Monday, August 4, 2014


Ilha Grande.

The Grand Isle... okay. It really means The Big Island in Portuguese, but it was more than just big. It was Grand! (And it's pronounced Eel-ha Graan-ge too).

This is where I end my  trip. 3 days in paradise. The island is only a 2 hour drive and a 45 minute boat ride from Rio, but it might as well be a world away. (Other than the distant smog seen at sunset drifting out over the ocean). It was once a leper colony. Then the home of two prisons. As a result there is very little development. There's no roads. Only trails. You either walk or take a boat around the island. Which at one point I heard had 903 km of coastline. (Which seems like WAY to much for it's size. So maybe I heard wrong). There are a couple of villages, and over 100 beaches, ranging in size from a few dozen meters to curving away into the distance. Supposedly it has one of the top 8 beaches in the world... I was determined to find out.

I arrived in the late afternoon to Che Legarto Hostel. I booked online. It has a common area deck over the bay. That's cool. It has rooms that look out at the ocean. Cool too. I didn't get one of these. I got an 8 bed dorm on the side of the house that had no space and a tiny bathroom and no view. By the time it filled with 6 boys the first night it was uncomfortably crowded and filty. (4 were guys from Dallas, TX. Yep. Travel all the way around the world to hang out with Texans.) By the second night 2 girls from Argentina were added. When I first saw them their expression was just like mine: This place is disgusting and way to small. Where do I go?

The hostel never cleaned the bathroom even though we asked. And keep in mind in South America you put your poopy toilet paper in a bin by the toilet. You don't flush it.

After two nights, for my final night, I moved on to a kick ass Pousada with my own room for the same price. And I thought: I can not BELIEVE I haven't had my own room in 23 days. That's not how I usually travel. I like to have some ME space to regroup and rest. I think the continuous dorming has worn on me a bit.

On top of the crappy room Che was filled with wifi addicts and flashpackers. It's so depressing. (more on that in the next and final update).

BUT... Fear not! I got out and saw it! The Grand Isle!

Day one I went for a hike to Lopes Mendes. (Yep, with S and not Z. Spanish is Z. Portugese is S.).
The hike was 7 km. No mention of the fact it went up about 1500 feet to start with. Given my still unhealthy bronchitis condition, this was a bit of a push in the hike department. But I was so tired of NOT getting what I wanted for the last week, of having to curb my adventures that I said: "I don't care if it takes me all day and I see the beach for 10 minutes before I have to get on a boat to come back, I am finishing this hike."

And once I got to the top, and had a beautiful view across the straight the the endless coastal mountains, things started to get good. My versions of the song "Pompeii" and "Wake me up" kicked on in my head, and I bound down the jungle path with a new feeling. A good feeling. Because it occured to me, that strangely, most of the trip was guided. That this was one of the few solo adventures, where it was all me. Even when I was with Devin, because he had arrived first and had been to World Cups before, I let him lead us to destinations, start most conversations and such. In the Pantanal and Bonito it was ALL guided. all controled. And in Rio, the game and night in Lapa was with Kim who spoke Portugeuse, and then the tour of Rachina. So basically... this was all a very safe trip. And that's now how I generally like to do things. It's really strange that it took this whole time for me to truly get my "see legs". Being sick didn't help.

At the bottom of the slope was a beautiful beautiful beach. A dozen people or so on it. A little shack of a place to eat. I decided to have lunch and take a dip and drink from a coconut. I could have stayed here all day...

But Lopes Mendes awaits!

So I hiked through the jungle to another beach! Still not the destination. But totally beautiful.

On through more jungle. This path had many people on it, going the opposite direction. Hiking from Lopes Mendes back to the water Taxi's to take them home for R$25.

It wasn't long before I heard the surf and came through the trees to the curved stretch of sand. Rocks at one end. Palm trees all along the back. A few stands to buy a drink or rent a board. A good number of people. It was wonderful.

I sat down and nearly dozed off. Bronchitis sure has taken me out. But I wandered out into the water, only stomach deep, as I would cough wildly if I went all the way in. I left my stuff on the sand. No one bothered it. The water was like LA in the summertime. The temperature was like LA in the spring and fall. Not bad at all. (In the summer it's REALLY hot in Ilha Grande).

I sat on the rocks and watched the waves come in. I watched the beach clear of people. I never saw a single boat come to pick anyone up. I enjoyed the peace and quiet. The ocean. The waves... and thought: I'm not getting stuck here and having to walk back. There's only about 6 other people on the beach, I better go.

I walked off the rocks and up to the final 3 people... and it was 3 cool guys from my hostel! So we walked out together, and got on the last boat back to town.

It was a 20 minute, sunset boat ride around a perfect tropical island. The waves were low. The sun glowed orange off the water. The dark green trees loomed perfect all around us. Trust me, it's Paradise.

One of the guys from the hostel said it was the most beautiful boat ride he's ever been on...

The next day I spend on a round the island, all day boat tour. It was great. Got to see many other wonderful beaches. Ones with natural pools, one with a big rock I just HAD to jump off of. Despite mad coughing fits when I hit the cold water.  :)  Surfing beaches. Snorkeling beaches. The boat ride was a blast. I met two kick ass German guys, an Israeli gal and a Belgian gal. All super cool. We had dinner that night and even did some dancing in town. Where a guy on an accoustic on a tiny outdoor stage played Brazilian songs, as well as classic dance hits. Even a Portuguese version of "Another Brick in the Wall". Great fun.

My final day was hanging with Belgium on a short trek through the jungle and a day on a nice beach. Frisbee. Lunch. Swimming. Good chats and travel stories. And a final water taxi ride back.

Which beach was the best? Was it Lopes Mendes? I liked Adventura better. I think it's all up to taste.

Oh, a quick mention of Martin! He's a kick ass guide I met and talked to multiple times. I wasn't able to go on any of his hikes and tours because I didn't have the energy for it, but he was a blast to talk to. He had a fabulous energy and excitement. He loves to guide and loves the island. I think if I'd spent more time there, we probably would have been pretty good friends. He's one of the great people I met on the trip from Brazil. And I feel like I always have to say his name like: "Mar-teen!"

My fairy ride back to the mainland was during yet ANOTHER amazing sunset on a slow boat. So I stood up, listened to travel music I love, watched the sun set and the Brazillian flag blow in the breeze...

Even though I only feel like I went on half a trip because of the Bronchitis, it was still a good one. And a strange one too. And that, my friends, will be the final tale in the next email…

NOTE: (5-16-15)
I can’t find any more emails. I know I never wrote “Requiem for the Backpacker” because I didn’t have the heart. (Strange that I didn’t find the courage to face my fear?).  But I’m not sure what the next story would be. I don’t think I ever wrote another email about Brasil….

Another Note:  Devin is down in Brasil right now with Nanda. :)