We are on the island of Ihla Grande about 2 hours bus ride and an hour ferry West from Rio. A big and welcome change in scene from a bustling metropolis to an unspoilt island population 6100. Our 2nd apartment in Rio was in Copacabana about 10 minutes from the beach and surrounded on 3 sides by favelas (extremely poor and often dangerous districts) just a couple of blocks away. I am not sure if the constant police car presence on the corner of the small park outside our door was reassuring or a warning?
We are not yet slickety slick with our packing. Our first attempt was nearer 5 hours than 5 minutes as BZL are still learning that they need to look after their own clothes and packing and it might be easier if they don’t empty and scatter at every stop :-). 2nd time round was definitely quicker and I am sure we will soon be in a routine and maybe get the first rather than last bus. Being late can have advantages, we missed rush hour and the taxi journey (R$32) to the Rodoviária Novo Bus Station was a lot quicker. Good news as we walked passed the Costa Verde ticket office we needed and by the time we found it had to rush to the last bus.
Trains hardly exist and planes are expensive but luckily the buses (coaches) are superb and cheap (R$41/seat, about £13/3 hours). Big comfy reclining seats and aircon. Every bag in the hold gets a label and you need to produce your ticket to get it back. I still wouldn’t leave valuables in there as a stowaway might go through your bags while you are asleep in the cabin above, now if my name was Fagin you could put an urchin in a suitcase…
Coaches don’t have loos but stop fairly often and you can let the driver know if you are bursting. The ride is soft and moves around a lot even in the middle of the coach but this is probably to cope with the roads, definitely interesting on the winding mountainous roads. Most people get to Ilha Grande by going to Angra dos Reis but our kind host who we met in Rio to pay our deposit suggested we ask the bus driver to make a special stop at Conceição de Jacareí and get the shorter ferry from there saving an hour extra bus journey, almost an hour on the ferry and no doubt some cash on the longer ferry (great tip!). Only a few minutes walk down from the road took us to the ferry where we got charged $R15/each for just 3 of us, under 5’s are free but my Portuguese failed trying to pay for Zoe! Easy to miss the ticket office as it is a girl in a cafe with a white shirt and ticket book, luckily the small queue was a good hint.
Ilha Grande is unspoiled gem with 107 beaches, a single town, Vila do Abraao and is mainly virgin Atlantic rainforest of which only 5% remains in the whole of Brazil. It is now designated a Biological Reserve and you can’t fish, pick plants, cut down trees or build. Vehicles are limited to an ambulance, fire engine and a tractor that pulls a trailer for garbage although some locals are pretty terrifying on their bicycles. Hopefully it will also be approved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site although this will no doubt encourage more tourists.
Ilha Grande was a home to a prison which is why it is so under developed. In 1994 a new government blew up the prison and tourism started. I have just read the Wikipedia article on Ilha Grande which says ‘It once held a notorious prison, now closed, although many of the prisoners now run the island and are said to be responsible for a large amount of the abductions which have recently happened .’ Great! Out of the pan and into the fire, where are the kids…
… all in the hammock, phew. I am not sure it is a big problem as Google quickly started presenting results for ‘Alien Abductions’ which should be safer than a real one. Best not look rich, no jewellery, tick, dress down, tick, big house on the beach, Doh!
We are here in winter, the sun is low but still 28 degrees and it’s warm enough to play in the sea. A gentle breeze and calm sea lapping yards from our renovated fisherman’s house right on the beach completes the picture. The house is amazing but we have had to push our budget out a bit (lot) although winter and booking last minute helps! We are offsetting this by some extra self catering and a brunch of soft boiled eggs, fresh bread rolls (hot from the baker), butter, jam and fresh fruit sets us back about R$15 or £1/head. Yesterday that kept us going until dinner! We went to the Biergarten and were pleasantly surprised, the quality of the food was good as flagged on Trip Advisor and as a Kilo restaurant you can choose what you want and pay by weight. We were hungrier than a pack of starving wolves and even Lara demolished her plate.
We have definitely landed on our feet and we are wondering about staying for a few extra days to ‘plan’?
It is not all play though, I’ve started Dad’s World School with Jungle Survival skills and learning maths through playing cards but more on that in another post.