Feelin' Fine and Grande...
Trip Start May 05, 2011
19Trip End Sep 08, 2011
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('All good' - one of the three-and-a-half Portuguese expressions that I have thusfar learned...(courtesy of a French-Canadian). For those of you who ain't up on da lingo.)
It's been a pretty spectacular week. From the bright lights of Rio, I've travelled to Ihla Grande: perhaps the most imaginatively named island in the southern hemisphere (for those of you who don't know, it is indeed a BIG island). It's been so eventful that now (in my sleep-deprived state) I am struggling to remember anything at all. Nonetheless, for the sake of you good, attentive and lovely readers, I shall endeavour to do so.
Right - first off - Rio: The Final Chapter. (Actually, Sunday in Rio wasn't anywhere near as dramatic as that sounds, but given that I wasn't mugged, I need to enliven the story with exciting language somehow.) Sunday was my chance to finally go see Cristo Redentor - or 'Big Jesus', as my vivacious Irish female friends like to call him
After Cristo, I couldn't miss out on another of Rio's big attractions - Copacabana beach. Although this really was a move from the divine to the ridiculous (featuring altogether too much volleyball, overfriendly Brazilians, and a mastercard stall on the promenade that was hitching on to the movie 'Rio's publicity - presumably in order to sell more debt) it was fun. And on the way, I got to check out the Hippie Fair in Ipenema. 'Hippie Fair' sounds impressively poverty-striken, but sadly it was not a forum for favela-made nicknacks. Instead, arty, bohemian fare was on offer, and I took advantage of the opportunity to buy myself a cool cubist-inspired t-shirt painted by one of the artists. All in all a good day. The most interesting part was the evening; a night out on the edge of Rio at a 'Favela Funk Party' taught me just how little we westerners know about dancing from the hips. Indeed, those native Brazilians know dance secrets beyond the knowledge of even yours truly. I promise a full report (with practical demonstrations) next time I'm in Oxford or Cambridge.
The next morning, after only two and a half hours' sleep (groan!) I headed off to Ihla Grande. And I have to say, my dear compatriots, that I was mightily tempted to just stay there forever. The hostel that I stayed in had the best restaurant on the island, and possibly one of THE BEST RESTAURANTS ANYWHERE. Add in one of the 20 best beaches in the world, a nice seaside village (practically deserted, it's probably not as good in peak season), and the occasional trip to a waterfall when it rains, and you have a place that's almost as magical as Chipping Norton. Almost.
What made Ilha Grande so great, though, was the people. Staying in my (fairly small) hostel there were a host of fantastic people - some 'Britishers', a lovely, spontaneous French-Canadian girl called Katrin, the occasional fun Irish, jolly Americans, and of course the ubiquitous Norwegian advance-guard. We all got on really well, and we have the photos to prove it. Which was great, because in a place like that, you could very easily be bouncing off the walls.
It rained the first day, but - not to be deterred - we made our way to the island's waterfall. In our shamelessly unfashionable waterproofs. Well - we are Europeans, after all! And following a quick swim in the waterfall, we trekked back to enjoy the gentle swing of the hammocks. Day two was similarly strenuous - a two and a half hour trek to Lopez Mendes, one of the best beaches in the world, followed by some world-class lazing and a boat ride home. Both treks were probably riskier than Rio - Ilha Grande's rainforest does have poisonous snakes, and we came across a HUGE spider sitting atop a golden (I kid you not) spider web. Fortunately, I avoided death from either beastie. Unfortunately, my good luck meant that I did not gain superpowers through comic book-style radioactive animal bites. Darn. I guess every golden spider web has a cloudy lining (!)
The food at Biergarten was soooooo good that it's impossible to think about it now without feeling hungry. It was a per-kilo restaurant, serving fresh fish, casseroles and curried meats, baked aubergines and all sorts of delicious vegetables, as well as salad, rice, chips et al. Indeed, though it was good value, it was hard to resist overloading your plate with everything on offer! I would recommend the restaurant (and indeed the hostel - lovely, and with great all you can eat breakfast) to anyone. You know, for when you just happen to be in the area.
(Oh, and on the island we found massive carts containing a huge selection of cakes. Seriously, about 16 in each. It was a dangerously gastronomic experience; one which I hope to import to Chipping Norton on my return).
Last day on the island involved a boat trip, some bay-hopping, and a few beaches. I am ashamed to say that my nose went slightly pink from the sun, but unlike another of the party (who wore thongs but shall remain nameless) I avoided getting sunburned on the derrier. That must have made for an uncomfortable trip onwards on the bus!
On Friday, I had to say goodbye. Bad weather was coming. Oh, and the hostel was closing for a month. Come to think of it, that might have had something to do with it...After a party at a nerby hostel the night before, we rose early, and Katrin and I jumped on the catermarang headed for the mainland. In a rather bizarre turn of events, one of the cat's engines seemed to explode slightly (no flames, just a big bang). But it was ok, because they slowed down slightly whilst the guy jumped into the engine to fix it. Ah, Brazil... Next up, Sao Paulo!