiful!
struggling to maintain their traditions. The youth are not actively embracing the customs of the older generation. In Barra Velha all of the healers are over 60 and they haven’t passed their knowledge down to the next generation. In addition, to internal struggles, the Pataxo face severe threats from outside. As Bahia’s population grows, farmers have pushed them off their lands, leading to violent skirmishes.”

All of this explains why it was a pretty bad idea for us to pitch our tent outside the village (between thick bush by the sandy road). Around 5am we were woken up by the sound of a truck and 5 men called at us to inform us we couldn’t camp on indigenous land. It was hard for me to speak Portuguese so early in the morning but one of the guys surprisingly spoke excellent French. They saw the bikes and we explained we had cycled from Salvador and would be leaving in a few hours to get back to Trancoso. They thought we were crazy. We apologized for being reckless Europeans and they wished us a safe trip.

We crossed the Caraiva River once more and started pedaling back to Trancoso, feeling
I asked the kids if they had any crafts to sell...I asked the kids if they had any crafts to sell...I asked the kids if they had any crafts to sell...

and the Mom did! She just had to clean it first... We ended up buying a bracelet.
disappointed that we hadn’t had a chance to enjoy this secluded area under the sun. And guess what? 40 minutes later, we felt warmth on our necks… the sun was back! Sigh! My Dad took his shirt off and decided to enjoy being sun-kissed while riding on this quiet dirt road. The sun stayed with us for the last few days of our Bahia trip. We ended up spending 3 more days in Trancoso, going to the beach early every morning to have the long stretch of sand to only ourselves. We enjoyed copious lunches at our favorite little restaurant in town. My Dad went jogging; I read on Brazil to prepare the second part of our trip when we would be driving in the south (the 3 of us with my Mom) and enjoy the FIFA World Cup. We camped at the same spot for a few nights. I suppose it’s always easier to camp (and not shower) when you live by the ocean… We truly fell in love with laid-back Trancoso and my Dad is already talking about coming back.

Our last 2 days in Bahia were spent in Porto Seguro, a town of 150,000 people. This
Yes, we'll buy a few necklaces.Yes, we'll buy a few necklaces.Yes, we'll buy a few necklaces.

But no one in the vicinity had change so we rode to the village to buy stuff at the supermarket and came back with the exact change...
is a place of historic significance since in 1500 this is where the Portuguese sailors first landed in the land now known as Brazil. We visited the Historic Quarter: the old churches built in the 16th and 17th centuries, and Goncalo Coelho’s marker stone (encased in glass) of the landing. Porto Seguro has now become a touristic destination with hundreds of hotels and souvenir shops. We were there about a week before the beginning of the World Cup and we could feel everyone’s excitement growing. The streets were decorated with flags of every participating nation in the tournament, and of course everyone was wearing the Brazilian yellow jersey. In every restaurant or shop in town, the staff was wearing yellow. I took a few pictures of the yellow and green decorations on cars, taxis, facades or other shop windows.

Our only task in Porto Seguro was to get the bikes cleaned up and try to sell them. It took us 2 hours to clean and grease the gears… and 5 minutes to sell the 2 bikes! As I was working on the brakes by the pool at our hotel, a woman asked me where I was from. It turned out she had studied in France a long time ago. I told her about our trip from Salvador to Porto Seguro and asked her if she’d be interested in buying the bikes for half the price we had paid 4 weeks prior. She told her husband… and seriously 5 minutes later the bikes were gone! Maybe we should have raised our price… Oh well! Next time! ;-)

My Dad enjoyed a last swim at the hotel. Then we had to carry (and walk!!!! we missed our bikes already!) our panniers to the bus stop and off to the bus station. 28 hours later we were in Sao Paulo, waiting for my Mom and our host: Sarah from Canada, who stayed with my parents in 1998 on a Rotary exchange program (while I was in the US myself). Sarah is now married to a Brazilian guy from Sao Paulo. Crazy life! The best! It was the beginning of a new adventure…

Beautiful Bahia, we will miss you! You have stolen a part of our hearts. You didn’t often make it easy for us on our bikes but the rewards were always worth it. This was the trip of a lifetime and we’re going to make sure to tell everyone about your beauty! As I’m writing about Bahia, I can see smiling faces with a beach in the background and the sound of powerful percussions all around … Happiness is contagious. So thank you.

What we liked about Bahia:

- The smiles and the thumbs up (ALWAYS!)

- The bakeries and their HUGE sweet pastries in every town

- The PF meal: fish, beef, chicken + rice + beans + salad: perfect for cyclists!

- The light and cold beer! (almost cheaper than bottled water!)

- The littoral: thousands of km of beautiful beach: stunning!

- The sound of waves

- coconuts

- How people fix massive speakers on top of their cars to share their music with the entire town

- People dancing on the beach

- Itacare and its secretive alcoves

- How beaches were entirely ours in the morning

- The jungle, especially camping in the jungle, falling asleep to the sound of thousands of insects

- Seeing turtles from the cliffs in Itacare

- Fire flies flying into our mosquito net
Street scene in Porto Seguro!Street scene in Porto Seguro!Street scene in Porto Seguro!

Ready to host the World Cup! It's gonna be BIG!
at night

- How every man in the countryside carried a machete at his belt

- How peaceful it was EVERYWHERE! Winter is good time to visit Bahia.

- The quality of the asphalt on road BA-001 (maybe we should have stayed on the main road more!)

- The g-strings on every woman at the beach J I’m just saying… It’s a beautiful culture!

- Brazilian women and their curves… Again! It’s true!

- How strong the local men are, especially at Sao Morro where the suit-case carriers push tourists’ luggage piled up on wheelbarrows up sharp inclines (and cobblestone streets!)

- The difficult trails through the jungle that end up on a pristine secluded beaches… The best!

- Catching a ferry or fisherman’s boat to get to an island

- How it was possible to cycle everywhere: Bike = freedom!

- The millions of little flags above Porto Seguro’s streets for the World Cup

- How every single shop attendant, waiter, hotel staff wore a yellow jersey at work (in June)

- The white sand at Morro, Boipeba, Itacare and Trancoso

- The big portions they
We sold our 2 Caloi bicycles to these 2 gentlemenWe sold our 2 Caloi bicycles to these 2 gentlemenWe sold our 2 Caloi bicycles to these 2 gentlemen

We cleaned our bikes nicely, greased the chain... and I asked the first lady who looked at us working on the bikes whether she'd be interested in buying 2 bikes for half the price they costed us 1 month ago... 1 minute later her husband and son were talking to us. 2 minutes later they were trying them...5 minutes later, the bikes were gone!
serve at any restaurant or café

- Geronimo in Salvador, the free concert for 2 hours, and him drinking wine after every song!

- The colors of the colonial buildings

- The churches built by the Portuguese, always on top of the highest hill, overlooking the ocean

- The whistles made by the Pataixo (indigenous people)

- How many people tried to speak a little French to us.

- How Alex welcomed us with a fruit cocktail at Open Barra House Guesthouse, in Salvador

- How people did sports along the beach in Salvador

- Meeting Alberto in the public bus to Boca del Rio and how he spontaneously helped us find the bike shop. Thank you so much once again!

- How easy it was to sell our Caloi bikes (to the very first person we talked to…)

- How amazing the sky and the beach looked at full moon from our tent in Praia do Forte…

- And how the weather turned to hell (crazy wind!) and we had to un-pitch and move our tent away at 3am… Fun memory! Although we were extremely worried at the
Byebye BAHIA!Byebye BAHIA!Byebye BAHIA!

We will miss you!

- The breakfast buffets in Porto Seguro! We ate so much!! It was sooooo good!

- Traveling in the winter in Brazil and benefitting from low-season prices (Brazil is not cheap though)

- How we avoided riding on a terrible trail outside Torrinhas (after Boipeba) by following the other passengers into a bus (with our bikes!)

- Watching football with locals at a small eatery in Zimbo Village in Morro

- How amazed people were every time we told them we had been riding since Salvador… on those cheap bikes!

- The fruit: bananas, mango, papaya, avocado, pineapple… hmmmm!

- Seeing vultures everywhere along the road…

- The Pataixo handicrafts and how they waited for us to ask them to show us the craft they sell.

- How reserved and quiet most people were in the small villages

- Cycling on the beach at low tide! Amazing feeling!

- How every town in Bahia has mostly cobblestone everywhere (makes it look historic!)

- Very strong but also very sweet coffee!

What we didn’t like about Bahia:

- The mosquitoes

- The deep
We had a blast! We had a blast! We had a blast!

Thank you Bahia!
layer of sand on so many trails in Morro, Boipeba, that made it impossible for us to pedal. We had to push for kilometers… it was so hard!

- 50km of mud and wash-board from Barra Grande to Itacare

- Cycling on cobblestone…

- Getting my feet sunburned through the sandals (my bad!)

- How a few people tried to rip us off as we were looking for a ferry (but this didn’t happen much since we could easily get away with our bikes)

- The continuous showers during our first 10 days… grey sky most of the time.

- The price of taxis + public transport + long-distance buses (but this was expected)

- The result of sand and salt on our bike gears… What did you expect, right?

- Cycling on the beach at high tide… soft sand = bad idea!

- The price of ice-creams (compared to what I get in China)

- Leaving Bahia…

Additional photos below
Photos: 146, Displayed: 30


on our way to Caraivaon our way to Caraiva
on our way to Caraiva

the forest's gone...the forest's gone...
the forest's gone...

on our way to Caraiva, southern Bahia.
My Dad's ready... When are we going?My Dad's ready... When are we going?
My Dad's ready... When are we going?

What is this kid doing on the boat?

7th October 2014
Pataxo man

Real travel!
It's been great following your adventures; really, biking or walking is the best way to travel, being in nature and seeing the small villages and their people. Loved your summary! What a contrast this intimate part of your voyage was compared to the culture shock of the next, big city part, but I'm sure that will also be amazing, just very, very different!
10th October 2014
Pataxo man

Thanks Tara!
We did miss the bikes as soon as they were gone... but we wee glad we weren't riding in Sao Paulo! Thanks for following!
9th October 2014

This is a great blog!
Thanks for sharing your adventures in Brasil with your Dad! It sounded difficult, fun, and rewarding! That is what travel is all about.
10th October 2014

Thanks Andrea!
You're perfectly right. We had so much fun although (or because? - We both like physical challenges!) it was tough but the best things don't come easy, right? Thanks for your comment! More to come on Brazil...

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