Ilha de Marajó, Brazil

on Sep 1, 2014 in Departure | No Comments

Welcome to the largest coastal island on the planet, a place out of time and this world, which has changed little since Father António Vieira was here in the 17th century.

  • Ilha de Marajó, Brasil/Brazil
  • Ilha de Marajó, Brasil/Brazil
  • Ilha de Marajó, Brasil/Brazil
  • Ilha de Marajó, Brasil/Brazil
  • Ilha de Marajó, Brasil/Brazil
  • Ilha de Marajó, Brasil/Brazil
  • Ilha de Marajó, Brasil/Brazil
  • Ilha de Marajó, Brasil/Brazil

The exotic Ilha de Marajó, west of the mouth of the River Amazonas, on the banks of the River Pará and at the edge of the Atlantic, preserves an air of authenticity. It’s something unique and quite unlike any other place in Brazil. Perhaps, because it’s a relatively unknown and little publicised destination, where just getting there is quite an adventure. It involves over three hours in a boat between Belém do Pará and the port of Salvaterra, gazing at the banks swallowed up by the jungle that seem to have been there since time immemorial. Then, we need to catch a bus that, an hour and a half later, drops us off on the banks of the River Paracauri. On the other side is Soure, the unofficial capital of the island. The reward for such a long trip is the hospitality of the population of this small and sleepy town, who immediately make us feel welcome, while never forgetting the pride in their origins (with roots in Pre-Colombian civilisations) and maintaining local traditions.

As soon as I set foot on the island, I felt I was somewhere away from the real world, particularly for someone who lives in the big city. Peace and tranquillity are words that spring to mind. Whether it’s the simple, rustic life of the farmers and cattle hands, or the calm of the buffalo that wander the fields and roads of the villages that seem that something out of the mid-20th century, or the thriving fauna and flora that can be discovered on foot, by buffalo or on Marajoara horses, the trails, the river beaches and the deserted sands dotted with streams, palm trees, mango trees and virgin forest.

In total, there are 40,000 square kilometres of the purest nature, the size of Switzerland. Civilisation, even though it means travelling in time, is found in Soure, where the island’s only tarmac road can be found. With its one-storey houses and wide dirt roads, it’s no surprise that the preferred mode of transport are buffalo-drawn carts. These bovines (around 700 thousand of them), which have become an icon of Marajó, have acclimatised perfectly and constitute an important economic resource for the majority of the 25 thousand Marajoenses on the island. Apart from transporting people, goods, rubbish and even policemen, they are also a tourist attraction and buffalo milk is used in a local and much-appreciated speciality, a cheese that is slightly reminiscent of Greek feta, both in texture and taste.

Soure is the busiest town on the island and where the majority of tourist arrive, although the accommodation options are rather dated, which fits perfectly with the atmosphere. Festivities? There are plenty. From buffalo rodeos to rodas de carimbó (traditional Paraense dance), or the lundu marajoara, the sensual local dance. However, most important of all is the Círio de Nazaré festivity, a pilgrimage that sets off from Belém and, between October and November, which mobilises the entire population of the island.

by Antonella Kann

Arquivos

How to get there

TAP flies Lisbon to Belém, the capital of Pará. , catch a taxi to the Terminal Hidroviário, at the port (Armazém 10 da Companhia das Docas), where boats leave every day. Times going out are 6h30 and 14h30, and coming back the boats leave at 6h00 and 15h. The route is very interesting, particularly at dusk, and takes around three and a half hours to Camará, in Salvaterra, the official port of entry on Ilha de Marajó.

When to go

In January, the rains begin on Ilha de Marajó and the River Pará gradually swells, submerging some of the most beautiful landscapes. From July onwards the waters recede, revealing the beaches and magnificent igarapés (jungle streams), ideal for a boat trip amongst the jungle and mangroves. The temperature hovers around 30 ºC throughout the year and high levels of humidity are a constant.

Municipal Market

This picturesque market is one of the places most visited by tourists. In addition to the meat and fish, it offers fruit, handmade items, miraculous plants and homemade potions that promise to cure all the ills of humanity. To enjoy the authentic ambience, get there for about four in the morning.

Pousada Canto do Francês

The most charming pousada in Soure boasts rustic style, friendly service and even a restaurant. It’s not exactly luxurious but the beds in the nine suites are comfortable. Located near the river and just a 10-minute walk from the town centre.

Sexta Rua, 10
+55 91 3741 1298
ocantodofrances.blogspot.com.br

Buffalo

This animal is a constant presence. Whether on the menu, because its meat is tender and its cheese is delicious, or on organised trips organised by the local farms, where they are used as the preferred mode of transport. You can ride them in the saddle or go for a cart pulled by a pair of them, always in the company of an experienced guide.

Exploring the igarapés

Typical tourist activities organised by the local farms include walks along the river beaches or canoe trips on the igarapés (jungle streams). Chance your arm and enjoy the exuberant fauna and flora. An unforgettable sight is watching birds similar to small flamingos that are known as “a flock of ibises”.

Refreshing pineapple

It gets seriously hot between midday and four o’clock, the buffalo look for shade and the shops pull their shutters. Keep hydrated, but in the case of an emergency you can count on those carts selling coconut water or, better still, the pineapple sellers who are proud to carry the world’s sweetest and most succulent examples.

Digging the beach

Here, in the Atlantic Amazon, both the river and sea beaches vary with the tides. If the tide is high, the water are agitated and its best to relax on the sands, at a bar or restaurant, like Barra Velha and Pesqueiro. If the tide is low, you can swim and splash to your heart’s content.

Something different

Situated in the centre of the island, the Hotel Fazenda Nossa Senhora do Carmo is ideal for those who prefer isolation and enjoying nature to the full. The coast includes a transfer from the port of Camará, full board, fauna and flora watching, buffalo and horse rides and a visit to the buffalo dairy farm, where you can freshly milked milk.

www.carmocamara.com.br

Marajoara ceramics

As well as being involved in social work, Ronaldo make wonderful ceramics inspired by ancient Marajoara art and produced by the women of the Nuaruaque tribe. The workshop can be visited at any time.

Arte Mangue Marajó
Travessa 23 entre as Ruas 12 e 13
+55 91 87631738

Solar do Bola Restaurant

Although a simple place with few tables and no luxurious trimmings, the menu comes in French and English, as well as Portuguese. Most dishes are based on buffalo and river fish, the most popular being filhote.

Esquina da Rua 8 com a Travessa 9
+55 91  37412196

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