Staying Eco in the City – Belem, Brazil

I arrived in Belem, the northern port city of the Amazon region. I was not sure what to expect.  I had been deliberating whether to go to Manuas, in the heart of the Amazon, or this less well known city on the Amazon Delta, where the river meets the sea.

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In the end, I chose Belem. Why? There were 3 excellent reasons.  Fernanda from 100% Amazonia, Sergio from Preserva Mundi, and Leonilda from Bio EcoBrazil.  I talk more about them in following posts.

In Belem, I chose to stay at the EcoPousada Miriti.  A tranquil, peaceful guesthouse, designed with sustainable values in the heart of the city. I decided it would perfect base from which to explore the city, and meet local social entrepreneurs.

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I wanted to learn more about why it was an “Eco” guesthouse, so I spoke with the owners, Geraldo and Priscila Barata, to learn more.

Pricila was a tourism student, who wrote her final dissertation on sustainable guesthouses.  With advice from her at that time boyfriend Geraldo, they wrote what would become the future business plan for EcoPousada Miriti. After graduation,  Priscila’s mother bought a property in need of renovation, and Geraldo and Priscila set about the task of converting it into a eco-friendly guesthouse.

Geraldo talked me through the reasons they chose to renovate the existing building, instead of demolishing the old one and starting again.  Demolishing and rebuilding is easier, cheaper and faster.  So why not do that?

If you demolish, the waste must go somewhere, and that means landfill. Rebuilding after complete destruction means using and buying more new materials.  Renovation means you spend less on materials, but more on human labour.  For Miriti, it was better choice to reinvest the money in the local workforce, than in new materials.  The materials they did use, were sourced locally.

Apart from this example, Gerald gave me many more.  The water filtration system cleans 70% of the chemicals out of the water, before it is returned to the water table, where natural processes can filter the remaining 30%.  Most guesthouses don’t filter at all. Solar power is installed to heat the water, and the system will have paid for itself in 6 years.

Miriti also supports native artisans, who create toys from the leaves of the plant from which the guesthouse gets it’s name. These toys have a long tradition, but without a place like EcoPousada to sell them, the toys don’t get bought, and the skills used to make them get lost.

If you are looking for an ecofriendly guesthouse in Belem, I recommend you check out Miriti.  And don’t forget to try their tapioca with banana and cinnamon for breakfast!

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The Social Butterfly of the most Beautiful Beach

My adventure to the remote Marau Peninsula started from Salvador, in the North East of Brazil.  Up at 7am, I’d be there by 3pm.

The ferry left Salvador at 8.30am.  I’d just missed one when I turned up, but it’s kind of great that I did.  On my same ferry, were a couple of British expats.  Lewis, Chloe, and her daughter Anna.  It turned out we were going the same way.  When I got on the coach after the ferry, and found myself sitting next to Lewis.  Lewis spends most of his time in Ibiza, running a private concierge service, and is thinking about spending more time in the beach paradise that we are both headed towards.

Chole, who used to be nurse in Peckham, London, decided to switch her life for another destiny. She’s spent the last 5 years building a beautiful lodge called Butterfly House, just next door to the one I was planning to visit.

It turned out that it was Chloe’s Birthday, so of course there was a party at Butterfly House, to which I was kindly invited. What would you expect from the social butterfly of Butterfly House? Thanks Chloe!

After getting lost on a deserted beach, which is pretty hard to do, I arrived in time for Lewis’s signature cocktail, his Caiprioska.  As you probably know, it’s just like Caipirinha, but with vodka instead of Cachaca.  A couple of hours later and we were doing shots of tequila, and I was invited to stay the night in a gorgeous double room, complete with coconut light switches that I think look a bit like boobs with large nipples.

After the gourmet-amuse bouche, from super friendly head chef Ilious, there was a delicious home made chocolate cake, which we finished off for dessert at breakfast.  Luckily Ilious had lived in Portobello Road, London, and knew exactly how to make scrambled eggs and bacon for a wondering Englishman (well.. Manxman).

I had a wonderful time in the Butterfly House, and recommend it to anyone looking for a slice of bohemian luxury on the Marau Peninsula.