Ilha Grande

Trip Start Sep 05, 2007
1
36
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Trip End Feb 24, 2008


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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Oi from Rio de Janeiro.  I just got back from Ilha Grande and thought I'd write about it before spending the next several days back here in Rio.  So this past Wednesday Tom and I split up -- I headed towards Ilha Grande and he headed later that day to the airport to fly back to the US.  I left the hotel around 9 and got a cab to the main bus station.  It took a while to get there, as the traffic was really bad towards the end.  Though it was already a bit later than 9:30, I bought a ticket for a 9:30 bus, but didn't end up leaving the station until almost 10:30.  The bus took me to Angra dos Reis (it took almost 3 hours), from where I took a 2:30pm boat to the actual island of Ilha Grande (getting there almost two hours later).

I had really been hoping for better weather at Ilha Grande than I had had in Rio, but it was terrible when I got there.  The sky was filled with black clouds and it surely was going to rain later that day (which it did).  Ilha Grande is apparently the third largest island in Brazil, but even though it occupies a lot of space, it feels very small.  There is really just one town and in that town there are no cars and no banks.  The island is mostly mountained jungle, with many beaches along its shores (and some settlements and guest houses along these beaches).

I had been to Ilha Grande almost exactly two years ago when I came to Brazil to visit my friend Mahbod, but we had gone for only one day.  It was a crazy day -- leaving Rio at 5:30am to catch an 8am ferry from Mangaratiba, doing a two hour hike to get to a beach, and then only having a couple of hours on the beach before needing to catch a boat back to the ferry back to the bus back to Rio.  And that day I promised myself I would come back for a longer trip -- and now I did!  I had just loved the vibe of the island and the beach we had gone to was amazing.

Nothing too exciting the day I arrived.  I was staying at a hostel at the edge of town and we had a fish BBQ, which was good.  The next day the weather continued to be lousy, so I just walked around town for a while.  As it started to improve and the sun came out, I hung out at a small beach right next to the hostel.  It was cloudy, but there were a few five or ten minute intervals of sun.  Still, very relaxing, got some reading done.

It rained heavily overnight (actually it rained every night of my stay on the island) but cleared up by the next morning.  Since the weather was nice, I wanted to repeat my experience of two years ago and hike to Lopes Mendes beach -- but this time spend more than just a couple of hours there.  Lopes Mendes is considered the best beach on the island (and some say in Brazil or in the world).  A group from the hostel was taking a boat to Lopes Mendes and the lady working the front desk was trying very hard to convince everyone to take that boat (she must get a cut of the cash...).  But I wanted to hike there and take a boat back, not take a boat both ways.  I met an Irish guy named Alan at breakfast who was also interested in walking there, so he came with me.  The lady told us it was "too dangerous" to walk there that day since it rained heavily the night before, but it seemed like she just wanted to sell boat tickets.  So we decided to take the chance.

It was definitely a muddy trek and very slippery in some places, but not too bad.  It took less than two hours.  Lots of ups and downs and after the first major climb you are rewarded with an amazing view of the main town and its bay.  When we finally got to the beach, it was just as amazing as I remembered it (though more crowded).  We spent about 5 hours there (mostly in the shade, though I still managed to get burnt a bit).  We knew there was a boat leaving from a beach 20 minutes away at 6:30, so we had just planned to take that one back, while the boat from the hostel left that other beach at 4:30 (boats can't leave or come directly from/to Lopes Mendes because the waves are too strong).  The crowd did thin out quite a bit after around 4pm and the beach was fairly empty when we left at 6.  It's a beautiful beach -- really long and backed by jungle.  There are no houses of any kind, just a few people with coolers selling drinks and a bit of food.

The boat back was small and it took a while.  There were a couple of guys in charge, but most of the way, we were piloted back by a 6-year old kid (presumably one of their sons).  Rain clouds started to gather and we figured we'd be in for more rain that evening.

The next day though the weather was again nice.  This time, the lady at the hostel was trying hard to sell a snorkeling trip that went around to a few different beaches, and we decided to do it.  The first stop was Blue Lagoon, which was a decent boat ride away.  When we got there, there weren't enough snorkeling masks for everyone who had paid for one, so people had to share.  It wasn't the best snorkeling I've done, as I only saw a few different types of fish.  The boat stopped at a few other beaches (including one where we had lunch at a restaurant) before heading back to the hostel around 4:30pm.  Again, though it was a beautiful day, the clouds started turning black on our way home.  There was another BBQ at the hostel last night, though this time there were more sides and it wasn't just fish on the grill, but beef, chicken, cheese, pork and one huge fish.

Saturday night someone had told me about a better way to get back to Rio than just backtracking on the way that I had arrived at Ilha Grande.  So I walked to the main dock in the center of town and a woman was there screaming about Fast Connection to Rio, which was what had been described to me.  Basically, Fast Connection is a combination of boat and van that takes you right to a specific address in several parts of Rio.  And if you were to count taxi costs from the bus station, it actually costs less.  So our boat left at 10am for Mangaratiba, where we were quickly transferred to a van, waiting less than 10 minutes.  This van then took us to where we wanted to get in Rio -- I was standing in a hostel in Ipanema by 2:15pm (though it was full and I had to walk to another one).

Anyway, here I am back in Rio.  My flight back to Buenos Aires is on Friday, so I have several days here post-Carnival.  Hopefully the weather cooperates.
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