A Holiday Within a Holiday - Ilha Grande

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November 11th 2012
Published: November 11th 2012
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Paraty to Ilha Grande

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Hard at work
Day 388 Friday 2nd November

Yesterday we had checked out the timetable at the bus terminal and we came away with Shelley thinking we could get a 10.20 bus and me thinking we couldn’t get one till 11.10. So this morning after our fantastic breakfast, I proceeded to pack slowly knowing we had all the time in the world while Shelley went at it like a woman possessed. Our hotel had been fabulous so I couldn’t understand why she was in a hurry to leave, but we were up at the terminal by 9.30 where we then had to sit and wait till 11.10 for our bus….I think she is starting to enjoy sitting around terminals. Because we were moving onto a town that doesn’t have any banks I headed off to get some cash while Shelley minded the bags. On my return I found some young guy chatting her up, who got all embarrassed when I arrived, “Oh sorry are you her boyfriend” was his startled reaction….guess I now know why Shelley was keen to get to the terminal.

At 10.50 our bus arrived and discovered that instead of putting the backpacks in a luggage compartment we had
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Looking across the bay to Vila do Abraao
to carry them on board. Thankfully it wasn’t a full bus so we could throw our

bags onto seats. We got underway and it was soon apparent that our driver was in a huge hurry as we were hurtling around the bends at well in excess of 100km/hr. He would then have to brake heavily each time he came to a bus stop to let people on or off the bus. The situation got worse when it started to rain and we started to feel that our driver didn’t have full control of his beast. The inevitable had to happen when on a sweeping bend he had to stop to pick someone up at a bus stop and just couldn’t stop. We felt the bus start to slide, Shelley could see from her window that we were heading straight towards the bus stop. Somehow we missed it and with a huge “bang” we crashed over the curb and into trees and shrubs. Someone screamed, wasn’t sure what we hit, or even if we had hit someone, and our diver jumped up and yelled to all us passengers in Portuguese. Unsure what he said but it was probably for everyone
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The Aqueduct
to stay seated, but it may have been “Don’t worry folks I do this all the time”. The driver hoped off for all of ten seconds before boarding again and somehow managed to extract the bus from the jungle. Once back on the road the guy who hailed the bus boarded, which shocked the both of us. If I had just seen the bus hurtle past and crash into the bushes I think I would have just turned around and got a taxi, but this brave soul actually boarded and paid for his ticket….I mean we had an excuse we had already paid for this adventure.

Our driver in all his wisdom didn’t think it was necessary to check for any damage and soon had the bus doing 100 again even though there was now an ominous large bang every time he went around right hand bends. By some miracle we managed to get to the town of Angra Dos Reis where we could with great relief stumble off the bus to safety. On board the bus with us was a lovely English couple, and the girl could speak Portuguese so she was able to find out where we
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The slow Ferry from Angra Dos Reis to Ilha Grande
needed to get off, and in which direction we needed to head to find our boat. After a bit of a confusing walk around we finally made it onto the ferry at 1.15 and 15 minutes later we were underway. Our boat ride was on perhaps the slowest boat ever built, and it may have been quicker to swim.

Got to the islands main town of Vila do Abraao at 3 and despite being told we would have someone waiting at the wharf to help us with our bags no one was around and so we had to walk off in search of our new home with no real idea where it was. Took us 20 minutes of marching around in the heat and sand before we stumbled upon our home for the next there days. Note the island has no cars hence no taxis, but there are men with trolleys that will take your bags etc to the hotels for a fee. Dropped off our bags and then walked along the beach to a bar where we could get a drink and take in the vibe. Ilha Grande used to be a leper colony and then a prison
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Looking back at the main town Vila Do Abraao
island and now the premier island resort in Brazil. Whilst on our twelve month travels we have always asked recommendations from fellow travellers and others on where we should go and without any doubt Ilha Grande always came up as the number one destination in Brazil. We heard recommendations from every corner of this continent and people gushed about how great this island was to a level that we felt we just had to come here. First impression is that it is very touristy but has a good laid back vibe so it may be just the place to mellow out for a while. After 388 days of being on the road we were both getting bus weary and have decided to take a break for a bit and this seems like the perfect place to have a holiday from our holiday.

Day 389 Saturday 3rd November

The Pousada where we are staying is right on the beach a short walk from town of Vila do Abraao so we have the advantage of hearing the waves crashing on the beach and very little “party” noises. The town beach isn’t regarded as the best on the island
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Praia Lopes Mendes - Beach
and due to the number of boats sitting just off shore we sort of guessed that it probably could be a bit risky to swim at. The best beach on the island (some say in the whole of Brazil) is Lopez Mendes and is on the other side of the island, just a short 6km walk! Like idiots we were going to head off in our sandals till the hotel manager explained maybe hiking boots or shoes would be more appropriate. We did see other people doing the walk in flip flops and even bare footed but we were glad we wore our boots.

We didn’t head off till nearly 11 and the walk was basically across the island through the jungle landscape on a fairly reasonable path that had you walking either uphill or down. We crossed two other beaches before finally reaching Lopez Mendes beach at 1.30. This beach is open to the Atlantic and so has some reasonable size waves for surfers and was crowded with heaps of people who had also done the trek. The one thing we had forgotten in our excitement to get here is that being on the Atlantic, this water is
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Shelley on Praia Lopes Mendes
bloody cold. We did manage our best brave act and dived in for a bit of a swim with the breakers but didn’t stay in too long. The beach is beautiful and the sand is the most amazing talcum powder fine variety but being Australian, it takes a lot to impress us with a beach.

At 2.30 we started our walk back and discovered that the bulk of the people on the beach were getting a ferry or water taxi boat back rather than hiking out….woose bags. The walk back wasn’t that bad and along the way we managed to see lots of wild life including squirrels, Brown howler monkeys and the strangest of all…penguins. A guy who runs a small hostel at one of the beaches we had to cross on the way back had two Magenallic penguins, and was allowing people to be photographed with them….we think he may have been caring for them. The other monkeys we saw were the same tiny monkeys (marmoset) we had seen in Brasilia which we have been told are introduced and causing problems. The other problem this island seems to be facing is rubbish and although we didn’t see much
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Shelley with two penguins
of it on the trail today there were lots of piles around town. Brazil so far has been an extremely clean country but this island is far from spotless, and on the fringes of Vila do Abraao we came across large piles of used building materials and general refuse. Such a shame for such an otherwise beautiful corner of the world.

We got back to our hotel at 5 just as rain started to fall, so we timed our day perfectly.

Day 390 Sunday 4th November

Day was overcast and dreary with the occasional shower so it was the perfect day to catch up on some blogging. Did manage to get a good look around town, which consists of pousadas, Restaurants, tour agencies and souvenir shops most of which are overpriced. Surprisingly for the number of people that come here, there is no bank or ATM.

Late in the afternoon we wandered down to Lua e Mar which is a small bar right on the beach. Some of the tables actually have waves washing under people’s feet, so it is as close to the surf as you can possibly get. The food isn’t exactly
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Church in Vila do Abraao
great but it is the best place in town for a drink, and watch the sunset over the bay.

Day 391 Monday 5th November

For what we did today please read the above entry. The only difference was yesterday was Sunday and today was Monday. Oh yeah and we also had dinner at a local restaurant in town, where the price and quality of the food was cheaper.

Day 392 Tuesday 6th November

Moving hotels today as we wanted to stay in town a few more days and our hotel on top of being booked out is also very expensive. We had tried to get something cheaper but other than camping we really didn’t have much of a choice. Ended up booking into the Manaca Hotel, which is just up the beach and is slightly cheaper. Of course as usual we had to leave our original hotel at 10 but couldn’t check into the new place before 1, but it was a lovely day and so we sat and read our book on the front veranda occasionally looking up at the beach and boats, till our room was ready.

Once we
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Main drag of Vila do Abraao
had settled into our room our day followed the usual pattern of not doing much, having a swim at the beach and then concluding with a drink and food as the sunset. Whilst at our usual bar (Lua e Mar) we had great entertainment watching a boat being unloaded on the beach. Timber, bags of cement and sand and all manner of building material had to be manhandled off the boat and through the surf and then hauled away on carts. One of the guys was carrying 3 x 25kg bags of cement on his shoulders whilst holding his beer, and he didn’t spill a drop…you just gotta love Brazil.

Day 393 Wednesday 7th November

Today we decided on doing something we had missed out on doing countless times on this trip, and that is kayaking. After breakfast we headed down to the beach and hired a plastic twin kayak for 20 reals ($10) an hour. The kayak was so battered looking and had cracks and patches all over it like it had been used to kayak over Iguazu falls, but it stayed afloat so that is the main thing. The morning had started out sunny
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View from our table
and fine but as soon as we sat in the kayak a breeze came in and it clouded over. Just off the beach we spotted a turtle, but predictably as soon as I got my camera out it dived and swam away.

We hired the kayak for two hours and this enabled us to paddle off to a couple of nearby bays, but it was tough going in the stiff breeze. We hadn’t expected to get so wet but our paddling left a lot to be desired and I felt like at times I was just paddling water into my lap. By the time we got back we were both drenched so it was back to our room to rinse out us and our swimmers.

Today we noticed a little beach side restaurant was open a few doors down from us, and as the place had been recommended to us by locals and was rarely open we decided to drop in and have lunch. The place sold mainly seafood and was small and had tables and chairs out on the beach beneath a huge tree. From the look of the place we thought it would be cheap but
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One of my new friends
most of the seafood dishes were 60 – 70 reals ($30 - $35). Didn’t really want to spend $100 on lunch and so settled for some cheaper alternatives on the menu and a beer. Life on this island is great providing you have the funds but we are finding ways to bring the cost down a bit.

For dinner we ended up down in town and found a cheap bar that sold cheap bar food. Unlucky for us the food was predictably bad but lucky for the town dogs they got a good feed. As usual Shelley took an attachment to a very skinny girl (dog that is) and proceeded to feed it all our left overs. I had chicken wings for dinner and when we were finished our waiter fed them straight to the dogs. Always been told not to feed dogs cooked chicken bones so we sort of cringed at that one but there wasn’t much we could do as the dogs woofed them down.

Day 394 Thursday 8th November

Today is our last full day on the island and so we (Shelley actually) decided that rather than laying around doing nothing we
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Is it sea worthy?
should get out on a nice long bushwalk. Found out about a walk that was only about 3 hours long that went to a waterfall and didn’t sound too bad so after breakfast we donned our boots and headed out the door. The day was nice and sunny and although a lot of the walk was in the shade of the jungle canopy, the humidity had us sweating bucket loads.

Just outside of the town we came to a black sand beach followed by the ruins of the old prison of Lazareto, which started life back in the 1800’s as a quarantine station for people with Cholera but finished its life in 1954 as a prison. What is left of the buildings are now completely overgrown. Nearby to Lazareto was an Aqueduct that was built in 1893 and is still in use. From here the trail headed up hill and although it wasn’t the hardest walk we have ever done the humidity made it tough. Ilha Grande actually has some of the last tracts of pristine Brazilian Atlantic rainforest and so it was a really beautiful walk with lots of birds and different trees as well as howler monkeys
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That blur is a turtle
which we could hear but not see today.

Got to the waterfall in a puddle of sweat and discovered that our hotel owner was correct when he said “its no Iguazu”. It was about 10 metres high and the pond looked a bit stagnant so as a destination it wasn’t much but the walk was worth it. Headed back and had plenty of stops on the way back to see if we could catch sight of the noisy howler monkeys but didn’t see them. Once in town we had a shower and headed out to have a final drink at our favourite bar on the beach before getting a pizza for dinner. Ilha Grande has been a great respite from all the buses but tomorrow we dive back into it again as we start the very long push up the coast of Brazil.

Additional photos below
Photos: 23, Displayed: 23


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Ilha Grande

Shelley paddling
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Ilha Grande

View from from the kayak
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Ilha Grande

Is that an elephant?
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Ilha Grande

Ruins of Lazareto
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Ilha Grande

The cells inside Lazareto
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Ilha Grande

The trees taking over again
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Ilha Grande

The aqueduct
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Ilha Grande

Path to the waterfall
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Ilha Grande

The waterfall

13th November 2012
Ilha Grande

What an insane shot...evokes memories of children's stories...and what it actually is...amazing
16th November 2012

It's an elephant!!!
How beautiful, peaceful and relaxing this place looks and feels from your blog.. Looking at the pictures and seeing the gorgeous greenery of the rainforts, the peguins, turtle, gorgeous dog ( I also fed the dogs (bones and all) in India, so many hungry and in need of affection. Definately and great place for your respite holiday, looks fresh and inviting. Nice break. Are elephants native to the area? xx

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