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Kat & Andrew's Worldwide Adventures

Ilha Grande - Island Loving!

BRAZIL | Wednesday, 7 March 2012 | Views [1984]

Casey, Andrew and I decided to opt for the easy transfer to Ilha Grande Island from Rio instead of doing it ourselves which would consist of taxi, bus, taxi, boat, walk…. Easy Transfer picked us up from our hostel and drove us for 2 hours to a cute little beach town where we boarded an over packed motorized sailing boat. Another hour and a half later we docked up right outside our next hostel.

Ilha Grande is a mountainous island covered in lush tropical jungle. It reminded me a bit of Jurassic Park! Our hostel was right on the water and literally 3 steps out our door your off the deck into the water. Absolute bliss! To get to the small town which inhabits no vehicles bar one ambulance, we had to walk 10 min over a beach. Such a hard life….

I enjoyed sitting on the deck under the palm trees and watching the sun go down, the stars come out, and the town’s lights glimmer on the water. There’s something about lapping water that is so soothing… it made me feel so relaxed and so happy – a little piece of paradise.

We spent 5 nights on the island, keeping ourselves entertained with long walks (1-5 – 2 hours each way) through the jungle up and down hills and over rocks to stunning beaches. I had expected it to be a bit more untouched but along the way there were places to buy drinks and ice cream. Boats catered to hauling tourists around who didn’t want to walk to the best beaches so they weren’t exactly quiet. Given that the islands so close to Rio and Carnival had just finished… it probably contributed to the population of the island doubling if not tripling. I hesitate to say the beaches were packed though, because in comparison to the beaches in Rio, nothing could ever match that.

We attempted snorkeling one day but unfortunately the water was too murky to see anything. (Unfortunately at certain times, this algae stuff would also come into the beaches which hampered the swimming experience a bit.)But we enjoyed sunbathing, having picnics, swimming and relaxing at 6 different beaches - and that was barely scratching the surface of the islands gems. We walked past many others that we didn’t stop at. The little towns sandy streets were full of cute shops and abundant with restaurants and posada’s (accommodation). Little tourist offices offered boat trips around to the other side of the island that would be too far too walk in one day – I especially wanted to go to Lagoa Azul which would’ve been the perfect spot to snorkel with its clear tropical water but unfortunately the only boat trips on offer were full day excursions where you have allocated times at a different beaches and didn’t have much choice in the matter…

We were in a 6 person dorm and the people changed every day. The island was full to the brim with Australians and the British, as was Rio. It was so nice having an ensuite in our dorm room after the un-private showering experience at our hostel in Rio! Only downside was you could hear everything, and one night one of our roommates was throwing up for quite some time… poor thing! Casey got bitten by one of the abnormally large ants on the island and she felt like her skin was on fire. Thankfully though, no permanent harm was done.

We spent a lot time reading in the shade or in the hammocks, having had our fill of the hot sun. One night we had a few drinks at a party the hostel next door was putting on. At a certain time every night, large crabs would run over the beach! Cool to see but had me a bit concerned that id accidently loose a toe by walking too close to one in the dark! One day I had these adorable little Brazilian girls trying to speak to me. We had a broken conversation in the little bit of Spanish that we both knew. I so wish I could’ve understood them better, they were so excited to meet someone from far far away. Their infectious giggles really warmed me.

Sadly, we had to leave. I had gotten so accustomed to the lazy way of island life! Got the easy transfer back to Rio where we stayed in a hostel where nothing seemed to work. Said our goodbyes to Casey and at the wonderful hour of 4.30am, Andrew and I went to the airport to catch our flight up the coast to Salvador. Our flight was delayed so we went wondering around the airport, only to hear an announcement in English especially for us over the intercom saying “Final Call”. Woops! – This day was a special day. 29th Feb, only happens once every 4 years! It also marks the 150th day of our travels since leaving Canada… phew!

INFO (extracted from Lonely Planet): Brazil has much to offer – 7500km of powdery white sand beaches, colonial towns, music filled metropolises, tropical islands, majestic waterfalls, rivers, rugged mountains, red rock canyons, and of course the wild incredible Amazon jungle.

Brazil managed to pay off its debts to the UN ahead of schedule as well as a massive oil field being discovered catapulting the country with the 8th largest economy in the world to being one of the largest oil exporters. Brazil has one of the world’s widest gaps between the rich and the poor and it’s known for its high crime rate (although statistics put them on par with crime in the United States and Japan). Brazil is going to be a happening place as they are hosting the FIFA world cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. Brazil is the only country to have won 5 world cups (in 58, 62, 70, 04 and 2002). Brazil is also the world’s largest catholic country.

It’s estimated that the area of Brazil was inhabitated by people up to 50,000 years ago which predates any other in the whole American continent. The Portuguese landed in 1500 to a place where tribes would capture enemies in battle and they would be ceremonially eaten. The Portuguese ignored the tribes as their only interest was harvesting the red dye from brazil wood. The natives offered them their labor and their women in exchange for tools and liquor but eventually the newcomers took advantage of them and turned them into slaves. The colonists discovered sugarcane and soon the sale of slaves became Brazil’s second largest commercial enterprise. Most natives died at the hands of the colonists and those that didn’t died from introduced European diseases.

During the 17th century African slaves replaced indigenous prisoners on the plantations. From 1550 to 1888 about 3.5 million slaves were shipped to Brazil. The Africans fought back and many escaped starting small communities in the jungle. In 1690 gold was discovered so the rush was on and slavery increased as they were shipped in to dig and die.

When Napoleon marched into Lisbon, the prince regent of Portugal moved his court to Brazil. When he became king in 1816 he declared Rio de Janeiro the capital of the united kingdom of Portugal and Brazil making Brazil the only new world country to serve as the seat of a European monarch. The king eventually moved back to Portugal in 1821 leaving his son Pedro in Brazil as regent. The Portuguese parliament attempted to return Brazil back to colonial status. Pedro responded by saying “Independence or Death” and crowned himself emperor. Portugal was too weak to fight so Brazil gained independence without bloodshed. He ruled for 9 years and eventually had to give over power to his 5 year old son. There was a civil war that raged until the boy was old enough to reign, in which he did for 50 years. He went to war with Paraguay, meddled in Argentina and Uruguay’s affairs, encouraged mass immigration, abolished slavery and forged and state that would do away with the monarchy forever.

During the 19th century coffee replaced sugar as Brazil’s primary export, at one point supplying 3 quarters of the worlds demand. In 1889 a coffee backed military coup toppled the empire, sending the emperor into exile. The new Brazilian republic adopted a constitution similar to the States and for nearly 40years military and civilian presidents governed through which armed forced effectively ruled the country. The coffee market collapsed in 1929 and a few different presidents ruled as the country suffered from inflation until the military overthrew the government in 1964. Military rule over 20 years was harsh, the favelas (shantytowns) grew  but the economy also grew whilst borrowing heavily from international banks. Things have been getting considerably better since then.

Sadly, the Amazon is slowly being destroyed. In between 2000-2006 parts of the jungle the size of Greece was cleared. The Amazon takes up 42 percent of Brazil. Brazil has more known species of plants (55,000), freshwater fish (3000) and mammals (520+) in the world, ranking third for birds (1622) and 5th for reptiles (468). Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world after Russia, Canada, China and the United States. Brazil borders every other South American country except Chile and Ecuador. Its 8.5million square km area covers almost half the continent.

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