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Published: July 28th 2015
A few kilometers from Sao Sebastiao
Beautiful stretch of coastline in Sao Paulo State
Our Brazilian friend, Edi, drove us to the car rental agency in the southern suburbs of Sao Paulo. He also lent us a GPS involuntarily programmed to avoid the major highways!... which made it challenging to get out of the city! We left around 10am after rush hour and we quickly reached Santos and the ocean. We followed the coastal road all the way to Sao Sebastiao. Sao Paulo is surrounded by big mountains covered in lavish forests. After 10 days spent in humongous Sao Paulo, my mom was excited to get away from the city and she took in a big breath at the first beach we stopped at. The beach was so wide at low tide. Other than vultures (yes, the actual birds!), there was absolutely nobody but us on the beach. My life in China seemed so far away. The Sao Paulo State coastline is beautiful and we stopped several times along the road to marvel at the viewpoints and take it all in.
After some grocery shopping (and a tasty strawberry pie: the kind of food I miss in China!) in Sao Sebastiao, we drove over to the ferry for Ilhabela. The water looked very blue
our destination for a couple of days:
Ilhabela: island getaway for the rich and famous apparently...
and clean in spite of the massive oil tankers that were navigating between town and the island. A 15-minute-ferry-ride later, we were on Ilhabela, looking for a nice beach to have lunch and a nap on. We decided to drive north to Praia Jabaquara and it turned out to be quite an adventure as the paved road quickly disappeared. Our little rental car was jolting up and down through the water trenches in the road. We laughed quite a bit wondering where we would end up, especially since big dark clouds were moving in fast on us. The view over sheltered Jabaquara beach was stunning: golden sand, blue water, and beautiful green hills all around!
Some old man managed to make us pay for parking… and we walked down the beach looking forward to a nice swim and some relaxing time, but there was no way we could sit or lie down on the sand! We got eaten alive by sand flees and other bugs (burrachudos monsters!). It was a nightmare! They particularly fed on my mom’s feet and calves and they left some red bumps that she had to fight very hard not to scratch for several days!
Argh! We didn’t stay on the beach but drove back towards civilization and walked around the old quarter, enjoying the festive holiday atmosphere along the pedestrian streets: colorful shops and old buildings, lively restaurants and football matches on TV everywhere!
Many wealthy paulistanos have moved to Ilhabela to retire. Others retreat to Ilhabela on the weekend. We had dinner at a lovely restaurant terrace watching football with a paulistano couple and a family from Chile. We sat outside enjoying our food and a World Cup game: Chile was playing. Everyone seemed to speak English (which was new to us after a month in Bahia where nobody spoke a word of English!). We all complained about the referee and we laughed when the players missed an easy chance to score. In South America, everyone speaks football!
Since we were on an island, we thought it’d be easy to get away from everyone and set up our tent for the night. But Ilhabela is very touristy and there are houses and people pretty much everywhere along the coast. We ended up camping between some big rocks on the beach just outside a hotel. We tried our best to pitch our
tent quietly at night. I guess we were both afraid to get kicked out by the police (what police?) and also worried about safety (we had heard so many crazy stories about Brazil). Looking back at it now, I feel like laughing at the 3 of us as we shouldn’t have worried at all. We were on a beautiful island among rich tourists. Had they seen us, I think people would have laughed at us or felt sympathy for the poor French tourists! Haha! After a month of camping in Bahia, my Dad and I were experts at quickly pitching the tent. In less than 3 minutes we were set while my mom carried the mattresses and sleeping bags. I think we experienced mixed feelings about this wild camping. We were definitely worried about being discovered (although we hadn’t yet seen any sign that banned camping on the beach) but we were also amused and excited to sleep on the beach, play the secret tourists and save R$500 a night! In the middle of the night my mom woke me up to ask me to check on the tide. The water sounded very close by… Indeed it had had gone
How did you guys sleep?! Not very well, but we laughed!
up but we were still safe and dry!
Having early breakfast overlooking the ocean should be like brushing teeth: compulsory. What a healthy habit this is! Ilhabela was still asleep while we were boiling water, ready to dunk fat Brazilian chocolate cake into our coffees! Now this is life, my friends! We met an elder lady who was walking her dog and as she saw our tent that was being aired out on our car door, she asked us if we had found the camping ground in town. There was a camping ground not far??!! Ha! Well, maybe next time…
We enjoyed the morning at the beach and we lazily drove from one secluded beach to another. We swam (bathed) in the sea. My Dad went for a jog. My mom and I sat on smooth rocks working on getting a tan, while contemplating the calm ocean and the little crabs that were crawling around. In the afternoon we headed inland in search of waterfalls. We followed a muddy and steep trail in the tropical forest. It was hot and humid (what did you expect?!) and my Mom reminisced of the long hike we had done along the
Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan Province, China. We still joke about how she spent 10 Euros on a small horse that carried her to the top of the mountain. The waterfalls were lovely. We climbed on big rocks and bathed in a pool of fresh (chilly) water. I went down a natural rock/water slide. It was so quiet, so peaceful, extremely relaxing.
It would have been nice to continue the hike to the other side of the island. There is supposed to be a spectacular beach there (Praia Bonete) but my parents didn’t feel like getting bitten again by millions of bugs. Next time then? We camped at the exact same place, sheltered between big boulders. The sky and ocean were all pink and purple when we woke up to catch the earliest ferry out. Tchau Ilhabela!
Ilhabella: que de jolies petites plages mais tellement de puces de sable! Nous nous sommes fait devorer et avons prefere faire un peu de marche a l’interieur de l’ile pour profiter des cascades et des bassins d‘eau fraiche. Football et bons repas dans les rues pietonnes en soiree, petit dej en contemplant la mer et le littoral bresilien… La
vie va bien!
Nous nous sommes amuse a nous cacher le soir afin de camper sur la plage, entre de gros rochers. Quelle aventure! On y retourne quand?
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