The driver pulled the bus round into the
little bus station, the passengers stirred, I heard the
whoosh of air as the doors opened and then the heat hit me.
My boots met the ground; the dust rose and curled around my
feet. Slowly my eyes lifted over the cycle park across the
road, I smiled as I read the name of the small hotel -‘Hotel Progresso’. Well, this time I could give
it a miss but maybe another time and that could be another
adventure. The locals watching this ‘gringo’, (in
Brazil, this means any foreigner) step off, struggle on with
his Karrimor back pack, then pick up the camera bag; the
sweat breaking out as he moved like a laden donkey out from
the bus station into the sun.
The whole point of being an independent traveller is to go to
places that aren’t so much visited by other tourists
and this can be a small town rather than an exotic beach or
famous mountain range. A place you can move and talk among
the locals, who are not yet bored stiff with tourists and
find you an interesting stranger with knowledge of what they
call, the old world.
Alegre, a small town called Happy, was
once a booming coffee town but now struggling to survive
after the price of coffee collapsed worldwide. I was here to
spend Christmas before moving on to the coast for New Year. I
was trying some thing different, instead of travelling
through the usual tourist States of Brazil; I thought it be a
good idea to visit a State much overlooked by overseas
visitors, though not by Brazilians.
Espirito Santo sandwiched between lovely Rio de Janeiro in
the south and exotic Bahia in the north is often missed out
in a rush to get from one to the other. Our start point, Rio
and from there we could pick up a local 45 minute flight to
Vitoria, the State Capital, or maybe, catch a bus, drop in to
Buzios the St Tropez of South America for a hedonistic week
end on the way but I’d been there, written the article,
bought the T shirt and I’m still recovering from all
the excesses. – So, instead we caught an overnight bus,
a sleeper, to Alegre, on the border of ‘Parque Nacional
do Caparao’ a national park that
includes the ‘Pico da Bandeira’. Wild walking
country that has many amazing waterfalls, my favourite is
‘Cachoeira da Fumaca’. A waterfall, surrounded by
countryside and great swimming in warm running water –
A magic place to wild camp and where I spent a never to be
forgotten Christmas day.
down Alegre’s main street I made my way through the
town squares with some of its Portuguese colonial buildings
still surviving into the 21st century it seemed to
be rather calm in fact a bit too quiet. Suddenly about 1030
pm that night, the town square exploded with song and
fireworks as the students of this University town broke lose
for their Christmas holidays and celebrated the whole night
long in the town square.
The town also hosts Brazil’s Festival of Popular Music
at Corpus Christi, Wed. through Sun. in May or June. 50,000
young people arrive from all over the continent and even
Europe, to flood the hotels, rooms and campsites of this
small town. So even small towns can open your eyes with
surprises you never expected to encounter. Sadly, on the
31st December just after I had to leave for the
coast they were holding a cycle ride that followed all the
surrounding now defunct railway lines, the engineer in charge
at the time being a Brit. – Killed in the cross fire of
Lebanese and Italian immigrants in the 19th
Vitoria has now become one of my
favourite Cities, a place of approximately one million people
and is big enough to be exiting yet small enough to be
controllable. A port built on five islands with, in my view,
the best, cleanest, city beaches that I have seen.
The football, volleyball pitches, the flowers near the cycle
track, that runs by the sea and the small beach bars make for
a great city seafront. Seafood is what should be eaten here
and Vitoria is home to the typical local dish ‘Moqueca
Capixaba’, a fish dish cooked in a dish called
‘Panela de Barro’. The panela or pan and its
making has come down the centuries by word of mouth and
I’m not saying it is good but the girl who cooked me
the first one I tasted, became a very close friend!
‘Paneleiras de Goiabeiras’ make the authentic
pots and are more than worth the effort of taking a couple
home even though they are heavy and fragile.
The Yacht Club of Espirito Santo is
famous as the best place for Marlin fishing in the world and
holds the record for the biggest Marlin caught. The club is
extremely hospitable and I had a great day out fishing but I
caught too much beer rather than fish and had to forgo the
pleasure of a game of squash on my return to the club! The
mixture of past Portuguese Colonial, modern buildings and
cycle ways makes Vitoria a great place to live as well as
visit and is one of the places that I might well settle down
later in life.
Now I think I’ll let you know about a very special
place and I just have to hope not too many of you actually go
there. This is a fishing village 85 Kilometres from Vitoria,
saved from anymore building, by law, and because it is in a
sandy bay framed by beautiful rocks at each end cannot extend
itself any further.
Ubu is a very special place, it is the perfect
in between, not completely deserted but not over saturated
with Brazilian tourists or any other visitors. One end of its
1.5 Km. curved beach is an extremely good Possada called
‘Aba Ubu’ which has a pool, volley and tennis
courts, and does a very good buffet that is value for money.
Along the front are small thatched huts serving drinks and
cooking fish straight out of the sea. Wind surfing is popular
on a beach that has a pleasant breeze but not many waves. The
other end of the beach is a peninsula with the luxury
‘Pontal de Ubu Hotel at the top.
The hotel’s rooms overlook the sea breaking over the
rocks with the large red ball of the sun rising out of the
sea at dawn. Horses and bicycles can be hired here, also
diving and surfing is possible on nearby beaches. Ubu is a
place to chill out and has one really first class inexpensive
seafood restaurant, ‘Peixada do
Garcia.’ Beach towns twenty minutes bus travel on
either side have nightlife, crowds and party as only the
Brazilians know how.
I mentioned to one of the locals that I might write an
article about Ubu and he said, “Please don’t say too
much, we don’t want this place to be inundated by
Europeans and ruined like Provence, in France.” So, should
you visit, mention you read the article in ‘Globe
Magazine’ but forget who wrote it – Because I will
return and I want to be welcomed back in this unspoilt
fishing village in Espirito Santo.