I sometimes wonder if I did actually visit Itacaré. It’s taken the form of a warm dream that I was gutted to wake up from.
It all started on an ashtray gray bus, jumping across the bay heading north out of Rio de Janeiro where a warm dusk and sewage effluence fumes sent me to sleep. Along the way I had terrifying nightmares of being swallowed by the immensity of Brazil’s interior but eventually ended up in Itacaré in the state of somewhere between asleep and awake. No, that’s a lie. It’s actually in the state of Bahia, 400km south of Salvador.
Still, it’s easy for Itacaré to feel like a dream because everyone there seems to be sharing it with you. The sleepy town is shielded from the rest of the country by a magic carpet of wild Atlantic rain forest and is populated by free spirits who have given Brazil’s booming economy the proverbial two fingered salute. Everyone looks very content in their uniform of beach sandals and board shorts and nobody seems to work more than they have to, if they work at all.
Days there would start with a morning breakfast of papaya and cake at the pousada before making the short walk along the neglected road out of town to surf warm water beach breaks and catch up on some reading on the sands. Afternoons were spent poking around the rainforest or checking out local artisans honing their craft in make-shift studios. Come dusk, everyone would drop tools, novels or board wax and make for one of the rocky headlands to share the sunset and the quiet.
Now, I’ve often been a beach sunset cynic but Itacaré won me over. On this occasion, looking out over the mouth of the Rio de Contas, I felt like I was sharing it with people who were there for the long haul. Not just ticking off some box or getting zoned out on weed. There was no banging of a djembe or Redemption Song. Just the setting sun. Oh, and some guy doing a yoga pose on his stand up paddle board!