Part II: Bussing Brazil
A man who we had seen earlier clearing coconut fronds, and the only human we had witnessed for twenty minutes, ambled upon us out of nowhere, and squatted by our side. He asked us where we were from, and I engaged in conversation with him. He was an illiterate laborer from just down the coast, he pointed to his birthplace with a chapped hand. He explained to us that he worked as a handyman for the owner of the camp ground, and that he walked to and from work from his house an hour down the coast, in a town called Corumbau. Intrigued, we asked more about Corumbau, and our friend described it as a sleepy fishing village with hardly any inhabitants. Now, we thought, we had found our Shangri-La. We asked him how to get there, and he explained a circuitous route of 3-4 buses, totaling about 12 hours, to get to a place about two hours away on foot. The heat, and the heaviness of our bags restricted us from walking, and we decided to head out the next morning at 6 to start our journey down the coast.
The best part about sleeping in a tent with only a thin layer of polyester to shield you from the cold harsh ground is you never really have to worry about getting up early. The worst part is a much fiercer contention. We arose at the crack of dawn to catch the only bus out of Caraíva, and bungled our way on dusty bumpy roads for three hours past tree farms and an inordinate amount of white cows before we reached the larger-but-still-tiny town of Eunapolis. From there we were picked up at the bus stop by an old man offering us a ride to our next stop for only one Real (about 50 cents) more than the bus. He offered us crackers along the way and told us about how hard it was to get a job nowadays, which had lead him to odd jobs like picking people like us off the side of the road. He dropped us off in Itamarajá, from which we got another bus, again the only of the day, to our esteemed Corumbau.
Corumbau is a Tupi word, which means ‘far from everything’. It takes about 4 hours from Itamarajá to reach the tiny jut of sand that sticks out into the ocean welcoming warm tropical breezes. Upon our arrival, we immediately started looking around for somewhere to eat.
A man stopped us within a few steps and asked if he could help. Everything about my New York instinct told me not to trust the man, but I remembered I was in Brazil, and more specifically Bahia, which surely ranks among the warmest, most authentically friendly places in the world, and asked him where we could find something good to eat. He immediately showed us to a nearby café/restaurant which we had noted on sight as out of our price range. I asked him where he went to get lunch, and he showed us around a corner to a small house cozily lit, wherein a woman named Maria cooked up meals for her family and friends. He asked if she could accommodate us, she said she could, and we gladly dropped our bags on her front porch. Our host explained his name around here was ‘Woodpecker’ and that we could ask him for anything, and would we like a room as he had one for rent that was fully stocked and ready to be occupied. We felt ourselves slipping once more into a tourist’s spending corner, and explained our situation with the tent, and that we wanted to camp on the beach. “Of course you can camp on the beach, go wherever you like!” Woodpecker assured us, before asking if we’d like to go snorkeling on his fishing boat the next day. Elated with our good fortune and the confirmation that we had come to the right place, we accepted the offer, and he jaunted off happily into the dusk wishing us bon appétit.
Maria made us a plate of the local catch fried in a skillet along with rice, brown beans, squash and cucumber. To drink we had passion fruit juice followed by a small coffee with sugar. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, and afterwards we traipsed over to the beach to find a place to set up camp. We walked about 150 meters down from the town centre and found a spot sheltered from the nearby road by a tree and some bushes. We quickly realized that the furthest extent of the tide was the entire beach, with the small step above it covered in tendrils of a winding plant the only spot exempt from inevitable wetness. The sand proved less than suitable for staking our tent down, which combined with the strong and constant winds coming off the water to necessitate invention. We used our bags as corner weights and managed to secure the tent with a view of the ocean. We woke up early the next morning to the sun rising over the water on a completely abandoned stretch of pristine tropical beach that seemed to go on for miles. We fell back asleep in the increasingly stifling heat of the small tent. We stirred a couple hours later and emerged for the day to a sun that had crept up the sky and a beautiful blue day. Looking from left to right, the coast was clear. The sole exception: a topless woman slowly making her way down the beach on an early morning walk. We had come to the right place.