I have often wondered what led me to arrive in Bahia during the 1997 carnival, not far from where the Portuguese set foot in 1500, with the idea of never returning. In love with the world, with adventure, and with my human brothers, I then traveled for months in the wild corners of this nature-country, asking each day along the road for room and board, or hanging my hammock between two trees. This land, I now know, was calling me, and I abandoned myself to her with trust, as in the arms of a mother.
A few years after this initiatory trip, I decided once and for all that to “make a living” in a big city wasn’t for me. I settled in a little fisherman’s village by the sea – in the protected paradise of Picinguaba – closer to this beloved nature. There, I fixed up an old building that became an oasis of reconnection, soon attracting people from all over the world. There, I learned to what extent our civilization has separated us from the sweetness of our mother earth, and by the same token from our conscience of the world and of ourselves.
One day in 2008, while searching the mountain for a piece of land to grow vegetables, I followed Catuçaba’s little dirt road I had walked past so often. Traffic down this particular road at the time was done on horseback, giving a western air to this remote country. A passerby had mentioned to me the presence of an old house a little further on. Animated by curiosity – and despite the approaching dusk, I continued to the end of the path. When I got there, I immediately felt it: “This is it”, I told myself. The groundskeeper, a man called Luis Pedro Pavret, welcomed me and introduced me to the place as though he had been expecting me for years. At that moment, I felt deep within that I had finally found my place on Earth.
I learned then that the main colonial building of the Fazenda was built by Luis Pedro’s ancestor, a Frenchman from Lyon – like myself – who had come to Brazil in 1840. His great-grandson, a man of incredible vigor and a great builder, dedicated his life to this place and its maintenance with an extraordinary charisma; until November 2021, he took care of it when he suddenly died in the afternoon, aged 82, after having worked in the garden in the morning, exactly the way he would have wanted to say goodbye, his mission accomplished. In these 13 years we’ve spent together I have never seen him without his legendary, forthright smile. We implicitly considered ourselves part of the same family, as we shared the same work and intention.
At that time in my life, I wanted to live there and host people who, like myself, were fascinated by nature and passionate about a certain conception of human interaction – but the experience was not always an easy one. Nevertheless, that day in Catuçaba – the idea of acquiring a property without even knowing if it was up for sale, without any idea of its acreage or of the enormous amount of work required to maintain it, would not have stopped me from my immediate decision to move into this place. It also seemed like the ideal spot to grow a young family. All the financial needs and helpers materialized quickly, as if confirming this irrevocable destiny. A new story was beginning.
Catuçaba and Picinguaba have become places where everyone, often unknowingly, comes to find their own answers in order to achieve what lies inside. They are places where Nature, as a mother reuniting with her children after long wanderings, brings forward our truest selves, our true identity and our purpose in life, whether on a conscious level or not. They are healing places open to all, but not to just anyone, that need to be approached with humility while respecting the time required for them to work its magic.