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Published: March 1st 2008
Boat to Ihla GrandeKazza says
Palin eat your heart out
From the moment we read about it in the travel books we knew we wanted to visit the island retreat of Ilha Grande. The island's history fascinated us: first it was a hideout for pirates, then a lepor colony and finally a prison for some of Brazil's most violent criminals. All that remains of these now are some ruins amidst tropical beaches and virgin Atlantic rainforest.
First we travelled on a scenic bus journey 4 hours down the coast from Rio, it is not called the Costa Verde for nothing, the shades of green are neverending, I guess because of the combination of lots of rain and lots of sun! We arrived at Angra dos Reis (the town where the ferry left from) from Rio having met two Ozzies on the bus journe, so we shared a taxi from the bus station to the ferry port stopping off at a bank to withdraw more Reais (there are no banks on the island). We were planning on catching the 'official' ferry at 3.30 but we were greeted at the port by a man touting his smaller boat that was just about to leave. It was ram packed full,
people filled every space and were hanging off the edges. For a moment we wondered how we would fit on, nevermind our huge rucksacks, but the man didn't allow us to hesitate and as it was cheaper and got us there much earlier we hopped on and added our rucksacks to a huge pile on the centre of the boat squeezing into a seat next to Brazilian familes and the island's grocery supplies.
Ilha Grande felt like how I imagine a Carribean island would feel like, and has the laidback vibe to go with. The main town is made up of one main street than runs parallel to the sea, full of colourful bars and restaurants. It is a place where you could while away days or weeks chilling out quite happily.
However unfortunately the island also offers many activites too so our three days there soon flew by all too quickly. Our first day we tried to walk to an isolated beach, that we were told you could have all to yourself, unfortunately to get there we had to walk for 2 hours through the jungle. Having bagged the odd Munroe in my time I didn't imagine
Sleepy island life
this would pose to much of a challenge. Oh how wrong I was - the humidity and heat made it such a struggle that before long I was dripping (no exageration) with sweat. It was one of the toughest walks I've done, we made it to the beach before our planned destination and after a refreshing swim in the beautiful clear sea and a cerveja at the beach bar we decided we would cut our losses and go no further! Needless to say we caught the taxiboat back to the town!
By far one of my favourite things so far was the boat trip we did with Igor, a dude our hostel landlady introduced us to. His trip sounded really good compared with others we'd seen advertised. First we went to a small inhabited island nearby on his wee boat (there were only 4 others on the trip which was a lot less than others). First stop, and we jumped into the turquise sea for some snorkelling. It was absolutely amazing, there were so many colourful fish and rocks covered in green, yellow and orange coral. I even had the pleasure of watching a stingray casually swim by us.
A room with a view...
The view from our hostel bedroom
It was one of the most beautiful experiences I've had and I could have swam around that island all day. Back on the boat and it was a short sail to another beach on Ihla Grande, we had to wade through the water to the shore and then trek through the jungle until we reached a waterfall, where we showered under the force of the falls. What made this was our guide, Igor's knowledge of all the plants, birds and insects that we saw on the way. He told us all about the plant's medicinal purposes and let us smell all the different plants that had both lovely and yucky aromas. After all this, he took us to another beach where we all enjoyed a hearty late lunch of Brazil's famous Muqueca (shrimp stew) overlooking the sea, yummy!
I love this place, as I say you could easily get lost here, its like stepping back in time (there are no cars or proper roads - the local Bobby drives around in a golf cart!) Unfortunately our stay coincided with high season in Brazil so there have been a lot of Brazilian tourists here so we would love to return
when it is a bit quieter....oneday and maybe then I'll see a seaturtle when snorkelling too. Tony says
For me, Ilha Grande conjoured up similar images of sunkissed beaches, jungle treks and tropical boat trips, it did not fail to deliver on any account. Our intention was to have ourselves a wee rest before we embarked on our travels proper, a holiday within a holiday if you will.
I found the whole experience amazing and I could not really have asked for a better start to our adventure. Its one of those places you dream of living, dreaming the days away in a sleepy life style.
The ferry ride was as much a part of the experience as anything else, it was like a scene from a Michael Palin travel programme, you know the ones, he sits on a jam packed tug boat bound for some strange destination, bags and cargo everywhere, looking rather bewildered at it all.
Our Pousada (guesthouse) was something else, set back from the main town of Abraao where the streets were surrounded by dense jungle. It was just perfect for us, no noise (other than wildlife) no busy party
I just saw a fish this big!
atmosphere, just what we were looking for, a quiet little place to chillax between the hard work of relaxing else where! The owner was great, super friendlyand helpful. Breakfast was served each morning on a veranda overlooking tropical plants, and a river flowing nearby. The flowers were visited by humming birds and giant snails, what a great way to greet the morning.
Our 1st night on the harbour front with Guy and Becka (the Ozzy couple) was great, sipping Caprinhas, eating sea food most likely caught that very day from the boats we could see moored before us in the idylic little bay. Though they may well have gone out to catch it after we ordered as it took some time to arrive! Ah well, I think time here has a slightly different pace than we are used to back in the UK.
Our 2nd day trekking through the jungle was rather ambitious. Supposedly the reward is a beach ranked in the worlds top 10? I have no idea if this is true. I remember before we left the UK I had it in my mind that like some kind of Bruce Parry esk super man I would
I think I've got water in my eyes
venture deep into the jungle, for days on end exploring the wilderness at will. I felt this would be possible on many occassions, after all, the Amazon is a big place. As Karen mentions the reality is that the heat and humidity, combined with my lack of fitness was an extreme obsticle to any such delusions of grandure! I will have to think again! Still the beaches we did reach were most certainly not dissapointing. And I have to say despite my exhaustion at the effort, I enjoyed the jungle immensely.
I think day 3 was up there with the best experiences of my life to date. Our pousada owner introduced us to Igor, and I can safely say that he is one of the most friendly, warm hearted and interesting men I have ever met. I felt I could easily have become good friends with him. The boat trip he took us on to his secret snorkeling spot was so many things rolled into one. Relaxing, exhilarating, other worldly I could go on, the sights we witnessed and the conversations we had were all wonderful.
Snorkeling was not something I was overly looking forward to, I don't
swim well, and needless to say the depth of water was greater than you could stand in. But with Karen's encouragement I mastered my fear and plunged into the emerald green water. Flippers really make the difference, its not like swimming at all, its like gliding, with little effort needed to propel one to that next shoal of fish or outcrop of coral. What a fantastic way to spend the morning!
Igor was the real deal when it came to eco tourism, he was deeply passionate about the environment and our interaction with it. The trek he took us on to the waterfall deep in the jungle was filled with insightfull details about the flora and fauna, and particularly about the medicinal uses the plants had for humans, indeed he made no secret of explaining how he himself had not used conventional drugs in around a decade, prefering instead to use the wealth of natural remedies the jungle offered. Inspiring stuff!
As you can see the waterfall was great fun, I had no hesitation before jumping in! I can't really explain it, but being there in the jungle, under a natural waterfall was something special. We couldn't thank
Igor enough, and wished him all the best for the future.
And that was that really as far as Ilha Grande goes, we basically chilled out the next day, ice cream, and later cerveja (lager) were the order of the day. Ooh, and mozzy spray, fantastic as it all was, we got eaten alive most nights!
Like Kazza, my one regret was that we didn't stay longer.
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