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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ride in Brazilian Wilderness Ends at Walter's Bar

Alternative to canned sardines at Walter's: Fish on Barra beach
As the bus climbs uphill on slippery mud in Brazil’s largest Atlantic coast preserve, the engine makes a deafening “whirrr” sound. Then the bus slides down a steep hill, hits boulders, and makes a stomach-churning lurch.
A passenger shouts, “Nossa !” Her exclamation is short for “Nossa Senhora do Ceu” ( Our Lady in Heaven ), a plea to the Virgin Mary.
However, the Virgin Mary does not rescue her. The bumpy ride continues on a dirt road just slightly wider than the bus.
The public bus had left from the seaside town of Peruibe on a 22.5 kilometer ride through Estacao Ecologica de Jureia-Itatins, a federal preserve that covers 792 square kilometers of Atlantic coast wilderness on the southern coast of Sao Paulo state.
The bus rattles along dense green wilderness dotted by the red of tiny tulip-shaped flowers. Glimpses of ocean or waterfalls appear suddenly through the forest. Horses graze against a mountain backdrop. In front of a few houses, signs announce the sale of turkeys or fish.
Meanwhile, Jalmir, the jovial cashier (photo below), raises his voice above the clatter of the bus to chat with passengers he knows from working on the route for seven years.
“See you later, Mateus. Find yourself some women,” Jalmir yells in Portuguese as one man gets off the bus. Then he asks Joao to say hello to “Chupa Cabra” (Goat Sucker ), a nickname for Joao’s neighbor.
Some passengers step off the bus near a lone brick or plaster house. Others get off next to giant ferns, bamboo groves, and trees 30 or 40 feet tall, where no houses are visible.
At least today the bus does not break down, leaving children who go to school in Peruibe and other passengers with no other choice but to walk home.
The passengers are part of the preserve’s sparse human population. Some 315 native families, including squatters and others who subsisted on agriculture or fishing, were counted in 2005 by the Brazilian government’s environmental agency ( Secretaria do Meio Ambiente ).
City dwellers with vacation homes, such as members of my family, are not included in that figure. The agency recorded a slight population decrease since 1987 when Jureia became a preserve. Construction of new homes was no longer permitted, and other prohibitions were implemented, such as the ban on hunting.
Meanwhile on the bus, papayas roll out of my shopping bag onto the floor while I cling to the lime green metal bar on the seat in front of me with one hand, and with the other, I clutch a laptop in a padded case.
The Japanese-Brazilian man, known as “O Japones”, grips the ends of two huge plastic bags of dog food on the floor next to him. That purchase was his reason for the four hour roundtrip journey, 22.5 slow kilometers (13.5 miles) each way .
O Japones” lives in Barra do Una, home to 43 native families, according to the 2005 government census. The government agency counted a total of 129 houses/lots in Barra, including vacation homes. Barra do Una is a populated speck in the largely uninhabited preserve.
People wait for bus on only road that leads out of  Barra. 
At last the bus clangs to its final destination at Bar do Walter. The bar has been a fixture in Barra do Una for 23 years, some 10 years after the road to the village was built in 1978.
The owner of the bar, Walter, 73, (photo, top of post ) serves beer and cachassa ( a sugar cane alcohol ), and sells canned sardines, insect repellent, Coca-Cola, cigarettes, eggs, and crackers.
The bar stays open seven days a week, 6:30 a.m. until the last client leaves at night. It closes only when heavy winds blow dirt around the bar. Helio, Walter’s son, explains the reason for the bar’s long hours. “There isn’t much else here.”
Story & photos by Carola C. Reuben, Earthy Reporter, Copyright, 2011


  1. C.....great long will you be in Brazil...I think you told me once you had relatives somewhere in Brazil...are you visiting the area where they live.


  2. Dave: My mother, brothers, nieces, and nephews live in polluted and congested Sao Paulo, the opposite of pristine Barra do Una in the Jureia preserve. Yes, I am spending some time in Sao Paulo.

  3. Tia Carol!
    I'm so happy you're comming!
    The waterfalls are waiting for
    you here in Chapada!
    Enjoy Barra do Una,