I’m sorry that I didn’t give the heads up last week that I would be heading out of town once again for the weekend. Keia and I had dinner with our friends on Monday night, and they convinced us to get a move-on on our projects so that we could join everyone for a weekend vacation in Ilha Grande. Ilha Grande (which literally means “the big island”) is a little more than a 2 hour drive south of Rio and then a little less than a 2 hour boat ride out to reach the island. We worked our butts off (and will be continuing that trend for the rest of this week), and took off with our group of 15 in a van Friday evening.
The last boat out to Ilha Grande leaves the dock regularly at 10pm. Of course everyone was just a little bit late and on top of it we hit some traffic leaving Rio, so we ended up missing the last boat from Mangaratiba by about 10 minutes. Lucky for us, there are always a couple of fishermen waiting around for the lost or late gringos to charge them a little extra to give them a lift. We piled into what we thought looked like a decent-sized and sturdy vessel and headed out to sea. About 2 long hours later, a little weathered and a little drunk, we piled onto shore and headed straight for our hostel. All of the little hostels and pousadas are adorable and gathered together at one small port on the island, leaving the rest of it in an almost completely natural state. We stayed at the Hostel Holandes (a part of hostelling international, one of our recently new favorite organizations it appears), which was beautiful and included free breakfast. We took a walk down to the beach and sang while Tiago played the guitar for a couple of hours before settling in for the night and going to bed.
Saturday morning we woke up to eat and buy boat passages (similar to the ones in Búzios) to a few of the different beaches and lagoons around the island. Our ship wasn’t too crowded, and the weather was perfect as we headed away from the dock to our first destination. We jumped into the water with noodles and fish abounding at Lagoa Azul (sort of a natural – and blue – saltwater lake formed by the rock formations in the cove). They gave us about an hour to swim around and goof off, and it turned out John (who we’d just seen in São Paulo) was at the same stop off on a different boat when we got there! The second stop was windy and too difficult to dock so we skipped it to dock at yet another different beach for lunch. After filling up on rice and beans, we headed back to our little port near the hostel, played some volleyball in the courtyard, showered and got ready for dinner. Since we had come prepared with groceries, everyone pitched in to help cook and clean, and we only left the hostel to explore the little square near the dock later on in the evening. There was some live forró and lots of people milling around the streets. A little later still, we sat around a bonfire by the ocean and listened to some acoustic reggae before heading in to go to bed.
Sunday morning we got up and out early (and by early, yes I mean the same time we always get up and out and it is around 10am) to hike a trail to a beach called Lopes Mendes. It is about a two and a half hour hike over a mountain pass or a 40 minute boat ride around the horn of the island to get to Lopes Mendes. Part of our group bought boat passages there and back, while the rest of us hiked the trail and joined the other part of the group on the beach to take the boat just one way back. The first hour of the hike was mostly uphill, and then after a ways of going back down the mountain we came upon a beach that we thought surely must be the one we were looking for! About 3 times, we happened upon quiet, sandy patches of beach before realizing our friends weren’t there and we hadn’t yet reached the end of the trail. We stopped for popsicles and watched people feed some micos (those tiny monkeys we see everywhere – including outside my bedroom window last Wednesday!) before we finally made it to Lopes Mendes. It was much bigger than the other beaches, and the sand might have been even whiter and finer than ours at Seista Key. Unfortunately, we only had about an hour to spend there before catching the boat back to port so that we would make it on time to take the ferry off the island and back to the mainland. The sea was getting rough on our boat trip back to port, so much so that I thought we really might tip over in the wind and waves. It turns out it was just preparation for the ferry ride later on…
When we got back to port, packed up our suitcases, and left to catch the last ferry to Mangaratiba for the day, we barely made it and had no place to sit but in the very back of the 500 person capacity ship. The ride was calm until about an hour in, when I heard the driver kill the engine and we crashed over a huge wave that rocked the entire boat and everyone in it. People started getting seasick and freaking out a little bit in general, but an hour later we made it safely to shore, ate some dinner, and took our van home to Rio. All in all, I’m very very glad that we went along – Nayra is already planning our next vacation in November and I’d really like to go somewhere in the Nordeste, so maybe we’ll see Fortaleza or Recife. Foz do Iguaçu are still high on my list as well. I brought my nice camera with me, and combined I think Keia and I snapped over 500 photos. Some of them are posted below, but I’m taking suggestions for a project I can do with all of the gorgeous pictures from this trip so that they don’t just sit in a file on my computer for decades to come.
The rest of this week is for getting down to work. I’ll be teaching my first English class, taking a couple of phone interviews, and finishing this school project before Charles arrives on Saturday! His visa came this afternoon, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Beijão everyone, Molly