Saturday, June 27, 2015

Spring Break Part 1/2: Adventure is Out There in Ilha Grande

After days and days of waiting, it finally arrived. Spring Break 2015 was FINALLY here!

We traveled from Rio de Janeiro to Ilha Grande using Easy Transfer. As the name suggests, it really was easy. They picked us up at our villa and drove us to the dock where we boarded the ferry to Ilha Grande. It was about a 2-3 hour drive and we stopped once on the way there. They did the same for returning us back to Rio de Janeiro from Paraty. It was great to have all our own transportation covered for us (for a flat fee) where we knew we wouldn't be getting ripped off or getting in a car with someone who is not trustworthy. For people who don't speak Portuguese, this is a huge bonus.

Upon arriving in Ilha Grande, we stayed at El Misti Hostel. Apparently El Misti is a chain of hostels throughout South America and plenty of people have stayed in them and loved it. This was not the case with us. The hostel had two locations on the island and we were given a shared room with a shared bathroom in the junkier hostel. Despite the fact that we paid for a private room with a private bathroom. The WiFi didn't work (okay, we were on vacation, no big deal), they didn't give us a key to our room at first (nor were lockers provided), the mattresses were the color of dirt and the sheets didn't stay on the mattresses. The island was awesome, the hostel was not.

While in Ilha Grande, we decided that we would each choose one activity for everyone to do. That way there was no fighting and we were all happy. 

My pick: I had read that Praia Lopes Mendes is one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil., so we had to go. On the day that we arrived, we took a water taxi to the beach and then had to hike for 20 minutes or so before arriving there. Was it beautiful? Absolutely. Would I say that it's one of the best beaches in Brazil? I don't know. It was more like a typical beach in the States with plenty of room to participate in beach activities (sunbathing, soccer, frescoball, etc). But the water was really wavy on the day that we went, so it wasn't great for swimming.

Maggie's pick: On our first full day in Ilha Grande we went on a "meia volta". Which translates to a half island tour. We boarded a speed boat with Prime Tours from Vila do Abraão and from there stopped at 5-6 different beaches. I wish that I could remember them all, but I really cannot. I can tell you that we saw dolphins first thing in the morning on the way to Lagoa Verde, that we saw a starfish that was huge, that we also saw some gross underwater snake/ eel thing, and that I swam with more fish that I had ever thought possible. I also sat on our boat, waved my hand, and a man selling Popsicles on a different boat came alongside ours so that I could purchase what I wanted. Talk about service. I didn't even really want a popsicle at that moment, but I really wanted a Popsicle sold to me off of a boat.

Matt's pick: Sunrise hike up Pico do Papagaio. It was as awful and as awesome as it sounds. We started the hike at 2:30am and proceeded to hike up 980+ km up for a 7.5 hour, 10 mile round trip hike. Throughout which I cried and almost threw up on myself more than once. It was the most physically demanding thing I have ever had to do. But, I did it. We hiked with Martin, from Prime Tours (again), and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. He's an awesome person and an awesome guide.

We rounded out our time in Ilha Grande with some kilo ice cream and a day at the beach in Abraão. And, of course, one last night in our gross, mosquito infested hostel where I'm pretty sure monkeys were doing samba on the roof all night, every night because there is nothing else that could have been making that much racket.

After 2.5 beautiful days in paradise-- we were off to Paraty!

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