After Rio, we took off to a little place called Angre and there, caught a boat to Ilha Grande (i.e big island). This is Brazil´s 3rd largest island, lush with tropical scenery and many beaches. It is accessible only by boat, and there are no cars, banks or ATMs on the island.. (which was a little bit disconcerting given how much cash people had to carry for a multiple day stay!) You mostly boat to the various beaches lining the island´s coast; while you can walk, it take is a fair distance through jungly terrain and who knows what creatures you might come across (i.e anaconda anyone?) ;). The island has a population of 3600 but you can´t really tell upon arrival. The dock where the ferry and catamarans arrive gives the impression -to a naive tourist – that there are only about 10 pousadas and a smattering of restaurants. Once you get off the boat you realize the “tourist village” goes much farther back and there are pizzarias and pousadas nestled into winding pathways, with lush overgrowth. My parents say it really reminded them of Bali.
INTERESTING HISTORY: For most of it’s history as part of Brazil, Ilha Grande was a high security prison – off limits to the public. There are still some ruins of the prison accessible to view. It was open until 1994 and then became a touristy and “pristine” spot to visit. *It was a little off putting to think that you are going to an island (with tons of cash on you) which less than 2 decades ago hosted criminals….!? Might there still be one or two hiding in the miles of jungle? We did not run into any ;)*
Anyways, moving on ….. we took a schooner trip on one of the days, and stopped at a number of lagoons and a beach. We rented a snorkel and got to see some of the local fish (as well as touch them when they swarmed you after feeding!) I didn´t find them as colourful here as other places, but they are still pretty neat :). The next day we did another schooner trip, which was definitely the way to go! We went to Lopez Mendes, which is supposed to be the nicest beach in Brazil (though i´ve heard this a few times about different beaches). It was certainly spectacular and the nicest beach OVERALL in terms of sand, water clarity and temperature, AND the size (i.e shade options, long stretches of sand, etc). There were no surfing waves so I felt bad for those who brough their surf boards .. but it was perfect nonetheless :).
We spent 3 nights in total, and I very much enjoyed the less frenetic way of life on an island where no cars are allowed. That said, it was obviously touristy ..
Some musings (see, I told you I would report my musings. I DO think sometimes!)
(1) Day trips are the way to go in Brazil; while other things (i.e taxis) are more expensive or at least comparable to Vancouver, these trips are more reasonable than even in Mexico or Cuba. Por ejemplo,$10-14 CAD for a 10-430pm schooner trip, with fruit and coffee included and stopping at 3+ islands. Not shabby!
(2) Dessert trays sitting in the streets are kind of cool, albeit most certainly unsanitary! I didnt take a picture but these huge carts on wheels (like 5 ft by 5 ft) have about 15 different desserts in them and sit there covered up. Not sure they are changed regularly or chilled properly, but we didn´t get deathly ill from the lime pie and that is all that matters to me at this point!)
(3) Acai (the berry) is very popular in Brazil, as is pop made with guarana juice. FYI, Guarana is a berry from the Amazon said to have energy enhancing properties. You can find it at home in Amp, Volt, and other energy drinks (not that I would know, haha) ..but they have Acai berry sundaes here and the like. Tried some sorbet type stuff in Paraty and it was tasty (and free, even better!)
(4) The stray (or maybe not stray?) dogs wandering the streets in most Brazilian cities are adorable, tame, and i want to take one home (at least)!!! See picture above of my favorite boy so far..
(5) Topless-ness is a No No in brazil, but it is more than OK – if not expected – to show as much skin as possible (while still wearing two peices of cloth) when at the beach. One-peices are not worn, from what i could see, by the locals .. no matter the age. That said, just like the majority of beaches it seems, usually the people you do not want to see … you see more of …. if you get my drift);)
Paraty (the next coastal town we visited) blogging is coming up next .. and I am slowly catching up! Currently (March 29th) I am in foz do iguaçu (Brazil) and am leaving Brazil this afternoon, flying into Buenos Aires after trekking to the Argentinian side by bus and foot.
Will post more soon!