Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ilha Grande: Day 1

My good intentions of returning yesterday to bring you more about our trip were abrogated by a commanding mountain of dirty laundry and other house-ly duty that would you believe the maid didn't handle while we were away! ;) So my apologies for making you wait...but here we have Day 1 (Friday).

We left Belo Horizonte by bus at 8:45 pm Thursday night. We were pleasantly surprised to find the bus very roomy and comfortable and with a little medicinal help (Simply Sleep is good stuff!) we got a fair amount of rest. After all the stops that the bus made, we finally arrived in Angra Dos Reis around 7:45 Friday morning. We were able to buy round trip boat tickets to Ilha Grande right there in the bus station and then we hopped a taxi to the docks.

The docks were a bit of a cluster. Boats were docked about 4-5 deep and we had to just climb from one boat to the next to get where we needed to be. We also found it a little strange that no one was checking tickets or confirming we were getting on the right boat. We asked to make sure it was going to Ilha Grande, but it wasn't until we had almost arrived that anyone bothered checking our tickets. At 8:45 we rolled out on our way to the island.

It was a bright sunny morning. Clouds were hanging low in the mountains that surrounded us, but it was looking like it would be a gorgeous day!

The coast along the state of Rio de Janeiro is sprinkled with tons of islands.

And here we are pulling up to the only town on Ilha Grande, Vila do Abraão. Ilha Grande was a much larger island and a lot more mountainous than we imagined. (Even despite all the reading and online picture viewing we had done, you really have to see it in person to get the scope of it all!)

Here's a map of the island to help you get your bearings. Vila do Abraão can be spotted in a bay on the Northeast side of the island.

We checked in to our pousada (more about that in a later post) and then we decided to go for a little hike over to Praia Palmas and spend the day there. (It's a beach just a 1 hour hike from Abraão - following trail T10 from the map above.) The interior of the island is Atlantic Rainforest and so we were really interested to see the flora and fauna.

Our little one hour hike ended up being a bit more intense than we imagined. It was pretty steep all uphill for 35 minutes followed by very steep all downhill for the remaining 25 minutes of the hike. This picture doesn't even do it justice!

And the thing is, we both enjoy hiking a lot. For the better part of my life I have been hiking in the Appalachian and Smokey Mountains of North Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. But the thing that is a whole lot different when you are hiking in a rainforest during the summer is the heat and humidity...we were only about 20 minutes into our hike when this next picture was taken! (And I am usually not one to sweat a whole lot. I mean, yes, I sweat, but not usually this much!) Can you tell the smiles (or at least mine) were a little forced here?

It was sometime shortly after taking the picture above that we started meeting a good many people on the trail. Most of the other hikers were Brasilians. And I have decided that Brasilians are tough folks. And they possess super human hiking abilities. And I think the secret to their powers (remember, yesterday I told you I'd let you in on the secret?) are these:

Scroll up and review the picture of the trail again if you need to. Now, think about hiking a minimum of 1 hour steep uphill and then steep downhill, with much of the trail being slick and muddy. And then think about wearing flip flops. Ouch, right? BUT, apparently, if they are Havianas brand flip flops AND you are Brasilian (because the flip flops don't seem to transform these two gringos into mountain climbing machines!) then you can conquer anything nature throws at you.

We thought we were so smart wearing our hiking shoes to go, um, well, hiking. But, no. We were passed on the trail more than once by Havianas-wearing folks. A serious crush to the pride too, I might add.

Now, my flip flop theory does nothing to explain how we got passed by the barefooted surf board carrying guys...but surfers are a whole other story anyway, right? (And BTW, the nearest "surfing" beach was over a two hour hike away! And the guys were barefooted!)

Anyway, just as I thought I was going to sweat to my own stinky damp death, we reached the peak of the mountain we were traversing. The fabulous views made me forget that I had just lost 5 pounds of water through my pores.

After taking in the scenery, we continued our hike. It was all downhill now (which actually was tougher on the ol' calves than the uphill climb.) But, we started hearing waves breaking and then, finally, we turn the corner to see this:

It was great! The water was clear and cool and the beach had lots of trees where you could camp out if you got tired of the sun. We spent the next few hours playing in the water, laying out in the sun, and napping under a shade tree. The beach was a little narrow here, but it wasn't crowded at all.

The sand was really coarse and quartz-looking on this beach (and the crabs were perfectly camouflaged!)

There were a couple little restaurants along Praia Palmas. One of them had a board with signs informing you of what time boats left to go back to Abraão. We (or maybe it was me, not us) decided that instead of hiking again, we would just jump a boat back to Abraão that evening. They had boats advertised as leaving at 4:00, 5:00, and 6:00. About 4:45 we made our way over to the dock to wait for the 5:00 boat. About 5:25 the sun was starting to set and we still didn't have a boat. Eric decided to walk back over to the restaurant and see what was going on. He was told, quite casually, that they decided not to run a 5:00 boat. Or a 6:00 boat. Never mind that it was still written up on their board! Eric questioned how he was supposed to get back then, since it was getting too dark to hike. The guy at the restaurant said we could try to get one of the small boats hanging around to take us over to Pouso and there would usually be several boats going to Abraão. Then he asked if Eric wanted a beer. And then he wished him "good luck" getting back. Eric came back to the dock a wee bit frustrated and we began to wonder if we were going to be stranded over there for the night. We eventually found a small boat willing to take us to the other beach though. And then we caught the very last boat going back to our little village.

We returned to our pousada and got showers before heading out to have some supper and walk around the town for a while.

We enjoyed an awesome supper. Eric had fish and I had pasta (being not so much a seafood lover, myself.) It was a gorgeous clear night with a bright moon shining down on the ocean, so we decided to spend some time walking the streets of Abraão. It was amazingly safe and clean. It was pretty crowded (on account of the three day weekend, no doubt), but still very nice.

One of my favorite parts of the walk along the beachfront street of the village were these dessert vendors. They had mobile carts set up along the street selling every dessert imaginable. It sort of looked like the dessert table from church when we have dinner on the grounds. Oh man did it all look yummy...I think I regained the weight I lost from the trail just from lusting after all the sugary goodness!

In the end, I decided I needed a banana, honey, and cinnamon crepe offered elsewhere street side. It was gooey, warm, and delicious. And I was going to need to do a lot more hiking after consuming it.

This was the church in town all lit up at night.

And if you look real closely here in the next picture, you will see the ugliest critter ever. He was solid black except for a hairless tail and nose and he was scampering along a power line. At first I thought he was a gigantic rat. But when I took a picture and the flash went off, he froze and played dead. And then the more I looked at him, the more he started looking like an opossum. And then I decided I better avert my eyes lest the ugly creature be forever burned in my memory and appear later in nightmares! (I once got stared down by the black beady eyes of an opossum during my younger dirt road riding days back in South Georgia. I'm telling you, I had recurring nightmares for weeks...they are evil ugly creatures!)

Day 2 coming up tomorrow...


Amanda said...

Wow, wow, wow. I wish I had been there with y'all! The pictures are so georgous and I am just imagining you two frolicking on the beach with the beautiful scenery.You told the story so well I felt like I had been there! The mountains surrounding you while you are on the beach is what I loved so much about Costa Rica! As much as I love Destin, there is nothing like big beautiful mountains off in the distance.
By the way, the first picture of y'all is priceless!!

Rachel said...

do you see what i meant about the hiking? hehe. you guys are troopers. so we're definitely going to ilha grande this weekend and i think we might stay on the opposite side of the island, near lagoa azul i think. did you guys make it that far? i guess i'll see in day 2!

Thelma said...

What an adventure, huh, Emily? And it's just the beginning!
I'm soooo jelous seeing all those yumi desserts!
Great pictures, btw!