Our trip to Brasil starts in Rio, where we spend ten amazing sunny days on the beach. But never mind Rio. This is about Bahia – our destination for an unforgettable new years eve.
Stop over in Trancoso
It is summer time in Brazil, and we are in Bahia, on the Southeast coast of the country. We make a stop over in Trancoso, a small town one hour drive south of Porto Seguro.
The whole story of Trancoso started in the early 1970’s when a group of young men from São Paulo stumbled on the place looking to settle away from the long arm of the military government. By then it was just a fishing village and a bit more than ten years ago the town was finally connected to the national grid.
This colonial town on the North-east coast of Brazil has recently joined the ranks of those legendary and beautiful places that everyone is talking about. After its lazy hippie years, Trancoso has evolved as one of Brazil’s trendiest town and is now doing very well. It doesn’t do proper posh hotels but a new line in gorgeous pousadas in the shape of converted village houses and “tropical minimalist” interiors. Changing times have turned villagers’ shacks into luxury pousadas. Nevertheless, Club Med has a property here, but I would never recommend it unless you have a pressing need for big international resorts.I first came to Trancoso about ten years ago and, to be frank, it didn’t change much compared to what I see now. A few years back, Giselle Bundchen had come down to Trancoso with her English friend Naomi. In 2014, Solange – Beyonce’s sister – picked the charming Brazilian village as her honeymoon paradise and Kate Moss chose the same place to spend NYE the next year. More names? Matt Dillon, Calvin Klein, Leonardo DiCaprio, Valentino, Al, and Tipper Gore have all dropped by in recent years. Max and I were shocked by the number of private helicopters flying over this tiny beach town. Part of the attraction of Trancoso is how far it is from almost anywhere. To get there from London, for example, you first need to fly to São Paulo, take a connecting flight to Salvador and another short hop to Porto Seguro. From there, it’s a 90-minute taxi ride, including a ferry across the river Buranhém. Despite hosting so many celebrities over the years, this beach village has managed to retain the ingenuous charm that brought it fame and fortune in the first place.
We go for a walk in the “Quadrado” that is the Trancoso social and ceremonial center. A large, rectangular “village green” with the all-white São João Batista Church at one end overlooking the beach. Almost all the huts around it have been converted into funky little boutiques, pousadas, and restaurants with outside tables, making the Quadrado full of style.
We stay at the Cafe Cultura pousada – the only one available at the time we book our tickets to Bahia. Uxua, however, is probably the best accommodation in Trancoso. It’s a former fisher man’s house that has been turned into a luxury pousada. It belongs to Wilbert Das, creative director of the Diesel fashion label and is where Solange stayed when she was in Trancoso. The food at Uxua restaurant, just like the pousada’s design, has the sophistication in the right measure.
In every corner of Trancoso, there is always something going on. We bump into a live samba concert right in our pousada. We have no choice but to enjoy the music and a few more caipirinhas.
The program in Trancoso, such as it is, consists of spending the day on the beach, fortifying oneself with caipirinhas, before returning to the pousada for a late dinner or to one of the restaurants of the moment, followed by drinks and maybe some live music in the Quadrado.
We love Caraiva!
We drive one hour south on a dirt track from Trancoso and take a little boat to the rustic village of Caraiva. There aren’t any cabs or any roads there, and the streets are all made of sand. Caraiva was connected to the electricity network in 2007 and is, by all accounts, what Trancoso was 20 years ago. The point where the river meets the sea is gorgeous. It is Bahia’s most remote coastal stretches. We love it.The native Pataxo – one of seven tribes in Bahia – still live here untroubled. There are over 54,000 Indians who live in reserve right next to the village, created by the Indian Protection Service in 1926.
There’s a touch of the throwback tie-dye to this town. If Trancoso was Bahia’s 1970s drop-out idyll, then this is where the hippy B&B owners who didn’t want to invest in fancy chefs came when the fashion crowd invaded. It attracts travelers and people from the Brazilian bigger cities, mainly Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais and Brasilia. I haven’t seen any other international tourist here. There’s a level of sophistication that belies the remoteness. The pousadas in Caraiva are all simply furnished and functional, although prices are a bit spicy during this time of the year. You’ll certainly eat very well, though. Lunching at Casa da Praia, Cachacaria or Boteco do Para is excellent. We have a dinner to remember at Mangue Sereno.A rare slow and precious pace of life thrives in Caraiva. People are always smiling, and the atmosphere is relaxed. No matter where you go, the service is always very slow. This is the Bahia way of life, and it seems to work somehow.
We found Pousada Oasis via Airbnb, and it is where we stay until December 31st. It’s a small pousada with four simple rooms. We enjoy the service provided by the owner, Debora, who is always there to help with anything you need.
Coco Brasil is where we watch the concert of Mariana Aydar and Elba Ramalho – great names of the MPB (Brazilian Popular Music). Right there, on the beach. In fact, it’s the culture, the music and the people that made us fall in love with this corner of Brazil.There are a few places to explore near Caraiva. We do a day-trip to Corumbau beach, a 30-minute ride on a buggy along the coast. It’s a long empty beach that gives you the real feeling of remoteness. The further you walk, the fewer people, until there is virtually no development at all. We spend all day long in one of the beach bars here with a group of friends. We order a moqueca ( the traditional dish from Bahia) for lunch that takes more than three hours to be served.We also do a day-trip to Espelho Beach by boat. It is about six miles south, protected by a reef and absolutely flat and “mirror” like, from whence comes its name.
Once at Espelho, we have seafood lunch in the colorful restaurant Silvinha, a simple beach hut with an open-sided dining loggia. There’s no menu – you just get the day’s catch. The food is outstanding: we can taste the love. It became a word-of-mouth place of pilgrimage for locals and travelers. For a month, I try to make a reservation over the phone. No one ever picks up my call, though. As we get there, we have to insist hard, and luckily Silvinha finds some room for us on one of the shared tables.Bahia is lazy. And so is our last day of the year. In the afternoon, however, the wind picks up, which give us the chance to finally make it worth bringing our kite equipment all the way from Singapore to Caraiva. The NYE celebration, organized by Gente Incrivel, takes place at Bar da Praia – a beautiful wood structure right on the beach. It is the most amazing NYE party we have ever been.
Around 8am we crash on my friend’s extra single bed’s hotel room as all other pousadas are fully booked on the 31st of December. Our trip to Bahia is over, and the long journey to Singapore is about to start.Caraiva remains profoundly cut off from the outside world, and no one is likely to want to lay down asphalt or build bridges any day soon. It is a tiny fishing village where everything is basic. Mass tourism hasn’t arrived yet. Everywhere you go, you find a group of people playing some live music, any time of the day. The crowd is young, and you don’t see families or older people. There is a relaxed vibe in the air that makes everyone seems to be in a good mood.
We traveled to Trancoso and Caraiva, in Bahia, from December 27th to January 1st, 2016 (6-day trip). We stayed at Cafe Cultura pousada and Pousada Oasis guesthouses. We had our meals at Uxua, Mangue Sereno, Silvinha and Jardim Sushi. Enjoyed fabulous parties at Coco Brasil and Bar da Praia. Gente Incrivel is the best NYE party in Caraiva. We recommend Chico as a taxi driver: +55 73 99984-8070. We flew to Porto Seguro with Azul and flew back to Sao Paulo with Gol.
In the bag: Flip flops and no other shoes (seriously); Swimwear; Beach clothes; Hat; Sunscreen (a lot), Mosquito repellent; Cash (no ATMs and you barely can use your credit card).