During the 19th-century diamond rush, thriving Igatu had a population in the thousands. These days it’s a small village of 350 where Flintstone-like stone houses alternate with pretty pastel villas, all of which are surrounded by the lush fruit and vegetable gardens that supply much of the local produce. As for the splendor of its past, it has been reduced to a bewitchingly haunted area of ruined stone mansions overgrown with mango trees and wild orchids, where from time to time, an uncovered shard of fine European china evokes the grandeur that was Igatu in its heyday.
The Galeria Arte & Memória (Rua Luís dos Santos, tel. 75/3335-2510, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) exhibits found objects as well as contemporary art work by regional artists inside a beautiful space, built upon the ruins of a stone house. As for the town’s diamond legacy, you can tour the nearby Mina Brejo-Verruga (7 a.m.–7 p.m. daily, R$3), the biggest mine in the region, where, helmeted and armed with a flashlight, you can snake your way through a hand-dug tunnel stretching 400 meters into the side of a mountain. The return to daylight will be a shock, which you can alleviate by a swim in the Poço do Brejo.
Accommodations and Food
If you decide to stay overnight in Igatu, the best pousada is the lovely and very comfortable Pousada Pedras de Igatu (Rua São Sebastião, tel. 75/3335-2281, R$80–100), which has a swimming pool and terrific views of the surrounding countryside. However, if you want a really authentic experience, ask around for rooms to rent with locals, many of whom will also cook local specialties for you on their wood stoves, using the produce grown in their gardens.
Getting to Igatu
Igatu can only be reached by a rocky trail that turns off the BA-142 from Mucugê or from Andaraí. In either case, you’ll need a four-wheel-drive or the stamina required for a couple hours of uphill hiking. However, when you arrive at this remote town suspended in the mountains, you’ll be more than compensated for the hardships of the journey.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition