Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ilha Grande: Day 3

We had the trip planned to maximize our time on the island. Since we were taking a bus and we wouldn't actually have to be driving, we decided to stick around the island on Sunday and take an overnight bus back to Belo Horizonte. That gave us most of the day to play some more.

We started off the day with a hike (because apparently I had already forgotten about Friday's experience.) We really wanted to hike over to the ruins of the old prison. (For much of the 20th century, the island was sort of the Alcatraz of Brasil. They had a maximum security prison on the island.) We weren't exactly sure how far it would be, so we decided just to set a time limit. We'd hike for 45 minutes, see where that got us and then come back. While it was 100% uphill the entire 45 minutes, the grade was much more manageable, it was a bit cooler (being in the morning), and I decided to return to my previous non-hike-hating self. After 45 minutes we arrived at a vista and had a nice view of Abraão. There was a guy selling homemade popsicles right there on the side of the trail and he told us we were about another half hour or so away from the old prison. But since we still wanted some beach time for the day, we kept our plans and hiked back. Next time we'll plan to definitely go see the prison though.

This guy scampered across the trail and up into a tree. We think it is a porcupine.
And because I'm a plant nerd, I'm totally obsessed with all the things I grew up knowing and planting as "annuals" that grow wild in Brasil. Here we have some 7+ foot tall Impatiens!
Upon returning from our morning hike, we decided to catch a boat over to Praia de Lopes Mendes. We had read and been told it was the most beautiful of all the beaches.
Every boat company on the island offers rides over to it, since it would be a quite strenuous hike. What the companies never mention though is that they actually drop you off on the opposite side of the island and you have to hike 20-30 minutes to get to Lopes Mendes. Now, it wasn't a bad hike and we enjoyed it a lot, but we were thinking about the people who didn't know that and maybe were unable to hike for whatever reason. That would be sort of not cool, you know?
Anyhoo, on our little 20 minute hike I experienced my first Brasil monkey sighting! It was a grand day for me. I really, really like monkeys! And there were a dozen or so along the trail enjoying saltine crackers the Brasilians were feeding them. Not bananas?!?

I wasn't quite prepared for the beauty that I was about to witness...

Oh my gosh, it was so incredible! We immediately started kicking ourselves for that little hike-to-a-beach incident from Friday. Why didn't we just hop a boat and come straight here!?!

The sand was powdery soft and squeaked when you walked barefooted on it. The beach was wide and flat and stretched on forever around the bay. There were no pesky motor boats hanging out in the water. The water was clean and clear and a beautiful shade of blue-green. It was shallow for a long way and waves plenty big for surfing were just a little further out. It was, basically, paradise!

The original uncropped picture of Eric is much better...but I'm not allowed to post pictures of him in his sunga. Which is fair enough...since he's barely even allowed to take a picture of me in my bikini! (Which is good evidence I am not Brasilian! All the women here are constantly striking Sports Illustrated supermodel poses for pictures! But in the sake of full disclosure, and before you fellas all go out buying plane tickets today, not everyone here looks like a supermodel - they are simply quite comfortable dressing and working it in front of the camera like one. Now go buy your ticket if you'd like; we'd love visitors. Just don't say I didn't tell the whole story! HA!)

After our afternoon at Lopes Mendes, we packed up our things and headed back for the mainland. Our boat left the island at 5:00, so it was good and dark by the time we arrived onshore. The boat ride back was pretty uneventful for the majority of the trip. Most everyone on board was looking a little sleepy and worn out from the long weekend. There was the group of 18-22 year old girls who felt the need to sing really loud the whole ride, but they didn't really bother us (despite just really hoping they didn't end up on our bus back to BH.) We watched a couple dolphins playing in the water and then just enjoyed the scenery.

When we got up to the docks in Angra Dos Reis though, things got a little more interesting. It was pretty busy and there were a lot of boats bringing people back to the mainland. There was one area where all the boats would pull up, drop off passengers, and then leave. There was one slightly smaller boat just hanging out though right where our captain wanted to pull up and unload us. He blew his horn a couple times and then one of the other crew members went to the front of the boat and yelled over to the other boat, asking him to move. Eventually, the smaller boat pulled away from the dock and our boat pulled up and started unloading. The smaller boat didn't go far though, and Eric and I were noticing that the only guy on the boat was looking a lot less than happy. As we watched him, he pulled his boat up right next to ours towards the back where the majority of the crew was hanging out. And that's where it got interesting!

The other boat's captain starting yelling a bunch of stuff to the crew of our boat which instigated a lot of yelling back from our crew. Things were getting a bit heated and Eric and I were really wishing we could understand everything they were saying. About four of the guys from our boat were now standing right near the edge of the boat and next thing we know, the other guy is jumping from his boat onto ours and starts throwing punches. A couple of our guys sort of threw the guy back on his own boat, but the one who had actually gotten punched in the face went over and picked up a 6' long metal pipe, started swinging, and was totally ready to beat the guy with it. It was a bit intense as half the guys wanted to beat up the other captain, half the guys were trying to hold them back and the idiot captain from the other boat (who is way outnumbered and being threatened with a 6' long metal pipe) keeps trying to jump back on our boat. A couple women jumped from the dock onto our boat and also start yelling at the other captain and then I thought they were going to fight our crew too. This all continued for at least 15 or 20 minutes that we were there. Oh, it was good stuff! The whole time all of it was going down, 2 other crew members were unloading everyone's luggage, helping people off the boat, and pretending there wasn't a sailor fight going down on the back of the vessel. After gawking and cheering our team on (okay, not really on that last part, but we did gawk A LOT) we decided we'd better start heading towards the bus station. I don't know how it ended, which is really quite disappointing. But on the upside, I get to play out my own endings in my mind which is probably a lot more fun anyway.

Now for a completely random item from our weekend:

Can someone please tell me what this is hanging from the tree? If you don't know, feel free to leave a comment with your best guess; we have all sorts of our own theories. (Justin, I'm counting on you to come through on this one for me though!)

And a note about accommodations:

We have this policy to never, ever stay in the cheapest place available. I am a big believer in you get what you pay for. I don't need the Hilton every night or anything, but middle of the road is usually the better bet in my opinion.

We had to put off booking our pousada until the last minute because there was some question as to whether or not Eric would be traveling for work around this time. Once we found out we would be able to go, all the mid-range pousadas were already booked up. Ilha Grande is especially bad about their rates going way up for holidays, and Easter was no exception. The rates were inflated 3-4 times normal prices for this time of year. So, this sort of kept us from wanting to drop the money on a normally already higher-priced room. After some debate, we finally decided to take our chances on the cheaper pousada. We reasoned that we wanted to spend our time out on the beach and in the rainforest anyway, so our room wouldn't matter much - we'd barely spend any time there.

Well, my theory turned out to be all wrong. We actually got a whole lot less than we paid for!

After having to roam around for a while to try and find someone to help us check-in, we finally came upon a half dressed and barely awake guy coming out of a room upstairs. He then led us to our room. Here was the front door...and it didn't get better once inside.

It seemed to be clean enough (if you could ignore the cobwebs and mold on the walls), but it was definitely lacking some maintenance and anything resembling a "special touch." So moral of the story: do not, under any circumstances stay at Pousada do Bicão on Ilha Grande. We scouted out some other places to stay for next time and we have some good suggestions now. If you would like them, just ask. But please don't repeat our mistake!


wondering ego said...

Emily, about the "thing" hanguing from the tree, I will write in portuguese, so I'll not spoil others fun:
Trata-se de uma jaca mumificada (mummified), Artocarpus heterophyllus. Isso acontece por uma condição fitopatológica.

Emily said...

Thanks wandering ego! It's been bugging me and I couldn't even figure out a good way to try and research it! Most interesting...

Justin said...

Dang it! Wondering ego got to it before I did. For the non-Portuguese-speakers, that's a jackfruit.

Rachel said...

phew ok we're definitely not staying there! :0

Yeah and that's a rotting jaca fruit. Icky.

Kristi said...

Ok I definitely want to know where you recommend to stay next time. Oh and my husband had a great suggestion - maybe we should meet there for the weekend!

Kristi said...

Part 2 - meaning sometime - not, like, this weekend ;)