Praia do Farol da Barra and Praia do Porto da Barra aren’t the kind of beach where you can take a relaxing stroll, so I decided to cross the Todos os Santos Bay for longer, quieter and cleaner stretches of sand.
There are tons of islands close to Salvador and tons of day trips too. If you look like a tourist—and unfortunately for me, I do look like… an Argentinian tourist—you can be sure that several times a day, someone will walk up to you with a laminated map in hand to sell you “paseos de barco,” i.e. boat trips around the bay.
Since being stuck on a boat (or on a bus) for a day-long tour is my idea of hell, I decided to pick one island and explore it alone. I stopped by the tourist info at the Elevator Lacerda and I discovered that: 1) there are indeed many islands to choose from 2) most of them are easy to get to by Brazilian standards and hard to get to by my standards.
“This one is pretty close, only 2.5 hours by boat!”
Yeah… no. A five-hours return trip, assuming everything goes as planned and it never does in Brazil.
“What’s the closest island?”
“How long does it take to get there?”
“About 45 minutes… or more in rough sea.”
Doable. I confirmed there was a ferry boat leaving from Cidade Baixa every hour or so and that I wouldn’t get killed if I came back after sunset (Cidade Baixa has a very bad rep). Yes, and probably not. Deal, then.
The next day, I woke up early and walked to Praça Tomé de Souza, then I took the Elevador Lacerda to get to Cidade Baixa and found the ferry terminal behind the Mercado Modelo.
A queue had formed outside the ticket office. Shit. Would I have to wait for the next boat? I paid for my ticket (7 reais, $1.70) and realized that what Brazilians call a “ferry boat” is what I call a “tub” and the sign that said “Capacidade para 200 pessoas” is merely a suggestion. We all climbed aboard, including a dog and travellers with luggage and the boat still waited for a few minutes, as if it wasn’t packed enough already.
Forty minutes later, the boat docked in Vera Cruz, one of the two municipalities on Ilha de Itaparica. I turned down offers of taxi rides and “paseos de barco” and started to explore. To the south, a beach even smaller than in Barra. To my left, a road going to… ah, nowhere.
Thirty minutes later, I realized I was kind of stuck in Vera Cruz and that I should somehow get to the town of Itaparica, to the north, where Google Maps had promised beaches. I ended up taking a taxi and it was worth it—the ten-kilometre walk under the sun and on a busy cross-island road would have been complete suicide.
“I can drop you off here,” the driver suggested. “The Fortaleza de São Lourençiso right here and the beach is behind.”
Perfect. But first, I needed water, or better, coffee. I started walking around in the town of Itaparica. Mercado? Closed. Restaurants, stores? Closed. Main square? Deserted. I found a couple of bars but they only sold beer. Damn it.
Strange place. Never seen a town so quiet.
Never mind, there should be vendors or a mini-market close to the beach.
And by the way, where the fuck was the beach?
There was a low seawall, there were the ocean and that was it. Missing from the picture? Sand.
I asked around—I mean, I asked the three people I saw—and they all pointed to the waterfront. Yeah, got it, Atlantic Ocean right here. But is it a praia if there’s no sand? Come on! This is a… a swimming pool!
I walked around a lot more looking for signs of life on Itaparica—I gave up.
I walked around a lot more looking for the beaches I had seen on Google Maps—I gave up as well after a while.
I tried to find a bus back to Vera Cruz—it didn’t stop at the bus stop, so eventually I just shared a ride with a few strangers.
In the evening, I took the boat back to Salvador.
And sitting on another jam-packed boat I realized I had an awesome day.
I started laughing.
Absolutely not the day trip I was expecting, definitely not what I was looking for but the boat trips from and to Salvador were great and Itaparica is a lovely, relaxing place. Just… a bit too quiet. And a beach would have been nice.
Later that night I checked Google Maps again—it definitely shows pictures of several beaches, most of them with user reviews (!). The best explanation I found is that I was here at high tide and well, there’s no sand at high tide.
That, or I’m crazy.