Itacare, Bahia @ 4/23-2/27 From Rio, we headed up north for some beaches and surf. “Up north” in Brazil could mean up to 7,000km. The country is HUGE! I just wikipedia-ed it but it is the 5th in the world after – guess! Russia, Canada, China, US. Itacare – care is not read like Healthcare, its Kare. Form Rio, we took the flight to Sao Paulo then to the airport in Bajia, Ilehus then an hour bus / taxi drive from there to Itacare. After some chaos at the airport because we didn’t know how much the going rate was and tour guides, bus drivers and taxi drivers had a ruffle over who will take us – offers ranged from 240R – 150R they finally sort it out and settled on our taxi driver Fredrico. – we were just standing there confused at the chaos. (Apparently the going rate is somewhere 120 – 130 R) * 1BRL = 0.34 US$ so this would be about 40US$ This is Fredrico, our taxi driver, which despite our lack of linguistics, we communicated through gestures and nods and 75% assumptions. We communicated our names, Fredrico, Rieko, Aco, which he was happy with the rhyming trio name, and how he is happy to be a taxi driver, what we do, etc. He took us to a view point for some pictures where he said he wants to dance and photo bombed our pictures. (aco- do you have them?) And here is Itacare, Brazil’s beach town. We expected a small surf town, and it did at first glance, but it apparently is a popular vacation designation for the Brazilians and gets pretty packed and busy doing the summer times in Dec. – Mar. From the looks of it, you don’t see any big hotels, resorts but actually there are over 200 hotels and posadas (hostels) and multiple restaurants and bars and tourist attractions. In April, it was low season, but it still looked pretty lively to me. The hostel we chose was Buddy’s Pousada and it was close to the beach, had surf boards and was sufficient for 95R / night for 2 ppl. No air conditioner which worried me at first, but we had a fan that sounds like a thunderstorm or a helicopter that was about to break, but surprisingly, you just get used to it after a while. In this hostel was the only Japanese person in town, which was the funny coincidence. UJ lives and works there and because our friend and guide for the next 4 days. What a coincidence! UJ was an unbelievably interesting and loveable character. Staying in Brazil now for 9 years, he has followed his heart through traveling the world for inspiration for filming, then to kick boxing then to capoera then now to surfing, which is why he is based in Itacare now for the past 3 years. His take on Japan, Brazil, people, culture and life was so very interesting and different to what I know and made our stay so much more valuable and educational. Thanks UJ. Highlights of Itacare: 1. Beaches and Surf – Of course we can’t go without touching this. We rented surfboards for the time here – 35R/ day. (about 12US$) Here’s me pretending to be a surfer chick. There are more than 10 beaches around Itacare. We went to Engenhoca – which is about a 20 min car/bus ride, then a 10 min walk from there. Apparently there was a construction for a massive 5 start hotel in the works, until they abandoned it half way through, so you see the building bases all around. Too bad. Walking through the jungle The jungle and the abandoned construction of a hotel. And the beach! Prainaha – an hour walk through through the jungle to the what they say is the most beautiful beach in Brazil. And yes, it was. Through the jungle – don’t go there after the rain! Can get very slippery! And it opens up to the beach. Breathtaking view! And to the beach! Yes, that’s a horse, just because. The beaches closer to the town is Ribeira, Concha, Resende and Triririca – apparently this is best surf and where there are surf competitions but we were warned to not go there because it is for locals and can sometimes land you in trouble. The beaches were hands down, gorgeous and so very Brazil. Unfortunately I can’t comment on the surf due to my lack of knowledge but apparently it is good and a place surfers want to come and stay for a while. 2. Mocceca – yes I wrote about it before in Rio and I’ll write about it again because it just deserves to be noted again. It is originally a Bajia region dish and we were recommended to each the peixe (fish) one here and boy was that a good call. It is sooooooooo amazingly delicious. It has the complex flavours you can’t really put your finger to, with a beautiful blend of fish, coconut milk, denied (Palm) oil and vegetables yet is very home-y and reminds you of your grandma’s cooking if I had a Brazilian grandma. Of course, eat that with rice and beans and veggies and so it is indeed a balanced meal as well. We ended up going there again the next day. That’s how good it was. 3. Fun Things – Itacare was just all about chilling out and relaxing. We spent the majority of the time just hanging out with UJ, taking walks, eating, going out to party at the one local hang out. Majority of the time, we spent like this. We tried Japanese food for the first time – well we wanted to try Brazilian Japanese food – was interested to know how they would interpret our food. And they exceed our expectation. Here is sushi. And here is yakisoba. Both, I’m sorry to say was pretty awful and exceeded my expectations. The sushi rice was soggy and was flavoured with sugar and some kind of vinegar – not wrong, but the consistency was so off, and the texture was like a risotto, I had to peel off just the fish for the 2nd try. They also had of course sweet sauce, not soy sauce around the place, so I’m pretty sure that is a completely different flavour palate from Japan. Its more like a Dessuer Sushi rice pudding, if I had to explain it. The yakisoba – well, this is a easy stir fry noodle dish in Japan which comes with a sauce already so no need for improvization really, but boy did they go crazy and improvise the shit out of it. For 30R (about 10$) the stir fry was some sweet sauce with is probably a mix of eel sauce and soy and some kind of fish sauce or teriyaki sauce? The vegetables and meat in there were super overwhelming against the noodles, in fact we couldn’t really find the noodles because it was all broken. The soggy sweet dish was, for a lack of a better word, awful, from a Japanese point of view, but when the waitress came to ask if it was “e Bom – (is it good)?” of course my polite Japanese self said smilingly – “Bom!” so now I’ve given them an official Japanese stamp of approval that it is good even in Japanese standard. Well what was I supposed to do?! Anyway, what’s bad for me doesn’t mean its bad for others, so oh well. But glad to have that experience and I hope to try more Brazilian Japanese food here. Selvagem (translation: WILD) – Some passionate Brazilian sweet wine Obviously I was attracted by the package and the store person gestured, drink -> Caliente (Hot) -> Fun. so I thought why not, I’ll give it a try and have a wild hot Brazilian night. It was super strong and sweet to the sugar level of a cuban coffee, but let me assure you that it did not work. I didn’t have a hot and wild Brazilian night, but instead sang along to the folk guitar and talked crap all night and fell asleep. False advertising? Apparently it is a cheap wine kids drink to get drunk. So the 4 days in Itacare is done, and though I would have loved to stay a few more days, we’re off to Salvador, the origin of Samba and Capoera full of culture and music. Thanks Itacare and UJ! Hope to come back again while on this trip!