Life's a whole lot of beaches!

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
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Trip End Mar 16, 2009


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Flag of Brazil  , State of Santa Catarina,
Friday, January 30, 2009

IMH: Our first stop in Brazil, apart from the quick day trip to the enchanting Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls, was the island paradise of Florianopolis. Brazil, being the largest country in South America and almost taking up a third of the continents land mass meant that there was very little chance that we would cover much ground in only two weeks. So we selected a few destinations that wouldn't require extensive and exhausting travel but were not to be missed.
 
After thirteen months of travel we were beginning to feel a little drained and need to recharge the batteries a little and Florianopolis sounded like just the right place to do this.  Apparently it was named after Brazil's second president but we thought it sounded quite exotic, like some sort of Greek flower. We'd heard from so many fellow travellers that it was definitely a worth while stop-over on-route to Rio so we didn't think twice to add the island to our short list.
 
The road between Porto Iguazu and Florianopolis was also our longest bus journey on our trip - a total of 23 hours with one bus change some where in the middle of nowhere. I must add that I was very proud of Ryan who sat though the gruelling journey without complaining... too much anyway!
 
Florianopolis, lies just off the Brazilian coast, south west of Sao Paulo, and consists of a small mainland section connected via a bridge to Ilha Santa Catarina. Like many popular tourist destinations a section of the island (mostly the Northern part) was very built-up and commercialised, where the south was less developed due to a law passed recently limiting development. Thankfully a large section of the beaches and adjacent greenery were declared protected areas preserving some of the islands natural beauty.
 
We chose to stay in the south of the island in an area called Campeche. Since this was our last real 'break' before heading back to South Africa and the 'real world', we treated ourselves to a nice luxurious (for us anyway) resort-like accommodation complete with a pool, entertainment lounge and most importantly, walking distance to Florianopolis' best beach. We had a lovely room (albeit mosquito infested) in a tranquil garden setting filled with flocks of chirping birds and the occasional troop of cheeky monkeys.
 
After a few days in the idyllic Campeche we soon realised that the island was much bigger than we initially thought and distances on the island were more than just a bicycle ride and we'd need to rent a car if we wanted to do any real exploring. With the help of the resort friendly staff we managed to rent one of the smallest cars on the island for only three days and opted to relax and try to catch-up on the blog over the last two days.
 
The 14km long Campeche beach is one of the most popular surf beaches on the island and is also very popular with the gay community. Since it was peak holiday season for the Brazilians, we shared the beach with many of the islands locals as well as Brazilians visiting from the mainland. It felt as though we really got a true feel for the Brazilian way of life, even though our Portuguese left much to be desired. One thing that we quickly caught onto was that you were free drink alcohol on the beaches. Some of the beaches we visited had tiny rickety shacks that operated as bars and some beaches even had mobile cocktail bars selling beer, caipirinha (lime, crushed ice, and a potent sugarcane liquor called cachaša) or whatever you fancied.
 
As soon as we received our rental car we hit road and started exploring south western side of the island. The town of Ribeirao da Ilha stole our hearts with its cobble stone streets, cosy colonial feel, brightly coloured houses and beautiful church dating back to the 1800's. We had an amazing lunch at a restaurant called Ostradamus and judging from the number of patrons in the seaside restaurant we were not the only one's who knew about this little gem.
 
Ostradamus was famous for its fresh seafood but most notably famous for its huge selection of deliciously prepared oysters, thus the name. We didn't hesitate to start with a dozen fresh oysters seasoned liberally with freshly ground black pepper and a dash of Tabasco. No oyster are complete without a glass of bubbly so we washed the delicious little suckers down with a bottle of Brazils finest sparkling wine which happened to be a Chandon from the famous Moet & Chandon stable. We were pleasantly surprised by the Brazilian "Champaign" which was crisp with yeasty undertones and complimented the oysters perfectly.
 
For mains we selected what we thought would be a few small pieces of fish but turned out to be the entire fish smothered in crispy brazil nuts and served with little potato balls. It was a truly unforgettable lunch and we savoured every sip and bite while soaking in the beautiful views of the surrounding bay. 
 
Back behind the wheel we headed further south and couldn't resist stopping-off at a beautiful little beach where we joined some locals for a swim. The water was a lovely temperature and much warmer than the East coast where we were staying. As oysters are cultivated in the bays, the water is not clear and we ended-up referring to the beach as "oyster pee beach".
 
The following morning we hopped back in our little car and explored the South Eastern side of the island where we had lunch at a rustic seafood shack on the Praia do Pantano do Sul beach. As it was a Sunday and the place was packed to the rafters and we were lucky to find a table in this chaotic, but cosy shack with scribbled notes and poems stuck all over the walls and roof. Patrons were even treated to some live entertainment in the form of a sexy belly dancer who did really well, but could not be compared to the curvy belly dancers in Middle East. The beach was packed, but we were able to elbow our way though the crowd to put our towels down and go for a quick swim. We were very lucky with the weather and had to keep re-applying total sun block to avoid getting terribly sunburnt.
 
The afternoon was concluded with a drive up the North Eastern coast of the island past a huge protected inland lagoon, Lagoa da Conceicao. The entry/exit roads on the island is many single lane and gets quite congested over weekends with parking as scarce as hens teeth. It was fun to see the locals 'parking-off', belly's exposed with a drink in the hand while some engaged in serious volleyball competitions.
 
We tried our best to see sunrise and sunrise everyday and we did pretty well. The sun rises over the sea on Campeche and the sun set behind us over the high hills on the island. It was beautiful and I wish I could include more of Ryan's photographs to prove it.
 
As we also wanted to be recognisable to our friends and family on our return to South Africa, we established a fitness routine (very basic) to try and shed some kilos before setting foot in South Africa. We went for a walk/run in the mornings and otherwise tried to walk as much as possible and ate health seafood most of the time. I think it worked...a little.
 
The last day we had wheels we drove along the cost of the Northern tip of the island. We had lunch at a little beach restaurant in the oldest settlement on the island, Sto. Antonio de Lisboa. It was a beautiful little town with a similar feel to Ribeirao da Ilha. The further North we ventured to Canavieiras, Praia Brava and Ingleses do Rio Vermelho, the scenery changed and became very built-up with small beaches and with people everywhere. The beaches did look fun though and I can imagine for any single traveller this is the place to be. We drove home content that we chose the best spot on the island to spend the five days.
 
The island felt somewhat like one of the Thailand islands we visited about a year ago, Koh Phangan, but I would still recommend Thailand's islands before Brazil's beaches. If you like waves however, Brazil's the place to be. I also read that some of Brazil's beaches further North on the coast are unbeatable, we will just have to come back to this amazing country to see it for ourselves.
 
Our last two days were sent relaxing and catching-up on our blog. As we uploaded the last photos we were happy to at least be up-to-date with all the entries up until Brazil and realised that we'll only have to update the Brazilian entries once back in South Africa.
 
Aahh, what a lovely break! Ryan and I also had a chance to discuss and agree (sometimes after initial disagreement and some heated debating) on some serious issues we had to decide over when back in South Africa. We felt happy to be aligned and looked forward to enjoy the last 9 days of our trip to the fullest.
 
It is difficult to explain how we felt knowing we're taking our last night bus; I could barely sleep on the bus I was so excited not to have to do this again. It was only a 10 hour bus ride (after a 20+ hour trip anything under 15 hours seems short) to Sao Paulo and I can now say - been there, done it and will hopefully never have to do it again!
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