Leaving Rio on the Easy Transfer, I had a huge smile on my dial. Whether it was the sun peaking through the 5 days of clouds (and some heavy rain) or the excitement to be on the move, I was feeling better and happy to be heading for the beach.
We arrived at the jetty at dusk and clambered on board the longboat which would speed the crammed group of travellers and locals with suitcases, backpacks, prams and groceries across to Ilha Grande.
I met a pair of French girls who’s pousada (lodge) was near mine, which was lucky as we traipsed along the main beach together in the dark. Coming to theirs, I then had to continue solo. Laughing to myself I made a mental note to ensure that I arrived during daylight so at least I could see where I was heading. Thank goodness this wasn’t Río – the moonlight over the sea calmed me as I walked along the beach in otherwise darkness.
My hostel, the chain Che Lagarto, was perched on the end of bay, with my shared room opening onto the sea, and downstairs a verandah built over the rocks to drink, eat and chat at. If it weren’t for the swarms of bees hovering around your jam on your breakfast toast, I could have lingered there all morning.
The island has no cars and as a national park, has a dozen hiking trails offering unspoilt rainforest and secluded beaches around the island. I met some great people there including Steffi and Robbie from Zug, CHF who were Matterhorn mountain goats setting a cracking pace and awesome company to hike to Lopes Mendes with. We shared stories and tips, plus a few boosts up over rocks on the way back – it could have been a Bear Grylls moment for me otherwise trying to work out how to scale it solo.
Rated in the Guardian’s Top 10 beaches in the world, Lopes Mendes was 3km of white, squeaky sand and chilly yet enticing blue waters. The views along the way were stunning, and glistening sun rays through the jungle canopy prompting deep breaths and deep thoughts into the travels behind and ahead of me. Such a contrast to the days prior, and thankfully so!
I joined Alise and Juliette, some lovely Frenchies from my room, for a boat trip around the island snorkelling and swimming, as well as French and Spanish lessons thrown in!
I could have stayed a few more days – what’s not to like about sun, swimming, relaxing, and even sweaty hikes to hidden waterfalls and secluded beaches, but decided to head on to Paraty as I had a rendezvous w Jono in Iguazu in 10 days and 1,347 km to get there.
Paraty was a quick stay in Leo’s Beach (bustling) hostel – the benefit of smaller places is that you meet more people than in the larger cities. Once a thriving gold port, Paraty is a now an artist refuge with lots of galleries and lovely cobble stoned streets to wander around admiring the Portuguese colonial architecture and bright coloured doorways of the pristine white buildings.
After chatting w Rache (sis) and lamenting the clouds, I pulled myself out of a funk and headed to the Poco de Penha ‘waterfalls’. At the local bus station, I bumped into a group from the hostel and together waited and headed there. The main attraction is a rocky slide where you push yourself down over the alguied rocks into the dive polls below. After one of the guys went, I plucked up the courage to head down – lots of fun, not too scary and not too cold. If you want an extra buzz, grab an empty bottle and sit on it like a pony – a crazy Dutch girl did and zipped down at 4x our speed! We then stopped off at a local cachaça (‘cash-ha-sa’) distillery for a tour and tasting. It definitely tastes better in a caipirinha!
Paraty was hosting la Festa do Divino Espírito Santo and a group of us headed to the town square to soak up the festivities, including trying our dance moves. A few of guys had met Diego before, and he explained that bolero is slower than samba, graciously ‘teaching’ us the steps.
I had my own Penny / Baby Dirty Dancing moment where I asked one of the locals to teach the guys to dance, and giving up, Andressa instead taught me by getting me to mirror her steps, right down to a should shimmy and “riki-ki-ki” – the R$10 caipirinhas certainly embolden me here. I then tripped all along the cobbled stones back to the hostel to bed 😅
Lots more to do in Paraty, and again I could have stayed another few days. The hostel had a chilled vibe and a great group of travellers to hang out with. A good friend Kate M-B had regaled me with her Brazil stories from her 7wk travels, and had put Ilhabela at the top of places to visit, so I headed there for a few more days beach before the Terra da Garoa (Land of Drizzle) – aka São Paulo.
I stayed at the most magical hostel I’ve ever been in – Hostel da Vila. Its luscious gardens hosted a pool and bar with chilled beach tunes (Jack Johnson and Bob Marley on high rotation!), hammocks on the verandah overlooking the beach views and bright. fresh, clean rooms. I used the cloudy skies as a ‘rest day’, lounging in my pjs on the hammock, doing washing and catching up w friends.
What a difference a day can make:
With the sun out the next day, I enjoyed more beach time (in between waiting for the bus ticketing office to reopen after lunch and a circuitous local bus into town) and a walk from the northern beaches to Vila town. At one stage this included a different kind of rock climbing around the Pedro do Silo, huge boulders along the coast which I clambered up and down.. after a few hairy moments where I pushed on, I realised maybe I should take the road for some of it back!
Ilhabela offers great wreck diving, stunning beaches and also great shopping – had the island not been on its winter break, definitely a place to spend a good week or so soaking up the atmosphere.
Stay tuned for the next stop: São Paulo… (which I’ll try and catch up!)
Easy Transfer to Ilha Grande and Paraty R$145 – the name says it all for collection and drop off to your accommodation. Worth every Reais!
Leo’s Beach Hostel – Paraty
Hostel da Vila – Ilhabela