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Brazil, Part 9: Finding paradise in Picinguaba

Brazil6 min read

October 20 - 23, 2010

With sanDRina feeling super fresh after all the maintenance work in São Paulo, I headed down to the coast and worked my way up to Rio. I contacted Talia through CouchSurfing in the small fishing village of Picinguaba, about halfway to Rio and close to Paraty and spent a few idyllic days in this tranquil slice of paradise.

Taking the highways down from the plateau that São Paulo sits on. Southern Brazil is quite hilly and it makes the highway riding fun.

I headed down to the coast thru Mogi das Cruzes, avoiding the big port city of Santos.

The coast of southeastern Brazil is flanked by the Serra do Mar (mountains by the sea) and are covered by what's left of the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Rainforest). Taking a break with a view of these waterfalls.

Riding the beautiful coastal highway of BR-101, the Translitorânea, which traverses almost the entire coast of Brazil covering about 4,600 kms (2,875 mi). As I saw in the northern states, it's not exciting everywhere, but this stretch from Santos to Rio is supposed to be the best riding. This is near the city of São Sebastião with views of two islands: As Ilhas and Ilha das Couves.

Ahh, to smell the ocean breeze again. A welcome change from the concrete of the past few weeks.

The Serra do Mar is protected via numerous state parks as Brazil's great economic progress is not treading so lightly on its precious natural resources. They've tried to encourage the rainforest to grow once more in places where deforestation has taken place, but it's not so easy with delicate systems like rainforests. The road was constantly changing elevation, twisting up a hill and dropping down... reveal lots of small seaside communities hidden in the numerous coves along the littoral.

A panoramic view of one of many bays along the route.
Click here to see the high resolution version.

Now, that's what you call a coastal highway. The waves almost crashing right onto the pavement.

The twisties were sublime. Traffic wasn't so intense and I captured lots of good video.

North of Ubatuba, taking in the view of the peninsula across the bay that the fishing village of Picinguaba lies on.

I turned off the highway down a small single lane road snaking down to the water and arrived in the idyllic fishing hamlet of Picinguaba.

I contacted Talia through CouchSurfing but she was busy hosting some cyclists from Uruguay and passed me on to her friend here, Carol, who's from Quebec and is spending a few months cycling around Brazil. She discovered Picinguaba a few weeks back and decided to stay here for a while. She's preparing a seafood soup here for dinner.

Carol and Talia having some vegetable fried rice that I prepared for lunch the next day.

The Uruguayan cyclists preparing to leave. They were traveling for a few months north up Brazil. His trailer is supported by one wheel in the back and thus leans to the ground when it's stopped. He convinced us he wasn't overloaded (but I'm one to talk).

Views of Picinguaba. The name refers to the indigenous people that used to live along the coast before the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century.

Talia chatting with one of the locals as we walked around the community. The Mata Atlântica is lush here and the humidity shows on the walls of the houses.

The steps leading up to Carol's house. The village is quite hilly as the Serra do Mar spills onto the beach.

A small wooden bridge leading to a residence.

The road ends at the beach and besides this little section where most of the cars were parked, it's a walking community as everything is nearby.

The end of the road into the village as the beach expands ahead.

A phone booth that wasn't used much as most people come here to get away from it all.

I spent my afternoons at this little bar with absorbing views of the bay, freeing up my mind to write some thoughts down in my journal.

Views from the bar of Pousada Picinguaba, an exclusive boutique hotel and the biggest business in this cove. Talia moved here from São Paulo to work at the pousada, along with most of the other young adults here.

A panoramic view of the bay at Picinguaba, shot with Carol's camera after I showed her how to use the stitch-assist feature. It's dotted with the odd sailboat or two and fishing boats of the Caiçara people, the traditional inhabitants of the southeastern coast who are a mix of people from indigenous tribes, Portuguese settlers and African slaves. Fishing as the primary activity has a deep sense of heritage among them and is still strong in this community.
Click here to see the high resolution version.

A sailboat framed by the thatched roof of a beach bar.

That afternoon, I went for a walk with Carol thru the surrounding hills.

Getting a good view of a low tide beach.

Looking deep into the Mata Atlântica covered over in overcast clouds.

Driftwood along the beach.

The tranquil waters lapping in a cove.

The serenity of the place hit a positive nerve within. The calm waters surrounded by green-carpeted hills running into the ocean and the overcast weather hit a certain harmonious tone that left a lasting impression.

Going for a walk around the village after dinner.

And running into these police officers who were on a fishing trip in this dune buggy.

The next morning, breakfast at Talia's place of oatmeal, homemade yogurt and other goodies. Talia bubbles with positive energy and attracts all the children into her open home.

Makes for a nice family portrait, eh?

But the little one thought I looked better with these nice goldilocks. What do you say, baldy or blondy?

Matheus bringing Talia some fresh fish from this morning's catch.

Matheus' dog faithfully follows him all around the village and found a way to jump onto this wall from the neighboring house to see what his master was up to.

After breakfast, we hung out at the beach and Carol was probing more about how this community was surviving with the young adults wanting to run off to the big cities.

Birds resting on the rocks by the waters in Picinguaba Bay.

Vaigenio, a close friend of Talia's, did some yoga as he relished the surroundings of his paradisaical beach community.

I could get used to this place and felt very comfortable in my few days here and vowed to return on my way south after Rio.

Around lunch time, another friend stopped by to clean and prep the fish, which I think was some snapper.

He cut some fillets and others for sashimi (raw fish), which they enjoy quite a bit here, but it requires skill to know exactly how to slice the fish for sashimi. A wrong cut and it spoils the taste.

Enjoying fresh sashimi (related to sushi but served without rice), minutes after it was cut from the fish and hours after it was caught from the sea. Talk about fresh. A bit of soy sauce and it was heavenly (I don't do wasabi, not my kind of spice).

The neighbors were cutting up some fresh sugarcane stalks (the youngins learning the ways)...

...and handed over a jug of fresh caldo de cana (sugarcane juice). This is where brown sugar comes from and of course white sugar, after they've bleached all the natural color from it. Interestingly, crystallizing sugar from sugarcane was discovered in India and traveled with Columbus and the Portuguese to the new world with Brazil now being the largest producer of sugar in the world. And in return, the Portuguese brought the red chillies of South America to India, greatly enhancing the variety of spicy food on the subcontinent (before that, we only had black pepper as our strongest spice).

Some of the fish from earlier was baked with some veggies. Served over a bowl of rice. My palate was enjoying all the fresh food.

That evening, with Talia and Vaigenio, I went into town (nearby Ubatuba) in an hour long bus route that stopped at all the small beach communities along the way.

We found a band playing forró music and danced into the wee hours. Talia patiently taught me the steps and I caught on after a while. It's a dance from the northeastern part of Brazil, but has caught on around the country. Its basic steps are two steps to the left and then two to the right and repeat with all sort of variations. The beat is fast but once you get on it, it becomes quite fun. The music is produced with just three instruments: an accordion, a zabumba bass drum and a metal triangle that keeps the pace.
I had a really good time in these four days at Picinguaba and met lots of positive energies emanating from the location and the human souls. I was looking for a place like this as I knew it existed and all thanks to CouchSurfing as it has the power to draw the traveler to small, out of the way locations that would otherwise be passed up. I had to come back.

Next: Brazil, Part 10: Rio de Janeiro, the Marvelous City

Previous: Brazil, Part 8: Servicing sanDRina in Sao Paulo


Jammin thru the Global South was the 3+ year, 100,000+ km ride Jay did from the US to India via Latin America, Europe and Africa. Explore the photojournals at the Journey Posts tab.

Jammin Global Adventures is a tour company run by Jay Kannaiyan. He organizes small group, premium motorcycle adventures in Peru, Kenya, Mongolia, India and more.

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