A good analogy for the small island of Boipeba can be found in one of my favorite movies of all time: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. At the end of the movie (spoiler alert!) Indy has to face three challenges before he finds the Holy Grail. If you've read our recent posts, you'll see we faced three challenges as well - the catamaran, the speedboat, and a salty sea captain. Just like Indy, we surmounted those challenges (minus needing to deal with an old guy in chain mail) and arrived at our Holy Grail of Brazil - Boipeba.
Boipeba is a tiny beach island just south of Morro do Sao Paolo. It has a distinctly different vibe from the beach bars and parties on Morro while having an abundance of one thing - tranquility. There are no cars, only a few cobblestone roads, three main villages, and about 5000 residents. So even though you could throw a baseball from the shore of Boipeba to the shore of Morro, it is a completely different world. This world contains endless miles of COMPLETELY empty beaches, tons of birds and fish, mangrove forests, and the best hotel Carrie and I have stayed at, Pousada Santa Clara. More on the pousada in a moment.
When Carrie and I touched down on Boipeba we didn't really know what to expect. We asked ourselves "can we really spend 4 days lounging around on the beach? We're not really beach people". Well, the answer to that question is an emphatic YES. We spent the 4 days walking the beach looking for shells and rocks, swimming in the gentle surf, taking a canoe ride through the mangrove, swinging in hammocks, and generally just slowing down and enjoying the moment. The beaches on Boipeba really are unlike anything Carrie and I have seen thus far. The shallow coastline and mellow surf allow you to wade out from the shore for hundreds of feet, where you can see sea snakes, find sand dollars, or just enjoy sinking into the ocean floor. There are little shacks along the water where we picked up fresh pineapple juice, tasted pan-seared fish that was caught that same day, or just wander aimlessly through forests full of palm trees. We also met a four-legged friend we nicknamed Tropical Snoopy due to his white coat and black ears. He followed us from a village and walked right in between both of us for miles. He also forded a small river with us so he could continue to hang out (now that is dedication). T-Snoop was probably a stray dog, one of many that run around the beach looking for companionship (food). But despite the fact that we wanted to take him home, these dogs seemingly have a pretty great and relaxing tropical life.
Although we had many great experiences like this on Boipeba, the highlight of our time was Pousada Santa Clara. The pousada was opened in 2001 by an expat from NYC named Charles. He spent the previous 20 years in Salvador, but when he came to Boipeba, he fell in love with the island and decided to buy an old, run-down pousada and turn this into his business with his brother, Mark, a chef. What he and Mark created is truly superb... a small jungle and beach oasis. The grounds are filled with huge palm fronds, bright flowers, wooden walkways, fountains, and hand-crafted tile mosaics. Each of the individual buildings on the grounds contains only one or two rooms – ours felt kind of like a treehouse with a small sitting area on the first floor and a spiral staircase that leads to the lofted bedroom. It's a great cross between a beach hideaway and a tropical village. The pousada also has one of the top-ranked restaurants on the island where Mark creates delicious Brazilian-inspired dishes with a twist of other cultural styles. The restaurant has their own organic garden where they grow most of the vegetables used at the restaurant, so the salads and vegetable-inspired dishes couldn't be fresher. We ate there three nights in a row, and would have eaten there on the fourth night, if that night wasn't their only night off during the week.
But beyond the beautiful grounds and great food, the best part of our time there were the people. Owner Charles grew up in Queens (we read in advance), so even before we arrived, we knew that we'd have something in common. Little did we know that Charles' mom Claire was visiting for her annual 6 week stay. Claire still lives in Queens so we had plenty to chat about right from the start. Claire and Charles welcomed us so warmly, and instantly it felt like the right place for us to be. Charles and Carrie became fast friends over their love of word games and white wine, with Charles introducing Carrie to an iOS game called Word Gobble and Carrie introducing Charles to one of our favorites, Scramble.
Carrie and I spent the next two nights enjoying great conversation with Claire over Mark's delicious dinners and his famous homemade ice cream (we tried 6 different flavors!). Claire (who is a remarkable woman) regaled us with her stories about her family's history, her emigration from Egypt when she was a girl, and some funny stories about Charles' childhood. It may sound silly because we really did just meet these wonderful humans days before, but it almost felt like we were sitting at the dinner table with family, which was such a welcome change from normal restaurant dinners Carrie and I have been having on the trip.
The last night we spent on Boipeba was perhaps our favorite night in all of our time in Brazil. Charles, Claire, and Matias (the restaurant's host extraordinaire!), invited us out to dinner with them at a local creperie, since it's their “night off” and the restaurant is closed. Going out to dinner with this group was really special for us. We laughed a bunch, traded recipes, talked about the history of Boipeba, and simply had a wonderful dinner with friends. Saying goodbye to the pousada and our new friends was sad, since we knew we won't see them for a long time, but Carrie and I have tentative plans to catch up with Claire when we're all back in NYC in a few months. And we're already scheming about when we can make it back to the pousada for another visit. Although we wanted to stay there for a few more days (or weeks....or months) we knew we couldn't since the trip must go on. But we'll be sure to keep in touch through our word games!