Dirk is a media man. His wife Hetty favors tropical destinations. They travel the world and Dirk shoots pictures and videos. This year they chose Bahia, Brazil as their destination. The main goals were the ancient Dutch fort Frederik Hendrik (Recife), Chapadas Diamantinas, Cacao plantations in Taboquinhas and Salvador on the way back. They stayed a week at Fazenda São Jorge. Here is their story.
Our journey to rural Taboquinhas.
We had booked a one-week stay at Fazenda (farm) Sao Jorge, partner farm of Fazenda Taboquinhas. As seasoned travelers are two nights in the same accommodation the maximum for us, but we had no problem with a longer stay at this location.
First of all, it is an experience to get there. With a navigation system, it doesn’t seem to be a problem, but the last 3 kilometers of unpaved jungle road was a complete green spot, so for the navigation system, the roads on the other side of the river did simply not exist. The village of Taboquinhas is known, but the hand-powered ferry is hidden behind houses and the path (rather an abyss) towards it seems totally unsuitable for a normal passenger car.
Luckily we had an appointment with the always friendly and cheerful Osvaldo, who lives directly across the river and has a view of everything that crosses over.
About the location.
Our holiday home is located in the middle of the former Atlantic rainforest on a fenced open area. Most of the forest is now cultivated with many cocoa and clove trees. A large part around the house has high grass (with grazing donkey). Around it is a “mix” of vegetable garden, here and there coconut palms and a beautiful large cashew (nut) tree. Our hostess Luzi had hung a bunch of bananas in it that drew the attention of many different and beautifully colored tropical birds that came to visit the delicacy. Many species of hummingbirds also regularly came to inspect the flowers in the garden for honey. In the evening bats and a free jungle concert of crickets and cicadas.
The welcome and care with breakfast and sometimes dinner during our entire stay was out of the art. The vegetable garden turned out not only to produce vegetables and (tropical) fruit, but also an inexhaustible mixture of various herbs, tea leaves, fragrances, and flavors. In addition, for example, cassava root (the cake was baked from it, among other things). Every day, to our surprise, Luzi used something out of it that was used in our meals and drinks. You don’t experience that in an ordinary restaurant. To our bedroom with terrace lacked nothing as well as all the other facilities, just what is needed, no more and no less. This can’t be said about many other places where we stayed in Brazil, one of them was downright nasty, the food was bad and that for a much higher price.
In addition to being a hostess, Luzi also guided us to the two hidden waterfalls to swim in the heat of the day and in the meantime she showed us how things are going on the plantations. With a long crocheted stick a coconut was expertly cut from the top of the palm and with the big knife (machete) a small part of the head was chopped off, then a natural straw in it and fine to drink. A few whole cocoa fruits and bananas were also harvested, plus some lemongrass, put in the mixer and a nice and healthy tropical drink served on the terrace table, ready to enjoy. A pineapple, still attached to the plant, was plucked off and immediately the green spout was planted back in the ground for new fruit in the following year. This home supermarket also delivered fresh eggs from the chicken coop in the back of the large garden, hidden among the greenery.
We are curious people and at the first light (around 5 a.m.) we went exploring (no problem for us, because around 9 p.m. we usually went to sleep). Early at the day nature is covered with a light mist but the sun quickly pokes through it. The early time is ideal for beautiful long walks, due to the coolness with 24 degrees. There are excellent possibilities to wander because the local farmers and plantation owners made a jumble of paths to their scattered agricultural plots in this hilly landscape. These paths were frequently used on feet, on horseback and with a moped.
Without a map, however, it was difficult to find a circular walk yourself, because you cannot just take a shortcut without getting lost or by the simple fact that the forest was impenetrable. Many palm leaves have razor-sharp spines and sometimes it is too steep, or a river gorge blocked the passage. But the paths were endless, so we could go in a different direction every day.
We booked the grand ‘Jungle Hike’, a walk with Osvaldo and his partner to guide us deeper into the forest with small pieces of untouched rainforest on difficult terrain without a footpath. There, huge bromeliads (often with a frog in it) grew on the branches of the forest-giants. Unfortunately, there were few mammals to see but small caves do betray the presence of the armadillo however, we have not seen them. Watch the 2 minutes video excerpt of the jungle hike.
A jungle hike with a guide is highly recommended because you don’t have to worry that you will not find your way back. Their contact with the local population is much closer and more intensive. If you don’t speak Portuguese, communicating becomes difficult, and asking if you can take a look at the spreaded farms in the forest, is simply not as easy as with Osvaldo. He and his partner apparently knew everyone and were able to tell everything about the forest. One farmer was busy harvesting or drying cocoa beans, the other picking cloves. Others moved their Indian cows or working with palm oil seeds that were transported in large baskets on either side of a donkey. Yes, we fully witnessed the tropical rural life.
Hard work was seen at two locations with cassava in a kind of small factory. One of the little buildings was made of stone and the other made of a wooden wickerwork wall construction filled with clay. Processing cassava to flour is a labor-intensive thing: harvesting, grating, pressing and drying. The simplest workplace used a wood-fired oven that heated a big pan. Regularly the shredded cassava must be thoroughly stirred so that it does not burn. The latter did it by hand and the first had a motorized shovel mill. Very nice to see that with an agricultural product that we actually do not know in Europe. My video excerpts in this article show clearly how it works. Below a bit of rural education.
During the hike, Luzi, our hostess, filled her (shopping) bag with everything that nature had to offer a human being, including flowering plants and fallen bromeliads for her garden. I myself continuously filmed and photographed and Luzi occasionally gave something to taste. A handful of nuts (I thought) I casually put in my mouth, but the fruits still had to be peeled (haha). Rare boys those Dutch, they hardly know anything about the rainforest. But what a Dutchman knows very well is that you should not rely on overhanging grass at the edge of the water, our guide fell into the water one meter lower when he tried to grab a cane and thought he was stepping on a solid ground surface. Everyone could laugh heartily about it.
In short, a successful work and holiday week with lots of interesting facts, adventure, relaxation, and the perfect holiday feeling in a quiet, cozy and fully equipped ambiance with good care and service. We recommend it to anyone who wants to experience the typical plantation feeling in Bahia, Brazil.
Hetty and Dirk M. de Boer