Ilha Grande, Brazil
25° 4' S 48° 45' W
Sep 18, 2004 23:58
Distance 611km

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Text written in: English

Beautiful.... eventually!

We saw the shape of Ihla Grande from the plane when we flew into Rio and it made us want to go there. It's an almost symmetrical island with hundreds of deserted beaches. It is also supposed to be an easy journey from Rio so was perfect for a quick beach getaway. It used to be where they incarcerated Brazils most vicious criminals – now it's a protected eco reserve.

We decided to avoid the tour operators wanting to take us there and to make the journey independently as we usually do. We asked advice on how to get there. We have since learned how dangerous it is to ask a Brazilian for directions. If they don't know (which they invariably don't) then they guess. We asked 3 people and they all told us the same thing so we headed to the tube, stopped at where the bus station should be and looked around for buses marked Angros dois reis. From there we would take the daily ferry to the Island.

We found ourselves in a dangerous Rio district - no bus station in sight. We really do not understand Portuguese. Even if we can formulate a sentence we can't understand the response. Eventually a kind but slightly strange man offered to take us to a place where we could wait for a bus. He took us under a concrete bridge - to a remote pavement - and said we should wait there and flag all buses. In front of us was a river of sewerage and approaching us was a very scary young and big drunk man who wanted our money. He asked for it straight and when we said no he said ¨why not? ¨. He was very aggressive and we were both quite scared. The rest of what he said we didn't understand but somehow we managed to make him understand we were unemployed and managed to make him talk about Rio Carnival – the perfect distraction. He waved a bottle and a bag of cake in our faces and spat on us as he talked - but he let us go.

We then got a bus from a different place, were ushered off by schoolchildren and told the bus station was just across the sewerage river and crazy concrete junction/homeless hangout. We had to walk on and hope for the best. When we made it to the bus we couldn't quite believe we'd got away with it.

By then we knew we´d missed our change to get the once daily bus from Angros. Most people transfer to the Island from there but we found out there was an alternative morning boat from Mangaritiba. We wondered whether there would even be a pousada for us to stay a night.

At the bus station I sat on the Internet and tried to find out what was there. One outdated paragraph about Mangaritiba was published…in Spanish, and then copied elsewhere so we had to hope for the best.

The best was disgusting. The only place we could find to stay was what the Brazilians call a love motel – the rooms are let by the hour. Call girls waited at the door. We had no choice so with earplugs we survived the night.

And then we went to Ihla Grande in the morning and everything was much better!

No cars are allowed on the Island and the owner of the hostel we´d booked met us at the jetty and led us down the sandy streets to our lovely beachfront room. We should have let ourselves relax but decided to take one of the long recommended walks up up up the hill and down to one of the longest beaches the other side – where the prison used to be.

It was the most deserted, haunting place. And the walk was quite wild – howler monkeys screamed and we saw a giant lizard bouncing on long legs across our path. Phil lost his voice as I almost stepped barefoot onto a snake. A soldier signed us in and out or the village and we saw no-one else at the beach that day.

That night we tried a wonderful local fish meal called Moqueca – dende palm oil (makes gringos ill) is mixed with prawns, fish, coconut and tomato and served in a sizzling dish with beans and manioc flour – a toasted nutty flour served with food here. We can't quite get used to the manioc – except when it´s made into tapioca pancakes.

We ate on the beach and looked forward to the many beach destinations we had coming up after all our hard traveling ;-)

More to tell but I´m being chucked out of the internet café
Bye for now

Photos / videos of "Beautiful.... eventually!":

Not a good situation Next to the bed - like an alternative minibar Walk accross the island to Praia dois Rois Praia dois Rios Praia dois Rios Ihla Grande