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Travel Adventure - Backpacking Latin America's Gringo Trail Backpacking Latin America starting in Cuba, then travelling from East to the west coast of Mexico before making our through Central and finishing in South America.

A slice of paradise on the island of Ilha Grande

BRAZIL | Saturday, 26 September 2015 | Views [424]

We woke up early at 6:30am so we could pack our bags and get ready for our shuttle they may or may not be picking us up this morning. We'd left booking Ilha Grande a little last minute as we wanted to leave today but only emailed a company late yesterday (on a Sunday) and the nicer hostels we wanted to stay at and were emailing during the week as we were originally going to be 4 persons as Bree and Steve said they wanted to come but changed their mind, were booked out. We waited for the 8-9am pick up time but they never showed and we never received a confirmation email from the company. We really wanted to make a move so we could spend 3 days down there, plus we had been in Rio for 9 days, the longest amount of time we'd spent anywhere yet and were ready to move on. It was weird, out of our whole trip it had felt we had spent the longest time here but done the least. It was good to relax at the beach for a couple of days but I wish we had done/seen more like we usually would in each country/city. So anyway we started emailing lots of different company's who do transfers down there. No replies. We went out and got breakfast of acai bowls (Brazilian fruit) with Bree and Steve, then Matt and I went to a hostel nearby to see if they could help us out with booking a transfer to Ilha Grande for us. They were helpful but only organised day trips there and only on certain days because it's low season. We went back to the unit and a few of the companies had written back and the first company we first wrote to (which was the cheapest) had availability on their last transfer that day at the 2-3pm pick up. Sweet at least we are booked in and we know what we are doing. There were now only three hostels left to choose from so we just picked the best of the bunch and one night at the nicer one as it had availability for our last night. After righting off the morning trying to organise that we headed down the beach for one last go on Ipanema (I was actually hoping to sneak in Sugar Loaf to finally see a view but it was gonna take too long for how little time we now had left). We saw Bree and Steve there and just our luck it came over cloudy once we got down there. Oh well we'd had plenty of sunshine that week anyway. We got some takeaway sandwiches from the juice bar then waited at our apartment for pick up. We said goodbye to Bree and Steve as they went off and did all the touristy things we still hadn't done. Matt and I started to get a bit worried as it came to 3pm and our shuttle still hadn't arrived. Far out.. Imagine if this doesn't show and we still haven't got anywhere. I ran upstairs to get wifi and email the company and ask of their whereabouts. They finally arrived at 3:20 and were very blasé about their lateness and didn't speak much English... ahh back to the traveller/backpacker life! It was a nice shuttle, the driver was a maniac and flew down the streets, dodging traffic, as I think all Brazilian drivers must be. It took about 2 hours or less to arrive at the port where a boat picked us up to take us to Ilha Grande. We all boarded with music blaring and when we took off something happened with the motor and we didn't get anywhere (just our luck again!) so another boat came over and we had to all jump across to that one while in mid water! Yep we are definitely back to traveller life and only in Central/South America! We seemed to be flying on the boat too I almost thought it was going to flip! 
We arrived on Ilha Grande.. Finally! It had a really relaxed, nice vibe about it as soon as we stepped off on to the pier. We walked along and to our left there were restaurants with chairs and tables on the sand and lanterns in the trees. We said to each other we'll have to come back and have drinks or eat here. We followed the directions on HostelWorld to our hostel which was apparently located 'out of the way', with not he best directions. They weren't very good directions but we managed to find our hostel along a long dark path... it was now about 7:30/8pm by the time we reached the hostel. A lovely English girl from London checked us in and then took us down to the main road and showed us a couple of cheap places to go to eat. We ate at a pizza place and had a deal for a large 45cm pizza (which was huge!) with two different toppings, a small 30cm dessert pizza (banana and cinnamon) and two drinks for 45real (less than $20). Apparently it takes about 15 minutes to walk around the whole of the main town. So it's very small. Although the island seemed a lot bigger than I was imagining, with a lot more infrastructure and things to do. There are no cars on this island and no banks or ATMs, so I assumed it would be a really quite island where you would do nothing and relax. Although it was bigger than I thought, it was still very relaxed but with plenty of things to do... I kind of wish we had more time!
We awoke the next morning at our very hippy hostel situated near the jungle and the sound of birds. It was like a sanctuary. Although I did get woken during the night by something tip toeing on my legs and when I woke suddenly I realised it was the resident cat who was asleep and curled up at my feet in the morning. The hostel prepared a huge spread of fruits, breads, spreads, tea, coffee, biscuits, cake for breakfast which all the guests sat at a communal table and shared. We decided to go to Lopez Medes beach today which was a 2.5hour walk to get to. As there are no cars, the only mode of transport is to walk or to get a boat. We met a French girl at the hostel who wanted to come with us. She was very nice. It was a really nice walk, through bush and jungle. The middle of the island is quite mountainous/hilly and all jungle with beaches and small towns dotted around the shores of the island. Because of this sometime the clouds sit very low over the mountain and is quite temperamental to cloudy/good weather. Today it was cloudy :( We saw butterflies and lots of little monkeys jumping through the trees, even one with a little baby on its back. The roar of the howler monkeys in the distance was so fierce it was almost scary. At first I thought it was a car but then realised there were no cars on the island. It sounded like a crowd people yelling at a a football match! We came across one beach along the way where Elise showed off her incredible balance skills on a slack rope. It was impressive, she could walk backwards, turn and even sit on it! Matt and I have had a go on a couple of these along our trip and only make it about three or four steps at the most before falling. It was then another hour and we came to one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen! It had a long stretch of yellow sand, barely any people on it, surrounded by lush tropical forest and gorgeous turquoise water that just gently lapped the shore. It was serene! There was a bar built on stilts out on the water too, playing Bob Marley. We continued walking along the track for 15minutes to Lopez Mendes beach. It was a long stretch of white sand which was so soft on your feet. There was a bit of a small wave probably good for body boarders. Unfortunately it was completely cloudy so couldn't really see the Aqua blue water which its known for. It was also a bit windy and surf was choppy, I kind of liked the other beach we walked past better as it was protected and very calm. We walked all this way though so found a spot to lay down and relax and swim and eat our left over pizza from last night for lunch. Matt fell asleep and we were there for about 3 hours when we thought we better walk back coz it will be late by the time we get back. It did feel like a fairly long time walking back but the sun was now out so the water on the previous two beaches and the views looking out to the ocean was gorgeous. When we got back to the main town we walked past one of the bars/restaurants on the beach so decided to get a cocktail and watch the sunset. We chatted there for a while then it started to get a bit cold so we walked back to our hostel to have a shower and Elise decided to get some food now and then she would just go back to the hostel to sleep. We walked through the town which had a very relaxed vibe and lots of people out and about going out for drinks and dinners or looking in a couple of shopes that were still open. We saw a Brazilian BBQ place that looked cool but there weren't any tables vacant so we walked around for a bit and decided we liked the place we were just in - Cafe del Mar so decided to go back there. The food was good. Matt had swordfish and I had a spinach and cheese pasta which was delish. We really liked the ambiance with cruisey beats and toes sunk in sand while eating dinner/having a cocktail by the sea under the lantern lit tree. 
The next day we checked out of our hostel. We booked our last night at the original hostel we were emailing called Che Legato. It was a chain company, had good reviews and was situated right on the water! We walked with our big bags (which seemed to have gotten heavier - maybe after not carrying them around for a week and I had accumulated another bag of stuff) along the beach to check in to our new hostel. The balcony overlooking the water looked like the perfect spot! There was a hike we were recommended to do at sunrise called parrots peak which had an awesome view of the whole island. I think we were over hiking, already doing plenty this trip and just wanted to relax so gave it a miss, although I'm sure the views would have been incredible! We decided instead to book a half day speed boat ride of the island, stopping at two lagoons to go snorkelling and a couple of beaches. There were many more beaches to see on the island but we had to choose what we wanted to do. We did want to walk again since we did that yesterday so thought the boat would be a good way to see a lot of the island and suited our budget costing only $40. It was a sunny day which was great so a great day to go out on a boat and meant the water would be showing its beautiful colours. We were with a group of Spanish people, maybe coz we booked late this was the only one with spots left. It was so much fun riding fast along the water on the speed boat and seeing more of the island! Our first stop was at the blue lagoon called Lagoa Azul and the water was absolutely stunning. There were a few other boats parked here and people snorkelling. We put our snorkels on and jumped in to the water. There were so many fish!! I'd never swum so close to such a large school of fish before with their scales glistening under the water. I felt like I was a fish swimming with them too! The water was so clear, it was beautiful. We hopped back on the boat and cruised around to the next lagoon called Lagoa Verde (you guessed it! - the green lagoon). This water was gorgeous aswell, so turquoise and clear. Again we snorkelled around here and saw this cool rock fish that blended in to the rocks and had these fins that would come out to the side and scavenge the rocks. We then went to a beach which had a restaurant on it so we could have some lunch. It was a basic restaurant but was good to chill in the sunshine. After everyone ate a crowd started to form at the pier nearby. Matt and I were curious as to what everyone was looking at so we walked down. We soon realised that they were looking at turtles! There were lots of fish swimming about and I think about three large turtles swimming about. I have never seen turtles in the wild before so I was pretty stoked to see them! One of the boat drivers had some fish and was feeding them so they were swimming up to eat it. The driver was standing on a platform and was trying to bring the turtle close enough so it would sit on the platform and people could pat it. The turtles were fast at swimming and would quickly turn away when they knew they were getting too close but also wanted the food. A couple of times though they would get up on the platform and whoever was standing nearby got to pat them. They were so cute and once most of the crowd left I got down on the platform to hopefully pat one too. They kept swimming up but would turn away. He had his last bit of fish and the turtle was up on the platform for a second so I reached out and tried to pat it but he swum away too quickly. I just missed my chance on patting it but was pretty happy to see some wild turtles swimming playfully in the water. They are gorgeous mammals, especially when they would poke their little head up out of the water and look around :) as you can tell, I'm an animal lover! 
We got back on the boat and cruised around on the water. We were going fast and over ripples in the water which made it bounce and was a lot of fun! We then stopped at a small beach as the afternoon sun was getting low. We laid out our towels and just relaxed on the sand. Apparently there is a small waterfall along the path to this beach from the main town. We wanted to walk it a check out the waterfall but we wouldn't have enough time. We got back on the boat and headed back to the main pier. When we got back to the hostel we had showers and got changed and headed back to Cafe del Mar for dinner! They were doing a Brazilian BBQ, which Matt was pretty happy about. It was good, he ordered his meat skewers and I ordered haloumi cheese and veggie skewers, we had a cocktail each and enjoyed a romantic dinner on our last night in paradise! We had a couple of caprinhas with a 3 for $25R ($10) back on our hostel balcony which again made me feel very drunk! I had one and Matt had to have the other two. 
I woke early the next morning so went down to the balcony to sit and relax and enjoy the view on the water. No one else from the hostel was up yet and the sun was out with not a cloud in the sky! It was just me and the serenity and the sound of the water lapping at the shore and birds twittering and flittering about to the morning sun. This was seriously paradise! Unfortunately we had to leave today, I could have stayed a week to relax and explore the island! We had the free buffet breakfast of cereals, breads and spreads, fruit, cake, tea and coffee before walking back along the beach with our bags to the pier where a boat was taking us back to the main land. It was a slower boat this time and took about half hour or so and it was so beautiful to cross back over this beautiful water I felt I could reach over and gather it up in my hands like silk, it looked so inviting! The company we went through was the same on the way down (same maniac driver!) and made it very convenient to transfer to the island and it was dropping us straight to the airport so we could board our flight to Santiago. Waiting at the airport and can't believe we are on our way to the very last leg of our journey! It seems surreal and almost like a dream that what we had planned and saved for for so long is now almost complete. Looking back I can't believe all that we've done and the amazing journey we've had. We really don't want it to end, it's been incredible. We were always on the go and there was always so much to look forward to and so many more places to visit along our journey's route. Now we have visited them all... apart from one... ending in wine country Argentina at a place called Mendoza will be a great way to unwind with a wine tour to finish off our trip! 

Tags: beach, brazil, ilha grande, island, paradise

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