Ilha Grande

We were finally making it to Ilha Grande, an island that had since alluded our best efforts to reach it. Luckily, from Paraty, it was pretty straightforward. We took a local bus to the town of Angra (the bus drops you off very close to the docks – get off when everyone else with bags does) and then a boat to the island for R$20 each. The once-a-day public ferry is significantly cheaper, but also much slower. And we had a game to catch.

We should have known. As we approached the island, the clouds reached misty fingers from the sky towards land. The winds picked up and we retreated underneath the cover on the boat just in time. It began to pour, in earnest, and only got stronger as we docked. People scurried around on the dock and on board, shuttling packages and shipments onto land. Tim threw our packs onto the dock and we paused for a minute when we got to the shelter at the end. We had booked our hotel last minute, and at this particular time (World Cup) on this very popular island, that was a surefire way to get left with few options. We’d ended up splurging on a place that was, luckily, a short walk away. We ducked into the rain, avoided rivers streaming down the streets, and arrived sodden at our hotel a few minutes later. We donned our Brazil gear and headed back out into the marginally improved weather, in search of a restaurant to watch the Brazil vs. Germany game.

For those of you who followed the World Cup, you already know. It was gruesome. Brazil absolutely fell apart and Germany danced around them, ending with a 7-1 finish for Germany. After a quick succession of goals, we found ourselves just hoping Germany would stop. Or at the very least stop celebrating after each and every seemingly effortless goal they scored. As we watched the Brazilian faces around us crumble in shattered disbelief, we could only count ourselves lucky for happening to be here, on this quiet island, with relatively few fans (and people, for that matter), rather than in the thick of it in any city, at any bar, by any screen, where we would feel the heartbreak that much more.

In an effort to push aside what we had just witnessed, we stopped at one of the very convenient, tempting, and delicious cake trolleys that trundle around Ilha Grande’s main town, Abraão. Consolation in key lime pie.

The next day, our misinformation and our dreams were trumped, a little bit, by reality.

We had been under the impression that it is a rather straightforward process to hike to the island’s most beautiful beach, Aventureiro, in the space of a day, camp, and then return to Abraão. Turns out, not so much.

Aventureiro can be reached (a) by boat, (b) by hiking the long way around the island, which would take days (plural), or (c) by hiking to Parnaioca and then taking a boat to Aventureiro, as it is forbidden to enter the reserve that encompasses Aventureiro by foot from that side. And, after speaking with our friendly hotel staff, it became apparent that boats from Parnaioca to Aventureiro were, at this time of year, few and far between to the tune of one every few days.

Since we’d already reorganised our gear and had camping as the goal, we looked at our other options. A popular day hike option is to head to the vast and lovely Lopes Mendes beach and return, same day, as there is no permitted camping in the area. There was, however, campsites in a village about halfway between our destination beach and town. So it wasn’t a lost cause.

We set off on the hike, which involved quite a lot of hill, and a lot of slippery, and I wouldn’t recommend taking on in flip flops, as many of the day-trippers we saw had chosen to do. I was, most thankfully, only carting a little day pack with water and such on this hike, as Tim was manfully trekking most of the gear up and down the hills for us. For the record, Lopes Mendes can also be reached (almost) by boat from Abraão. But hey, walking is free.

20140708-IMG_2225We wandered across a couple of other beach (and up and down a couple more hills) before reaching our destination. The beach was lovely, if a bit busy, as it was an extremely popular destination within reasonable access from town. It’s easy enough to walk down a ways from the crowds, if so desired, as the beach literally just keeps going.

We also found a place to camp. I won’t say where.

Photo Credit: Tim Binks

Photo Credit: Tim Binks

We were conveniently located to have the beach almost to ourselves in the morning.

The weather wasn’t looking like it was going to shape up enough for us to want to spend the day on the beach, so we started the hike back early. This was a great call, as the rain started and just kept going (see a pattern with this island?) We passed several miserable-looking people heading off for their beach day, and figured our timing was about as good as it could have been.

By the time we made it back to town we were hungry, cold, and felt like we’d earned something, so we went out for hot chocolate and a great lunch. We paid more for it but, sometimes, it’s just worth it.

We were moving house that afternoon, to Studio Hostel down a small alley off of the ocean-front road. We spent a little while cleaning and reorganising, and then headed out (in the rain) to explore a tiny bit of our area.

Even in the pouring rain, Abraão is charming, with quaint streets and countless artesan shops. Restaurants and bars beckoned with tasty menus and yummy drinks. I liked this place. But, as it goes, the next day we were off. We caught the morning ferry back to Angra. From here, it was a quick ride to the bus terminal (once we found the right bus, after asking several locals), and then a bus to Rio. To the city for the big time.

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