Ilha Grande, Costa Verde, Brasil (Big Island, Green Coast, Brazil).

Published: June 7th 2015
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The journey from Rio to Ilha Grande took seven hours, not three, from 10.30 a.m. until 4.30 p.m. It is only 130 km south of Rio, but this is Brazil! After a delayed start, stopping and starting to pick up passengers, we finally made it out of the city by midday. On the outskirts of Rio, the favelas (slums) are never-ending. We have seen plenty of slum districts before (and stayed close to a few) but we have never seen anything on the scale of Rio. It is not surprising that there have been massive demonstrations against the expense of hosting the Olympics: billions of dollars and it is doubtful whether the citizens of Rio will reap any benefit from the event.

The bus stopped after about 80 km and the driver told everyone it was a thirty minute stop. He then drove off to lunch somewhere, returning one hour later! The Brazilian passengers reassured us that this was normal and that we had not been abandoned. Eventually we got to Angra dos Reis, where we caught a boat to the island. The crossing took fifty minutes over quite choppy Atlantic waters and the scenery was fantastic. Our destination was Vila do Arbraao, the only little town on the island.

Arbraao has two piers and we were told to get off at the second one. This was wrong, we should have got off at the first, for the ten minute walk along the beach to our “pousada” (B&B guest house). So we got off at the second and proceeded to walk back towards the first, having got directions from an information kiosk at the pier. After this we were misdirected three times, by well-meaning folk, and after an hour we found our pousada! The rucksacks had doubled in weight by this time as the sun beat down upon our backs. Our little room is very basic, but breakfast is good and we have a fabulous sea view. “All´s well that ends well!”

Ilha Grande is so chilled and the locals are really friendly. The crime rate is almost non-existent and the only two motor vehicles allowed on the island are a jeep and a motor bike, both owned by the police, who have a pretty easy working life! That is, if there are any policemen. We saw their vehicles parked up outside the cop shop, but never saw any of them! Maybe in their hammocks for a long siesta! Or maybe they don’t exist! The roads are all just sand tracks and bicycles and hand carts are used to transport people, luggage and supplies, everything that is needed from the boats to the properties around the bay.

The weather is delightful, only about 26 degrees, so cooler than at home at present (of course this is winter, so the equivalent of December in the Northern Hemisphere). The sea is warmer than we expected it to be, so we have been swimming and snorkelling. The island is covered in dense tropical rainforest and steep peaks, there is very little flat land, so we have been a bit lazy on the walking front! Ilha Grande is a national park.

Yesterday we took a full day boat trip to see other parts of the island and do some snorkelling. It was a great day out. Our boat made five stops, three for snorkelling, another one for lunch and a last one just for the beach. We stayed on the boat at this last stop, not really wanting to get wet again (you have to wade ashore at the stops); we just sat on the boat enjoying the scenery. The snorkelling stops were good. We saw quite a lot of fish, mostly tiger fish. We didn’t see any turtles although there are plenty in these waters. The coastal scenery here is truly stunning; all in all this is a pretty good place to be!

We have come just about 130 km of our 1,500 km journey down to Iguazu and the Argentinian border, so although tempted to stay on this idyllic island a bit longer, we have decided to move on a little bit further tomorrow. We shall take a boat back to Angra dos Reis on the mainland, then get the bus to Parati, which is pronounced “para-chi”. The “t” is often pronounced as a “ch” in Portuguese and the “d” as a soft “j” or “g”, so to say “Hello”, one doesn´t say “Bon Dia”, as it is written, but rather “Bon Jia”, with a soft “j” as in “Bonjour”.

Parati is an old colonial town between here and Sao Paulo, so although it isn´t very far on our journey, only about another 100 km from Angra dos Reis, it is heading in the right direction!

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