Wednesday, December 10, 2008

4-Day Babymoon on Ilha Grande

We had the most wonderful long weekend on Ilha Grande! We got back home about 5:30 this morning a bit exhausted, but it was totally worth it! Given that I'll be in my third trimester when we come back from the US in January, we figured now was as good of a time as ever to make a trip to an island where you are a 45+ minute boat ride from the nearest hospital. And since we will probably keep the traveling a bit more low key for the next several months, we went ahead and dubbed this our Babymoon. Because, well, why not?

The last bit of the bus ride into Angra dos Reis, (in Rio de Janeiro state) was beautiful at dawn. This was one of the many shots Eric took out the speeding bus' window. It is one of the few that isn't blurry!

Once in Angra dos Reis, we walked from the bus station down to the docks and hopped a boat over to the island. We had blue skies and it looked like a beautiful day was ahead of us!

So we arrived on the island about 9:00, checked into our pousada (which I just realized I have no pictures of, but it was a nice place and quite inexpensive - Pousada Praia D'Azul), got slathered up with sunscreen, put on our swimsuits, and ran back out planning to catch a boat taxi around to Praia Lopez Mendez.

Unfortunately, clouds had started setting in thick in the 20 minutes we were inside. We ended up just going for a short hike near the main city on the island, AbraĆ£o, and checking out some of the historical ruins.

We saw the old farmhouse, turned quarentine quarters for European immigrants feared to have cholera, turned prison. It was used to house new immigrants prior to allowing them on the mainland 1884 - 1913. In 1940 it was turned into a Federal Penal Colony and served in that capacity until 1954. It was ordered to be demolished in 1963, which is a shame, because it seems like it would have been a really interesting historical site if there was a bit more left of it!

You aren't allowed inside the little piece of the existing remains, but a view through the barred windows definitely lets you know it last served as a prison!

A little further down the trail, we came across the aquaduct that was constructed in 1893 to bring water down to the European holding area. It is 15 meters high and 125 meters long. Pretty amazing construction for way back when!

Our second day on the island was pretty much a repeat of the first weather-wise. A thick layer of clouds set in while we were eating breakfast. We decided to make the most of it and use the cooler, overcast weather to do some hiking. I was feeling ambitious and decided I could handle a 9 kilometer hike through the rainforest-covered mountains to the other side of the island to check out the remains of the island's newer prison.

One of the best parts about hiking through Atlantic rainforest is that you come across all kinds of fun flora and fauna . . . like vines you can swing from and get in touch with your inner Tarzan!

And I suppose maybe I'm biased, being that he's my baby's daddy and what not, but I do think he makes a darn cute Tarzan.

The other fun {feel free to go ahead and use a sarcastic tone here} part about this particular trail is that it is completely uphill and then completely downhill. No back and forth elevation changes throughout the hike.
This view was about halfway through the elevation climb. We started down there at sea level. Eric later admited he was expecting me to decide to turn back at this point . . . oh, ye of little faith!
And this was when we were about to start our downward descent to sea level on the other side of the island. I was excited. And about ten minutes later I remembered that going downhill for an extended period of time is more painful on the ol' legs. I had a good 1+ hour reminder of it though!

After about 3 hours of hiking, I was pretty exhausted and my legs felt like they might not make it much further. So I got excited to come to flat land - and see our destination: the old (newer) prison on the island.

It was built in 1903 to house some of Brasil's most dangerous/notorious criminals, sort of an Alcatraz of Brasil, I suppose. It was still being used until 1994 when the government decided it was too old and dangerous and had it imploded.

Which meant it wasn't nearly as cool to see as I was hoping for. The picture above does a good job of showing how the inside is nothing much more than rubble now - that they won't let you wander though. (Nope, those aren't rocks, that's the remains of the imploded concrete walls.)

The perimeter of the prison is still pretty much intact though, so you can walk around the outside and check out the old guard towers and exterior walls.

The prison sits just a short walk from a really beautiful beach, Praia Dois Rios, which seems like it would be extra punishment (being that you can hear the waves from the prison!)

When we set out on our hike, I was fully intending to catch a boat taxi on this beach and ride back around to the other side of the island. It was pretty much deserted over there though. And it pretty quickly became obvious that we were going to be hiking back over the mountain to the other side. I was confident I could do a ~3 hour/9 kilometer hike. I hadn't really considered doing a 6+ hour/18+ kilometer hike.

And that's what I get for my dadgum positive thinking ("Oh, of course they'll be boats over there! Boats are all around this island!", I said to my husband who questioned me on it before we took off on our journey.)

And so back to the rainforest it was for us.
At some point on the journey back, as Z Baby was going crazy kicking and staging a full scale protest in my uterus (really, I'm pretty sure she had picket signs in there from the feel of things), Eric looked at me with a great big grin on his face. As I took a quick break to catch my breath and have a stern talking to with my daughter (who is going to be grounded just as soon as she's born!) my dear husband, who had been so complimentary and telling me what a trooper I was being and how impressed he was that I was doing so great on the rather strenuous hike while 22 weeks pregnant, says to me, "I am REALLY glad this hike was your idea." When I questioned what he meant by that, he added, "Because usually these kinds of things are my idea and about this time I am in a lot of trouble. At least this time I'm off the hook and I don't have to worry that moments of silence are indications of your increasing anger." {Insert Hubby's huge grin and laugh here.} I told him it was probably in his best interest to keep any more thoughts like that to himself until we made it out of the forest . . . you know, where they'd never be able to find his body. (Oh now, calm down. You know I'm just kidding! But really, if there's one thing he should have figured out by now it is to not mess with a tired, crazy, pregnant woman who has managed to get herself in over her head!) I was actually pretty good humored and positive about the whole thing and quite content with my accomplishment when we arrived back to the town. In fact, I treated myself to a big ol' hand scooped ice cream cone to celebrate making that return journey that I never intended on embarking on in the first place!

Tomorrow I'll share all the pictures from our last two days on the island which featured a whole lotta sun, sand, and salt! But before we leave the rainforest and the well-intended hikes behind, I'll leave you with an interesting plant we came across. It was roughly a meter tall with the most mature leaves being about as long as my hand. The stems and, more interestingly, the leaves were completely covered with sharp spines.

And while I haven't gotten around to researching just what this is exactly, I can tell you that it hurts like the dickens when you get a little too close with your camera and end up snagging your middle finger on one of the thorns on the stem. In fact, it makes your entire finger go numb for the next couple hours and a large welp to develop. (Which is actually rather helpful to make you forget about your legs that don't want to take another step.) And then a couple days later it is still sore and you have what looks a whole lot like a fire ant bite to remind you of the err in your ways. It appears that whatever poisonous substance this thing carries does not, however, cause immediate death. In case you were wondering.

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