It is spring in Brazil. We are in Bahia, Northeast. It is hot here, very hot. We have been traveling for the past two days after leaving São Paulo with four rucksacks between the two of us. Besides clothes and a lot of expectations, we brought along the necessary equipment to be able to register sustainable aspects found during our movements. We also carried a flexible solar panel followed by a 12-volt lithium battery in case there was a shortage of electricity.
We got on a ferry-boat to cross the bay from Salvador, the capital of Bahia, towards Bom Despacho. From there, it was 170km on a bus to Camamu. After a mixture of sealed and unsealed roads we still had another 50km to go by local bus. The roads were getting rougher and totally earthen for the last couple of hours. We finally disembarked into a small village called Caubi.
It was night by then and we were surrounded by inquisitive and welcoming locals while we were waiting for our lift in the square of the village. After our hosts appeared and brought us through the wetlands leading to our destination, we were finally soundly asleep under mosquito nets, in what would be our home for the days to come: Eco-village Piracanga.
We awoke with the naturally-tuned song of exotic birds and the hot tropical sun rising off the horizon. Through our open door we could see the estuary of a small river before the immense Atlantic Ocean. Piracanga is a scene of paradise, with the skylight blue of the sea and green-yellow bromeliads peering through the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest) – a place where elements of nature reside amongst one another in perfect harmony.
We were greeted by Elisabete and Daniel. (Gabriel and Angelina, the founders of Piracanga were not present. Gabriel was back in his homeland, Holland, and Angelina was participating in a spiritual retreat far away). Soon after breakfast, they introduced us to Angelina’s son: Ragi, a 19-year old fellow who would be our guide, tutor, mentor and friend for most of our time within the eco-village. Born from a dream between the diversity of its inhabitants, and today a reality, Piracanga integrates the cultures of more than 20 nationalities and backgrounds of individuals and families who have chosen to live here with a common respect to Mother Earth.
Piracanga is a centre dedicated to human development and environmental awareness. The practice of consensus, respect towards individuality, and the celebration of biodiversity help community life succeed here. Before our arrival at the eco-village, we had exchanged e-mail and telephone conversations with Gabriel, who described what we would later see: a holistic centre for courses, workshops and retreats in the fields of conscious growth, well-being and nature appreciation; an alternative school where children are respected to learn through their own decisions and curiosity and the homes of a community built by like-minded people.
Every member of the community, composed of about 12 families with around 20 children, has the opportunity to contribute to their expanding potential, and the eco-village as a whole maintains an agreement to respect social and environmental aspects above all else.
In order to live in common unity, the inhabitants of Piracanga have created a social and ecological policy. They have agreed not to occupy more than 10% out of its 85 hectares with housing, to not build fences around their houses, to promote a social life and a life outdoors. They have also taken ecological actions by ensuring the use of natural building materials harvested locally where possible, renewable energy, ecologically correct treatment of brown and grey waters, the re-use of waste water and the recycling of organic and inorganic waste.
Click here to find out how these actions have been applied by the community!
During our days residing in the community, we enjoyed learning and sharing knowledge, planting and reforesting with vegetables, medicinal plants and trees from and within the Mata Atlântica. We were nourished by the delicious vegan food, observed the treatment of brown and grey waters, witnessed techniques of eco-construction, went to school and more – we integrated ourselves in the lifestyle and participated in their daily activities while documenting these truly sustainable aspects.
Before contributing ourselves to their project, we were guided by Ragi on a tour. With so much beauty around us, it was not difficult to be inspired while exploring every square meter. Each coconut tree, plant and bird had its own colour and enchantment, adding the essential natural elements to Piracanga’s human vision.
To make the most of each day, we rose with the sun and slept when the moon and stars graced the sky. We didn’t need alarm clocks as the symphony of nature brought our attention to each new day. When we were hot, we bathed in the ocean, washing the salt from our skin in the river. When we were thirsty, we climbed the coconut palms to drink their bounty, inebriated with freshness by the clarity of the water.
Our conclusions could already be made: we were certainly closer to paradise.
Check out ‘Hands On’ and find out more about our movements in Piracanga!