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Brazil's quiet island oasis

Deserted beaches stretch for miles on Boipeba

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Wild horses run along the coastline in Boipeba, an island 150 kilometres south of Salvador in Brazil.

PHOTOS BY JENNIFER FODEN WILSON / POSTMEDIA NETWORK INC. Enlarge Image

Wild horses run along the coastline in Boipeba, an island 150 kilometres south of Salvador in Brazil.

After a long, cold Canadian winter and 10 difficult days in Salvador, Brazil, I needed a place to recharge.

I wound up in Brazil's third most populous city to visit my younger sister, who had stumbled across Bahia's state capital a year and a half before. She had left to backpack South America, found Salvador (and love) and never came home.

Salvador is no doubt brimming with world-class cuisine, inspiring colonial architecture and vibrant Afro-Brazilian music and dance. However, those first days in the city were challenging. My sister had a new home, job, love and outlook on life. It was a lot to absorb.

Even the greatest of cities can leave you longing to escape the urban chaos -- and, in the case of Salvador, June and July World Cup festivities -- in search of some peace and quiet.

Morro de Sao Paulo is usually the popular first choice for tourists and locals looking to retreat from Salvador, a city of more than three million people. Yet, in the last 20 years, this island has lost much of its quaint beachside charm as new, upscale accommodations and restaurants have moved in, and consequently, a surge of tourists, too.

My sister knew Morro de Sao Paulo would be too eventful for our liking and suggested the island of Boipeba instead.

Boipeba, just 150 kilometres south of Salvador and 25 kilometres from Morro de Sao Paulo, still has its fishermen's village pace and charm, much different than its larger, livelier neighbour. The main village, on the northeastern tip of the island, has the appeal of a century past: Here there are no cars (just boats and horses and buggies). The streets are full of bright, rustic homes, children playing and locals out late socializing.

We left the village and wandered along the ocean for hours -- deserted beaches stretch on for kilometres. We trekked so far, people ceased to exist -- it was like we had stumbled upon our own deserted island.

Wild horses ran along the coastline, coconuts scattering the beach rolled into the water and crashed against the waves. Floating in the shallow blue water gave my body a much-needed rejuvenation. (If you'd rather a more active experience on Boipeba, one rigorous yet fascinating hike is to Cova da Onça: fragments of an underground tunnel that once served as a hideaway during times of violent conflict.)

As for my sister and I, maybe we drank too many caipirinhas (Brazil's national cocktail). Maybe the eccentric and enthusiastic personality of the Bone Museum's owner, Mr. Hairy, influenced us. (He accumulated so many bones that he turned his tiny family home into a museum.) Maybe we felt comforted by two affable Italian ladies running one of the few pousadas on the island, and their hospitality and passion for Boipeba.

Whatever it was, on the boat as we left Boipeba, my sister and I apologized to each other for earlier tensions.

Sure, Boipeba offers sun, surf and more fresh seafood than you can imagine. What it really delivered was simplicity and isolation for two Canadian sisters.

Whether you're looking to recharge after (or during) the World Cup chaos, find some peace and quiet on a romantic getaway or restore your soul, Boipeba may be the escape (and revitalization) every Salvador traveller needs.


-- For Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 14, 2014 E3

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