How to move from Salvador de Bahia to Itacarè by public transport passing through the Atlantic Forest
Itacarè is a small municipality in the micro-region of Ilhéus-Itabuna, they call it “Paraíso Baiano” for its golden sandy beaches, the waves that attract surfers from all over the world all year round, unspoiled nature to be discovered. It is the ideal destination for spending a nice beach holiday in Brazil. An idyllic destination that can only be reached from Salvador de Bahia in two ways: by plane that lands at Ilhéus de Bahia airport in one hour of flight and takes you to your destination in another hour by car by public transport, ferry and bus, which in a six-hour journey will take you to discover the nature of the Atlantic Forest in the heart of the state of Bahia.
This is the story of a journey within a journey and of how it is possible to move around Brazil by public transport.
After spending a few days discovering Salvador de Bahia and its historic center, the Pelourinho, I said goodbye to the metropolis to move towards the real destination of my journey: Itacarè. I wanted to spend a few days by the sea, but not in the frenzy of Salvador de Bahia, but in a smaller and more authentic context. Itacarè was perfect: full of beautiful beaches, with a historic center to easily walk around, developed in tourism enough to welcome those who do not speak Portuguese very well.
I left Salvador de Bahia in the morning, going with an Uber to the port, the Tourist Terminal Náutico da Bahia. A long line of people waited to reserve a seat on the ferries that sail across the bay every day to the nearby coasts. There were those who were on foot and those by car or motorbike. A variegated humanity and, like me, waiting to leave for a new destination. Mine was the Bom Despacho rodoviary terminal in the municipality of Itaparica.
On the boat you could sit anywhere, in the indoor seats, or on the benches outside, I chose the latter to enjoy the sun, the saltiness and the panorama of the skyline of Salvador de Bahia that slowly shrunk to give way to the vastness of the ocean.
An hour of travel was spent in a pleasant way observing the habits of passengers, who bought local sweets based on peanuts and honey, savory snacks, popcorn, ice cream, lottery tickets and admiring the view.
The coasts of Bom Despacho and its port surrounded by brick and metal houses slowly appeared on the horizon. On the beaches people sunbathed, while the children bathed, nearby other ferries loaded and unloaded goods and passengers, and then resumed their journey to Salvador de Bahia. My path, however, was only at the beginning.
I got off the boat and immediately found myself in the parking lot of the rodoviário terminal Bom Despacho, from which buses departed for the hinterland and the villages on the coast.
To get a ticket, they asked for my passport as the seats are nominative. In addition to the ticket, they also gave me labels to give to the bus staff who marked the luggage according to the destination of arrival.
Bus services are often operated by private companies and sold in three classes: Regular, Executive and First-Class (Leito, in Portuguese). Regular may or may not have air conditioning. For long distances or overnight trips, the Executive and First Class offer more space. All trips of more than four hours are covered by ensuite buses that stop for food / toilets at least once every four hours of travel. Buses in Brazil tend to leave on time, so you have to arrive at the terminal at least half an hour before departure time, while the stations are often found in the outlying areas of the countries, so if you travel at night be prepared to take a taxi and stay in the country safe.
The bus trip lasted five hours but it was worth it because I admired villages, forests, immense rivers.
An extraordinary nature: that of the Atlantic Forest.
THE ATLANTIC FOREST
The forests of the interior of the State of Bahia cover an area of 230,000 km², extended through portions of the states of Bahia, Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Sergipe. They are located beyond the coastal forest of Bahia, which extends from the coast for about 150 km inland. They are bordered to the north, at the point where they go closest to the coast, by the course of the São Francisco river, while to the west they border the arid scrublands of the caatinga. Further south, the forests penetrate further inland, up to the course of the Paraíba do Sul, Rio Preto and Rio Grande rivers, which to the south-west delimit the border with the Atlantic forest of Alto Paraná-Paranaíba.
The road was winding, it followed the ups and downs of the hills, cut through forests, passed green meadows where placid cows grazed, re-entered the thick vegetation, crossed bridges over immense rivers and cut through swampy areas where mangroves grew. The route was spectacular, but that line of asphalt I was traveling on had destroyed entire ecosystems. In fact, looking for information, I discovered that the forests of the interior of Bahia are one of the ecoregions of the Atlantic Forest that have been most modified by human activities. Most of the remaining patches of forest have an area of less than 10 km², and even these areas are still threatened by anthropogenic factors, such as fires, illegal deforestation and uncontrolled hunting. Less than 2% of the eco-region enjoys any level of protection. The largest remaining stretch of forest is the one protected within the Rio Doce state park, covering 359 km². I was admired and at the same time disturbed to see how the forests suddenly gave way to pastures or to the advance of concrete in the expanding countries.
I didn’t know the Atlantic Forest area and its problems until I saw it, until I crossed it on board that bus. The trip helped me to become aware of how beautiful and fragile our planet is.
“If you think that climate change is something distant that will never touch us,
think of the plastic you saw or walked on the beach,
to the advance of concrete in our green suburbs,
think not only of the Amazon, the green lung of the Earth, but also of the other forests and woods near home.
Think about how our every action can affect these environments.
Think about it because the problem is not far away, it is around us and we ourselves create it ”.Sara
As I became aware of this, the sun set the horizon on fire and the night fell over the forests of Bahia making them dark, mysterious, scary. The bus stopped from town to town, while darkness enveloped everything. After five hours of travel, while fatigue was taking over emotion, the beam of light from the bus headlights lit up a sign: Terminal rodoviario de Itacarè. I had finally arrived at my destination.