WARNING - not suitable for reading in the office
Trip Start May 21, 2007
44Trip End Mar 30, 2008
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Marge and I have spent 5 extraordinary days on what could only be described as a tropical paradise. Gut wrenchingly beautiful, Ilha Grande is about 150km from Rio and is reached by a 2.5 hour bus ride and a 90 minute ferry to the main settlement on the Island (I've decided it should have a capital 'I'. It's important to me.). With a population of only 2000, it's covered in rainforest and is home to what is described as Brazils most beautiful beach, Praia Lopez Mendes. There are no cars on the island - the only way to get around is either by walking from place to place along trails through the forest, or by boat from inlet to inlet. The words 'paradise' and 'island' were never better suited to sit together.
Now when I say we traveled by 'ferry' I mean it in the very loosest sense. Not for us the luxury of Eastern European staff, vomit-soaked carpets and commodore class cabins (you know who you are Rita), the boat we took from the mainland was an open sided passenger affair, with a few seats around the edge and a table in the middle. We started getting a feel for Island life even as we nervously first sat down. The boat was slowly filling with people coming back from the mainland with their weeks shopping and it seemed as if everyone knew each other, and they walked around the boat chatting with friends, hugging each other and generally looking really chilled out.
Of course, as we're not even remotely seasoned in the traveling sense, this all appeared a little "Children of the Corn"-ish, and we were both a little wary of what we were letting ourselves in for.
But as the boat chugged away from the dock, (and then lost all steering control around 2000 meters out to sea, and they had to steer the boat using a humongous rudder), we both started to unwind. By the time we arrived in Abrao, the main settlement we were ready for some serious relaxing.
The first full day there, we joined a boat tour of some of the lagoons and inlets around the island. We stopped at deserted beaches, anchored in crystal clear lagoons for swimming and snorkeling, and got some serious tanning in along the way. The snorkeling was superb - starfish 12inches across (although not of the type that decorated Maeve and Jims wedding cake), shoals of striped angelfish, pipefish, fish fish, spam and fish, spam and spam....you get the picture. If Marge had actually drowned (rather then only threatening to) after one of her customary laughing fits while in the a water, the day might well have been ruined.
The following day we packed a lunch, some water and our swimming 'trunks' (I hate that word, but Marge insists on using it) and set off on the 2.5hour hike to see what Brazils most beautiful beach looked like in the flesh. Wow. Once we'd got past the views from the hills we were climbing over, and cooled down after nearly passing out on the way there, we sat back and enjoyed the scenery. The sand was so fine that it actually squeaked when you walked on it, and the sea, with it's gentle waves, was crystal clear - we watched the fish swim around us as we cooled off in the water.
(At this point i feel it only fair to share with you that I almost died of a coronary on the hike home
All in all, Ilha Grande was perfect - a mellow, relaxed and undeveloped paradise. And as it doesn't require seven decades of the rosary or eating fish on Fridays to get to, I'd reckon it's the most accessible piece of heaven you're likely to find.
(PS - I did suggest to the bro David that this would make the perfect honeymoon destination, but he told me I wasn't his type and that anyway I was already married.)