We are up early in Paraty at 6am to pack our bags and nip quietly out of the hostel to the bus station up the street. A bus for Angra pulls in at 6.40am and we struggle through the turnstiles on the bus with our packs. The ride costs just 8 reals each and we're off. Back up the same twisty, turning coastal road.
Two hours later in Angra we jump off and find the catamaran pier not far from where the bus drops us. The next sailing to Ilha Grande is at 11am, 25 reals each. Better than waiting until 3.30pm for the slower ferry! Twenty minutes before sailing the catamaran rep turns up and starts selling tickets and we throw our gear onto the boat where it is chucked down the hatch.
Forty minutes later we are docking on Ilha Grande. We get directions and set off to find our hostel, Overnativa Green Hostel. Again we find that though we have had confirmation for our booking of two beds in a 4 bedroom dorm, the booking hasn't been put in the book and there are no beds left in the 4 bed dorms. We are offered the double room that we have booked for our 2nd and 3rd night for tonight as well, but it's at the hiked up holiday weekend price of 100 reals. We decline and take beds in an 8 bed dorm. Later we are eating lunch in the lounge when our hostess tells us we can have the double for the normal price of 22 reals each. Score!
We are up at 8am and have a nice breakfast, bread, bananas, watermelon, and a few other tasty delights including a coconut cake. When the clouds clear we set off for Lopes Mendes beach, a 2.5 hour hike from the township on Ilha Grande, and said to be one of Brazil's best beaches. It's a hard climb upwards for 30 minutes and then down another 30 minutes to the first beach which is beautiful. Blue water washes up in waves on the golden sand beach. Palms line the back of the beach and the odd swing is hung in tree branches. But alas it is not Lopes Mendes. What, you mean it gets better than this? We carry on, back up into the hills and forest and down again to a second beach. A smaller version of the first beach. Back into the bush again before emerging at a third beach, a tiny little cove, with no one around. Into the bush for a final time, up and down some more hills, before we emerge at Lopes Mendes a short while later, only to be disappointed. Lopes Mendes is a wide long bay with pounding surf, reminiscent of Tautuku Bay in the Catlin's on Southland's under-visited southeast coast. But with a couple of palm trees thrown in.
We are at a loss as to how Lopes Mendes rates as one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil. Maybe if you are a surfer it would rate up there, but otherwise....
So we back track to the middle beach which is much nicer, a gorgeous wee bay, a handful of beachgoers, some trees for shade and calm waves to swim in. Knackered from all our walking we plonk down on the sand in the sunshine around midday and don't move until 3pm unless it's to swim or get cold beers from the tiny cafe on the beach.
It is hot, hot, hot and the water is...refreshing. A little on the cold side, but bearable, even for me. At 3pm we hike back, though it seems much harder than this morning. That sunshine and beer combination really takes it out of you! We should have taken advantage of the water taxi's running back to the township. We made a friend on the beach before we set off, and Charlie the black lab follows us all the way back to the township. We are dog magnets.
At our hostel we pay 10 reals for dinner and partake in a homecooked meal from our hostess - delicious rice, mashed potatoes, beans, chicken casserole and salad.
Another blue sky day greets us the next morning so after breakfast we trek off again, but not before we've sorted out our return to Rio for tomorrow, on a 'speed transfer' for 65 reals each. That done it's back up the hill and down the other side to the first beach we came to yesterday, which today is deserted of long weekend holiday'ers.
We spread our towels and enjoy more sunshine and a couple of beers. Around 2pm we call it a day with the sky clouding over. A painful return hike follows, who's idea was this!? On our hike back, we, well Ryan actually, sees a snake. I nearly stepped on the damn thing.
Back at our hostel we watch BBC coverage of the heart warming rescue of the 33 Chilean miners and our hostess brings us a humungo bowl of hot popcorn,just what we needed after a hard day at the beach.
Our hostess beckons us to the kitchen a short time later and we peek out the door to see a tiny, tiny monkey eating a piece of fruit on the fence. We watch him until he scurries off. However his movement attracts a bird, which swoops down and tries to carry him off. He evades capture, despite the bird swooping again and the monkey finds safety in a tree nearby, hidden beneath its foliage. Phew.
Later we have another homecooked dinner - rice, beans, salad and a beef casserole, some of the best cooked beef ever, it's so tender it just falls apart. Yum. Wish we didn't have to leave here!
But we do have to leave. After breakfast the next morning we walk down to the pier. Our boat is not the catamaran we thought it would be, but instead is a ship of some type. We clamber aboard and at 9am we're off. By 10am I've just spent the longest hour of my life on a boat, rocking, rolling, and pitching about as we sailed back to the mainland, desperately trying to keep my breakfast down. Eventually we dock and I rush off to sit on the steady, non-rocking pier, taking deep breaths.
We wait with a French couple and three Irish girls for our mini bus to turn up. Once we are loaded onto the bus it is back up the remainder of the windy coastal road, with our driver only knowing one speed - fast, corners be damned! In a smaller bus we also notice the bad condition of the motorway more. Traffic approaching Rio becomes very heavy and in the end, our speed connection isn't so speedy, not arriving at our hostel until close to 2pm. We are back in Rio, for our flight down to Buenos Aires tomorrow.