The personable and extremely passionate Bixaõ owns the Pousada Porta de Areia in Itaúnas, a tiny off the map hamlet in the northeastern corner of Brazil’s Espirito Santo state. With a few strings of natural beads strung around his neck and long almost rasta-like dreadlocks tucked under a simple cap he sports the look of a Caribbean island hippy with a laid back demeanor punctuated by boundless energy. We’d spend hours talking about and listening to music. When something struck his chord he turned his whole body, voice, hands, legs into a one man band as he animated and mimicd a tune.
Itaúanas is barely on the tourist map. Just a few years ago it made it’s guidebook premier in Lonely Planet’s Brazil guide. Bixaõ’s little four room “pousada” made it in the book and he was proud to tell me this when we met on the streets after my intense muddy white-knuckling arrival here. Many pousadas are closed this time of year. But from the quick ride around the tiny town’s streets the fact that Ituánas is now on the map, the economy, and hence pousada building, seems to be on the rise. With a sandy and dirt streets, a simple market, bakery, a few stores and a handful of comida caseira (home cooking) restaurants, this hamlet is a far cry from a tourist town.
A river winds to the ocean on the north side of town. I’d cross dozens of rivers like these watching and wondering how life is far away from the coast along these scenic waterways.
Dropping dramatically to the ocean, the dunes meet the Atlantic ocean as the high tide and full moon bring in unpleasantries.
Somewhere under all these dunes is the original Itaúnas town – which was buried over the years by these dunes.
Most people told me that to take the northern road out of here would mean waiting through three days of sun so the road could dry. It’s impassable in this rain. Though the dirt road which I came had about 10-12km of gnarly deep mud. When it gets like this the busses don’t run. I was stuck. I weighed my options and Bixaõ polled the neighbors and a commuting school teacher: “bastante lama”. In other words, mud, mud, and more mud. So, painted into a corner of Espirto Santo, I made the best of it. Another guest, Eliud, a vascular surgeon from Vitória took a room my second night.
A night I soon won’t forget, but probably should, we stayed up way too late while a steady stream of locals stopped in. While I fielded questions about my motorcycle and my journey the beer never stopped flowing. And then some. Certainly, not my reason for shacking up in this town, the party was fun. The sun finally blessed me for a half-day of sun so I took advantage of the clear skies and headed for the dunes and the beach. I soon sadly learned that the sea turtles who breed on this beach from September through sometime in November had yet to make their appearance. And perhaps adding to my weather issues, the full moon had caused an extra high tide, bringing with it a beach load of trash washed up to the tide line. They tell me this happens up and down the coast during the high tide, yet it was the first time I saw such a line of trash.
The next day I finally decided to make a break for it. The morning sky, though grey seemed somewhat forgiving. I knew the northern route might be too much and too dangerous given the mud. So I decided to brave the 10km of deep mud, much I thought must have dried by now. My new friends, Bixaõ and Eliud said they would ride along with me in the event that I dropped the bike, I’d at least have some help. But riding those six miles that hammered me a few nights past and nearly tossed me into the muddy mess were cake. And the rest of the next 30 miles or so of dirt road were no problem. By the time I got to the BR-101 the rain started. Then it stopped.
Riding through miles of commercial forestry projects, then rolling into sugar cane plantation the ride was easy, albeit the ubiquitous truckers and over zealous cars who care not to slow down nor keep a safe distance while accelerating on my rear. I hopped to make Trancoso by dark. But the road became more twisty and wet. Passing lines of trucks was neither smart nor safe given the blind corners and the slippery pavement. When I finally came down out of this pass of twisting and winding roads that only reached 600 feet in altitude, dusk had set in. The kids at the gas station in Eunopolis said that the road to Porto Seguro was in good shape and no where near the winding and twisting topology that I had just ridden. I contemplated getting a room here, but thought that even Porto Seguro would offer more interest than this industrial settlement on the 101. As I made my way down a beautiful road this huge orange orb appeared on my horizon. At first I thought it was a lamp or a sign for a company or pousada. But as I rode east it became all to clear that a rose colored moon was slowly rising and adding the needed drama and glimpse of clear sky that reinforced my decision to ride tonight.
At the turn off to Trancoso and Arraial d’Ajuda I made another snap decision. Nope. Forget Porto Seguro. Let’s go for the better beaches. But the road quickly deteriorated and I decided to cut bait at the turn off to Arraial instead of riding another 25km further to Trancoso. Arraial was a surprise. While touristy with one main drag of shops and restaurants and a historic section of stone streets and a century or more old church, there was something magical about this town. I decided to take a tip from my Lonely Planet guide and found the Vila de Beco pousada after a bit of circling. While only two blocks from the main drag, the property with its bungalows punctuated by hammocks slung across porches and balcony was a dream. A pool looking over the beaches below and only a couple guests in residence. The slow season has its benefits. THe quiet and quaint property cost me less than $25 a night.
Here I met James and John, a couple twenty-something Brits who just received severance from a layoff due to an acquisition of the music publishing company they worked for in London. With English Pounds in hand they spread a map of the world out in front of them and decided to spend their pounds for a five week journey in Northeastern Brazil. surely but was very us for beer, music and met the brit guys James and John. The next night we caroused the town and ended up playing pool until closing hour with a group they had met earlier from São Paulo.
Arriving back at my Pousada in paradise at practically sunrise, I slept the next morning while the rain pounded the roof. When I woke the Brits had caught their bus north and I spent the rainy afternoon in the internet café catching up.