From Salvador to Ilheus is about a 7 hour direct bus ride. But of course going direct by bus would have been too easy. The bus stopped every 10 minutes to let people on or off and it was mucho annoying!!
As it turned out, Hubs booked a hotel that was over 30km from Itacare – almost half way between Itacare and Ilheus. My eco lodge was 10 mins from Itacare. Oh well, neither of us realised that – so we made a rendezvous for two day’s time to meet on the morning bus to Puerto Seguro. It was almost 8pm and pitch black.
I arrived late to the Art Jungle Eco Lodge and I was VERY happy just to arrive there alive. The taxi from the small dusty bus station had me worried when he turned off a tarmac road and onto a dirt road that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. No houses around, just bush land. Then another car appeared behind us and was tail gating us. I started to panic. Where am I? Where is this taxi driver taking me? Who was in that car behind us? Was it a friend of the taxi driver and were they going to rob me and then chop me up into little pieces and leave my remains scattered in the bush?
I asked the taxi driver in my best Spanish where the jungle lodge was. He answered me in Portuguese and said I think that the normal road was blocked so he had to come this way. Ten minutes later we turned into the Jungle Lodge and I’ve never been so happy to see a sign in my life!
I was greeted by the very friendly Jeff (French also) and his two year old daughter Joelma. Because there was a problem with the bathrooms, I got upgraded to the private lodge – it was open on one side – i.e. it was missing a wall. Instead, there was a deck that was the platform for the views that stole the show. Jungle, river, birds, gardens, etc, it was so lovely! Giselle – Brasilian super model used to date Leonardo De Caprio stayed there.
I was invited to have dinner with the family and four of their friends which was awesome – I was tired and hungry and we were in the middle of nowhere so I didn’t have much chance of finding food elsewhere. It was all healthy and delicious. I slept like a log in my big private lodge that was missing one wall.
My new friends invited me to join them in a trip to the beach the next day – and of course I said yes! The beach was like a postcard – small cove, wide stretch of soft white sand bordered with palm trees. Yes indeed, it was beautiful. Jeff is so warm and friendly – he then took me for a quick tour of the town of Itacare and it’s really cute! Brightly coloured buildings, a real surf-scene feel, and cute little shops.
After the beach, it was time to prepare for the tea-drinking ceremony.
Jeff and his wife and their friends were all going to someone else’s house to participate in a religious tea-drinking ceremony – similar to the Ayawashka ceremonies the Sharman’s perform in the Jungle. The tea is supposed to connect you to God … just like the Ayawashka is supposed to connect you to the spirit world.
The whole evening felt surreal. Before we left Art Jungle Lodge, Jeff told me to wear white as the colour generates good energy. Well that was an easy request since white is one of my favourite colours!
We then drove an hour to Ilheus where the friend’s lived and where the ceremony would be held. When I got there I was told to put on a skirt as my white pants would not be suitable. Sigh. Whatever, ok. There were about 10 of us all together.
Outside under a pergola is where we gathered. There was a huge crucifix on the table, pictures of Mary and Jesus on the walls. The women in white sat on one side of the table and the men on ther other. The “padrino” who leads there ceremony had a shirt and tie on and a crucifix tie pin. It was a serious affair. The Padrino opened the ceremony and then we sang some hymns in Portuguese (interesting) and then it was time to drink the tea.
The men lined up first and got a thimble of the tea – which in fact was poured from a bottle (so why is it called tea?), and the women next. The tea tasted so disgusting, the only thing I could do to stop myself from puking up is to nibble on a slice of ginger. Then we went into an hour long hymn singing session that was a bit boring for me – I had no idea how to sing these hymns! I don’t even sing hymns in church. So I did what i learned to do when at catholic high school, I mimed as best I could.
I wasn’t really feeling anything, just a general feeling of well being. After an hour, we all had another shot of tea – it was almost like taking communion it was that serious. This one started to kick in within 30 minutes and all I knew was that I had to lie down. I could no longer be polite, so I quietly went inside, felt totally relieved that the lounge room was empty, curled up on the couch and tried to sleep. I couldn’t sleep – my mind was racing, but my body was so heavy like cement.
I could hear them all chanting outside and it went on for another hour. Jeff checked up on me and also came back a second time to tell me to rejoin the group, which I reluctantly did. We had another shot of tea – mine was not even a half shot – and the Portuguese singing continued. Again, within 15 to 20 minutes, I had to go and lie down, so I did. I felt so happy to be lying on the sofa and not outside sitting on a plastic chair singing church songs.
A few people checked up on me to make sure I was ok, and I was, I just needed to lie down. After about 1.5 hours of singing, Jeff came and got me again and said I was needed because the Padrino was about the close the ceremony. I politely did what was asked and went outside and joined the others.
As the Padrino was closing the ceremony thanked everyone for their energy, their friendship and participation. Just as he mentioned ‘our new special friend from Australia who is most welcomed’, I felt a surge of nausea rise and covered my mouth and ran to the toilet. I wasn’t sure which end would go first. After a good vomit, I felt much much better. As Jeff had told me, vomiting is part of the cleansing process and it’s good to get it out.
After everyone hugged and kissed after the ceremony, we all crashed out on mattresses / sofas, wherever we could find space for the next hour or two before we went home. Jeff drove an hour back to Art Jungle Lodge and I have no idea how he did that – i could hardly see my vision was so distorted – but he did a good job and we got home safely.
I had 1.5 hours sleep in my lovely bed and then got up and left for the bus, where I was to meet Hubba. Hubba got on the bus and we were reunited and she spun out at my story.
Art Jungle Lodge was such a lovely stay – even though I was there for two nights (one full day), I feel like I came as a stranger and left as an old friend. A gorgeous family and gorgeous place to stay.