By Felicity Clarke, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – As anyone familiar with overland travel in Brazil can attest, bus stations can be pretty rough going. With this in mind, expats and Brazil enthusiasts Jonathan Flynn and Jane Bell started Cruz the Coast, a transport service between Rio and Salvador that provides backpackers and independent travelers with a safe, convenient and fun alternative to the standard stresses of getting from A to B.
Jane, an Australian former tour leader who has worked across South America and Jonathan, a former telecommunications engineer from Ireland met in Rio two years ago and settled in Bahia before starting Cruz the Coast last year after seeing tourists struggling with travel.
Jane explains “Jonathan leased a hostel and I opened a local tour agency. Through the hostel and the tour agency we met loads of backpackers asking us about the best way to get down to Rio. We realized how difficult it was for travelers who don’t speak much Portuguese to get around Brazil.”
Organizing an overland tour from Rio to Caracas for one of Jane’s former tour operators gave them the confidence to start their own overland transport service and Cruz the Coast was launched in July 2010.
“What we offer is not a ‘tour’ as such,” explains Jane. “It’s a transport service designed for like-minded travelers, with stops at all the hotspots between Rio and Salvador”. Stops include travel guide musts like bustling beach town Búzios, surfer favorite Itacaré, and Bahian party island Morro de São Paulo plus lesser known destinations such Vila Velha in underrated but naturally beautifully state of Espirito Santo.
The R$650 one-way twelve day trip includes extras along the way such as a capeoira class on the hidden beach in Itacaré, caipirinha class, booze cruise and Portuguese lessons.
One of the distinguishing features of the service is the tailored service with transfer door to door from your hotel, hostel or pousada and expert advice on hand to advise on everything from accommodation to ATMs to where to get a top caipirinha.
With big plans for the future, the couple are looking to extend and diversify the trips. “We’re planning to offer all inclusive packages with accommodation included” says Jane “also specialist trips such as surf trips and yoga trips”.
“We also looking to extend the journey to include Ilha Grande and Paraty” says Jonathan. “The eventual idea is to run from the Amazon all the way down the coast to Buenos Aires”.
The couple have both traveled extensively in Brazil and while an acquaintance with the stresses is something that stimulated the Cruz the Coast concept, it is more inspired by their shared love of Brazil. As Jane enthuses, “We love the people, the culture, the music, the way of life. But Brazil’s not always easy, and we like having that intermediary role between tourists and locals”.
For further information on Cruz the Coast and how to book visit cruzthecoastbrazil.com.