Brazil 3: Ilha Grande

So we arrived at Abraao, Ilha Grande, at around 5pm and made our way to our hostel, Overnativa Green Hostel, where we had booked 3 nights in a 4 bed dorm. We arrived to find the guy on reception spoke barely any English so when we were taken to a 6 bed dorm rather than a 4 bed dorm it was difficult to communicate and resolve the issue. After trying to put us off the 4 bed by insisting the 4 bed only had a fan whereas the 6 bed had aircon, then that the 4 bed had males in it whereas the 6 bed only had females, we finally got round to seeing the room and it turned out there were already 3 people in there so there wasn’t space for the both of us. With nothing we could do, we settled into the 6 bed dorm and had a cold shower (the hot water didn’t work for 2 days) before heading out to explore the Island, kind of peeved that the wifi in the hostel also wasn’t working.

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For me, I immediately loved being back on an island, especially in the early evenings when the sun begins to set over the water, and it really reminded me of my extended time on the Thai islands and the isolation and peace of the Cambodian islands. Strolling past a group of Brazilian lads playing football on the beach (no matter where in the world you go, if there is a beach then there will be males playing football) I felt an inner joy and calm that I hadn’t felt in a while.

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We took some time to wander around the cobbled streets, perusing the market stalls and craft/souvenir shops, before deciding that we wanted to grab something to eat. It was then that we ran into Shaye and Ralph, whom had already eaten so they joined us for drink while we ate crab soup (as recommended by Lonely Planet and as seemed to be popular on Ilha Grande) outside of a local, deserted restaurant on a side street while the guys drank beers and I stuck to martini, as we recalled rather personal stories about each other considering we’d only known them for 6 hours.

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The following day, after a really generous and varied inclusive breakfast of fresh fruit, rolls, jam, granola and freshly baked (delicious) cakes, we met up with Ralph and Shaye at around 10am before grabbing some essentials and heading out on the Lopes Mendes walk. This is a walk that starts in Abraao and ends at Lopes Mendes beach, trekking through the jungle and crossing 2 other beaches (Palmas and Pouso) on the way.

The walk is advised to take 2 hours and it is recommended to start early as it becomes unbearably hot in the middle of the day. Turns out it gets unbearably hot quite early, too, as I developed a sweat scarf quite quickly into the walk and had to pull my dress down to around my waist, purely to keep from passing out. I’d also once again decided to wear flip flops for the clambering-up-rocks-in-the-jungle walk, ever the sensible person I am, as my chopped-off blood blister toe was too sore to squeeze into trainers or walking boots. So along with the heat, humidity and demand of navigating the muddy jungle, I also had inappropriate shoes on. 

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Palmas Beach

But it was a wonderful jungle to hike through, passing monkeys in the trees and open views of the sparkling ocean at the top, all before making it to the first beach. Palmas was a cute beach with lots of gorgeous palm trees and crashing waves, and actually became both Katie and Shaye’s favourite beach of the three, but conscious of continuing with our walk before it got too hot we carried onto the next beach, Pouso, which was my favourite due to the calm waters and softer sand, plus it had a couple of small piers for the speedboats and catamarans that you can take back to Abraao – we decided to book the 6pm speedboat (the last one of the day) back to Abraao there and then so we didn’t get stranded, paying R$20 each (£6). 

We made it to Lopes Mendes at around 1pm, and were struck by how vast and white the beach was but also how treacherous the waves seemed. With the sun at its very peak we found a spot near the shade, after taking obligatory photos with the Brazilian flag that was on the beach, and took it in turns to battle the ocean. The waves were pretty vicious right from the shore and completely drenched you in one hit, but once you got past the initial section it was calmer and you were able to actually swim. Although once I decided to turn back it became apparent how much of a rip there was and it was a struggle to make much progress towards the shore as the strength of the waves kept pulling me back. I’m alive, though, so all is fine!

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Lopes Mendes Beach

At around 3:30/4 we may our way back to Pouso, only about a half hour walk, so we could enjoy the calmer waters and cooler air, having a dip in the sea just as the sun was starting to set, before taking our speedboat back to Abraao at 6pm – a speedboat where I shouldn’t have put my clothes back on as it completely soaked both Shaye and I.

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Pouso Beach just before sunset

It was then that I realised I had accidentally paid for a drink with a R$100 note rather than a R$2 – they are both blue notes but clearly I wasn’t being attentive enough – and felt completely frustrated with myself. The guys kindly let us go back to their accommodation with them so we could use their wifi to sort a few bits out, and it was here that I suddenly realised I had managed to book TWO flights from Brazil to Colombia; one from São Paulo that I had booked through RTW experts months ago and clearly forgotten about with all the changes I have made to my travelling plans, and one I made a week or so before from Rio that I had paid £400 for and wouldn’t be able to cancel. Totally frustrated and full of self-hatred for my money mistakes, I made instant noodles and spent the rest of the evening beating myself up about my stupidity.

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Abraao Beach in the evenings

I had been thinking about doing a boat tour around the island – stopping off at different beaches and lagoons and going snorkelling – but at R$100 and having had practically thrown away £400 and R$100 the day before I just couldn’t justify it, plus I wasn’t really in the mood for being sociable and needed some time to myself. So, while Katie went out for a boat tour for the day, I decided to do the Dois Rios walk, which is another walk through the jungle, crossing the middle of the island, to get to Dois Rios beach on the other side. This was less enclosed than the other one and it was again a ridiculously hot and sweaty walk, but I really enjoyed pushing my body and zoning out mentally from everything else, feeling the rhythm of my steps and the beating pulse of my heart. 

It was a good hour and a half walk, if not more, and I arrived at Dois Rios with the dirtiest feet (of course I wore Haviainas again) where I had to sign in with my information to access the town. I first wandered down towards the old prison, which you can visit as a tourist site and thankfully there was some information in English, although not all.

 

I then walked down towards the beach, which only had a total of about 10 people on it and barely anyone in the sea – probably because of the intense waves. There was a guy on the beach selling food, drinks and ice cream and I immediately went for the Grande tub of Rum n Raisin ice cream for R$6, feeling nostalgic with every bite as it reminded me of Broadstairs beach as a kid where I would always pick Rum n Raisin (and my sister, Marie, would have Toffee Fudge). I enquired about a boat back to Abraao but it would be R$50 just to Pouso and then another R$15/20 from there, money which I didn’t even have on me, so at around 4pm I left the beach, picking up a frozen coconut ice cream stick wrapped in plastic.

The walk back was much cooler, but I desperately needed to pee and having not passed anyone the entire way I decided it was safe to squat at the side of the path and go, to then have a couple approach – I tried to style it out into the idea of me changing out of my bikini but I’m not sure how convincing it was.

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I made it back to Abraao at around 6pm, having walked off most of my self-loathing and feeling in a better mood, to arrive at my hostel to find I couldn’t get into my room. They only have one key per room that has to be kept at reception when we go out but they hadn’t told the guy whom had just checked in, so he had gone off around the island with the key on him. No wifi, no hot water, and now I couldn’t get into my room to shower. Only one thing for it – I drank a whole bottle of cheap sangria. Katie and I then went out to grab some street food – her opting for tapioca parcels and me for a delicious vegetarian slice and then later a small pizza – before picking up some beers from the shop and stumbling across a moving “bloco”. I’m not sure it was so much a moving bloco as a band of drums playing music as they walked through the streets, but it had a great beat and Katie and I followed for a while, me entranced by one of the male drummers.

We then took a couple of beers to go to sit on the beer, to then find another band of drummers (and a woman on the tambourine) playing at the end of the pier. So we sat down on the edge for an hour or so as they band played their Brazilian beat and locals flocked to dance spontaneous salsa on the pier as the sun had set. I was surprised by how lost I could get in the music, and also by how many Brazilian drummers I seemed to be attracted to…

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At around 11pm the band moved down the pier so Katie and I headed back to our hostel as we would be leaving early the following morning. So, the next day we had breakfast and then went to check out and pay, to be told the money had already been taken from Katie’s account. We hadn’t wanted to pay the full amount due to having no wifi throughout our entire 3 day stay, no hot water for 2 out of 3 days, being in a 6 bed rather than a 4 bed, plus being locked out of our room. We tried to discuss this with the manager but he became defensive and said we had to go through booking.com, which I said was ridiculous and he thought I said HE was ridiculous, so it all became very awkward and difficult. He eventually refunded us R$50 (£15) in cash and walked away, so we quickly grabbed our bags and left, making our way to the pier. 

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We had paid R$100 each (£30) to get a speedboat and then bus direct to our hostel in Rio with Top Transfer; as it was the first day of Rio Carnival we knew the roads and metro would be crazy so we didn’t want to mess with separate transport ourselves, but then our bus driver forced 6 of us to get off at the airport in Rio, where we were left waiting for an hour for another minibus to collect us and eventually take us to our hostel. “Top” Transfer, my bum hole. It was once we were in our hostel in Rio, however, that Katie checked her emails and made an embarrassing realisation – she had accidentally only booked one person for our stay in Overnativo. Suddenly the not having space in a 4 bed dorm made sense, and our demand for a part-refund for the lack of facilities an absolute cheek; we basically paid 2/3 of one person for two of us staying in a hostel. 

Right. So we made a few errors in Ilha Grande. It would be great if it could go smoothly in Rio, which I’m sure will be totally achievable, what with it being Carnival…

LS

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