Guest Contributor | December 21st, 2007
Words by Kira Poskanzer
Photos by Jono Rotman
Brazil’s Discovery Coast lies in southern Bahia, whose coastline and beaches are some of the most beautiful in Brazil. This is where the Portuguese first landed in the 16th century, and the depth of the history of the land and sea is tangible. Everywhere we went stirred with an underlying thrum. We slept with the otherworldly sense that we might wake up consumed by vines or swallowed by waves. We spent most of our trip to Bahia in the secluded and serene Punto do Corumbau, appropriately named, since “Corumbau” means “far away from everything” in the native Pataxó language.
But, before we arrived on the Discovery Coast, we started in Salvador, the capital of Bahia. There, plant tendrils seem to grow on everything, from the cobblestones and bricks of the Old Town, to the modernist 1950’s cement and glass towers. It’s a city that stretches along several bays, and for a city of its size (more than 2.5 million), feels incredibly laid-back. We stayed at the small and simple Pousada do Pilar, with rooms that have large balconies overlooking the sea. The view is emblematic of Salvador in its entirety: a stunning ocean scene, interrupted by container ships. Somehow the natural and the urban seem to coexist and complement each other peacefully here.
We got out of the city after a few days and travelled south a few hundred kilometers to the town of Trancoso (south of the city of Porto Seguro), which became a popular hippy village in the 1970’s. It’s almost too charming to bear, with small, brightly painted shops and restaurants lining the grassy main square, the Quadrado, and the beach only a short walk down the hill. We stayed at Etnia Pousada, a carefully designed but unfussy hotel of eight bungalows dotting the lush and secluded grounds. A delicious breakfast is served in an open-air lounge by the pool, which turns haunting and beautiful at night when lit by candlelight. Etnia is run by André Zanonato and Corrado Tini, and is a relaxing reflection and counterbalance to their history of high fashion globetrotting. Trancoso exhibits a similar aesthetic, with its chic but understated boutiques and restaurants. Accordingly, Trancoso is ideal for those who live in a city and want to get away from the noise and bustle, but not away from the luxuries they’re used to. André cheerfully took us on a day trip for lunch on nearby Espelho Beach, a calm white crescent of sand set in front of palms and bluffs. There, Sylvia Calazans cooked us Bahian/Asian comfort food, with the smells of ginger and zatar filling her cozy restaurant on the beach.
You can get to Corumbau from Porto Seguro or Trancoso easily in about 15 minutes if you take a chartered plane or helicopter. Or, you can take the hours-long route and travel down bumpy dirt roads, cross two rivers in canoes, and hail a beach buggy across a National Park. We chose the latter, and arrived at Tauana, our hotel in Corumbau, ready to relax. And relax we did. Although there are two other high-end places to stay in Corumbau—Vila Naia and Fazenda São Francisco—neither sits directly on the beach nor is as stunning as Tauana. Here, you stay in one of nine gorgeous, and spacious, bungalows that look out on the miles of deserted beach and blue-green sea. All the carefully considered but understated meals are cooked with ingredients from the organic fruit and vegetable gardens on site. Indeed, Ana Catarina Ferreira da Silva, the architect and proprietor of Tauana, believes in the deep potential of all things local: the bungalows are made from local materials, the design is influenced by traditional architecture, and the hotel is staffed by villagers of Punto do Corumbau. Service at Tauana is ghostlike and all the details—from the way the canvas shades are hung over lounge chairs to the presentation of tall glasses of coconut water as you emerge from a boat trip through the mangrove swamp—are intelligently designed and reflective of a genuinely conscientious regard for elegance and the environment in which the resort is built. As a result, Tauana’s attitude towards both ecology and luxury are authentic, the product of a world-view rather than a gimmick.
Born and bred in New Zealand, Jono Rotman is a photographer who now lives in New York City. His bills are paid by advertising, working with such agenices as Ogilvy, McCann Eriksen, Saatchi’s, BBH, and BBDO. His editorial work has appeared in New York magazine, Blackbook, Portfolio, Black, and Pavement. He is most compelled by work on his own art, which focuses loosely on violence and dreams. His work takes him the world over, and while he’s tired of endless airports, he can’t still the wanderlust and feels having photograps to show for it is justification enough.
Dr. Kira Poskanzer is a neuroscientist living in New York City. Her articles have appeared in Nature, Neuron, and other scientific periodicals. She spent six years in San Francisco getting her PhD before moving back to the east coast, where she is from originally. Her independent work as a laboratory research scientist at Columbia University allows her to take lots of time off for world travel.