February 1st, 2011

Morro Sao Paulo, Bahia

Tough to leave Salvador after the breakfast at the Golden Tulip (www.goldentulip.com). It was great – pão de quejo, eggs, all kinds of fruits and breads, juice, great Brazilian coffee and on and on. Terrific. But leave we did…

Morro de Sao Paulo is a village on the north most point of the Ilha de Tinharé reachable by ferry for R$75 and two hours of a pretty rough, open water ride. Definitely not for the faint of heart or queasy travelers! The weather was pleasant though and we survived.

Our first experience of the island was a bit of exercise due to the steep slope from the dock area to the island proper. All that gym time pays off sometimes.

Upon arrival we were reminded that this is an island that does not allow cars and has imaginatively named its beaches as Primeira Praia (1st beach), Segunda Praia (2nd beach) and so on. Our pousada was on 4th beach so we were a bit curious about the luggage handling (we never travel light). Not to worry – wheelbarrows and strong young men were at the ready and ran up and down dirt roads to get us to the transit point at Segunda Praia where a tractor pulling a lorry was ready to haul us the rest of the way. There had been rain for the past few days so the dirt roads were enhanced by the many deep puddles that did nothing to deter the wheelbarrows or tractor! Quite an adventure. And yes, we did overpack……

Our long morning of travel brought us to heaven in the form of the Catavento Pousada (www.cataventopraiahotel.com.br). The Catavento is located right on the beach at Quarta Praia and has pleasant rooms, balconies with hammocks, no outside sounds and a million stars at night. We highly recommend this place to anyone interested in the trek and would return in a heartbeat ourselves. Definitely recommend the upstairs rooms however as privacy is pretty limited on the first floor.

We spent 3 days and our time consisted of wandering to town to eat, to shop or just for a beer. While the restaurant and bar at the hotel were quite pleasant for breakfast or cocktails the offerings were otherwise rather limited. We did get “dressed up” one night and took the tractor lorry into town but otherwise enjoyed the 30-45 minute walk back and forth enjoying the change in tides and the sport action on the beach.

We also enjoyed watching the brave (crazy?) people taking the zip line from point into the ocean on Primeira Praia (1st beach)

Dining in town turned out to be a real find. We had read about the Ponto de Encontro restaurant as a locale with a reasonable selection of vegetarian meals and were delighted to find it still open and living up to the reviews. It was nothing short of excellent and we dined there two of our three nights. Main courses were R$13 each and the vegetarian stroganoff was particularly good. Live music from a local trio with electric bass, guitar and percussion added to the experience.

We had heard that music was a great part of the Salvador experience but frankly preferred the music in Morro.
We also enjoyed the pizza at Bianco e Nero, a cool “downtown” pizza place with brick ovens and tomato sauce on the pizza. Tomato sauce is not common on Brazilian pizzas so it was a pleasant change from the norm. Also, since we were almost caught in a downpour as we were making our decision on a restaurant, we were fortunate to find an open air restaurant with a roof! This is the tropics and the weather does change rapidly.

We enjoyed the street beverage vendors in town and their product as well. They sell rum drinks with fruit mixtures - our favorite being the mix of morango (strawberry), maracuja and acerelo.

Beer in large bottles with plastic, foam or other insulating containers is also a very civilized Brazilian custom that ensures the beverage will remain as cold as possible to the last drop. No ice to melt and drip on your table and clothes – just an personalized insulating sleeve.

However, after many of these pleasant beverages it is possible that the innocent, and bebedo (drunk) visitor might not be able to make out the appropriate restroom signage in a foreign language. Morro’s answer was the universal pictures shown here.

Wandering the beach area was relaxing but pretty interesting as well. The beach vendors included the standard beer sellers of course, but how often do you see a horse drawn popcorn truck?

Though the popcorn truck did look suspiciously like the taxi service…….

Nature has gifted Morro with great sand art as the shallow waves slowly leave the shore…

Lots of craggy shoreline with great tidepools but limited critter life

There were however other life forms – hey, this is Brazil!

Including yours truly…..

A note for runners – the sand surface is so firm that you can run a few miles on this beach as a start to each day. So we actually got in some good exercise in the midst of our indulgent relaxation.

And sadly, as with all good vacations, our time in Morro Sao Paulo came to an end and we did the reverse ferry trip back to Salvador and on home. Sigh…..