A tropical paradise in a tropical storm – Ilha Grande

It was quite the week in Rio de Janeiro and we are looking forward to spending some relaxing time on the beach again. In Angra Dos Reis we’ll be meeting Caue, an old friend of Hannes whom he met travelling in Asia. There we will try to catch a boat to one of the remotest beaches of Ilha Grande. Tropical paradise. If only the weather would have been as tropical…

After a very early morning in Rio we arrive in Angra Dos Reis at 9 in the morning. Rain has been pouring from the sky for hours and it doesn’t look like it is going to stop any time soon. We check in at the tourist office – all visitors to Avontureiro Beach have to be registered as it borders a nature reserve that is normally off limits to visitors – and walk in the rain to where they told us we could find the boats to Ilha Grande. Angra Dos Reis doesn’t look like the most cheerful place though – or is it the weather?! It’s only a small city, but even here all surrounding hills are covered with brick-walled favelas. A British tourist even got shot here last year when she accidentally drove into the wrong neighborhood looking to buy water. Anyway, we just have to be in the harbor so we don’t worry about it too much. The rasta in the tourist office is a great help and shows us the way, while letting us know that “our friend is waiting for us”. And so he is! We find Caue under a big umbrella talking to some locals to find us a boat. There aren’t too many options. Even though it’s a long weekend for the Brazilians, they don’t seem to feel like spending it on Ilha Grande with this weather. And Praia Avontureiro is one of the remotest places in the island so the standard ferries are not an option to get there. Some bad luck and miscommunication make us miss a boat to a nearby destination from where we could try to find another boat or walk. So instead of using common sense and just taking a ferry to Abraão, the island’s main tourist village, Hannes’ stubbornness wins from Stefanie’s and the three of us pay a lot for a private transfer to Praia Avontureiro. The alternative was spending the night in Angra and that would just be a wasted day… An hour of rain, smashing waves and a crazy flying fish later we set foot on Avontureiro Beach, Ilha Grande. It looks… empty. In this weather there is little else to say about it. We head to the campsite where Caue stayed last time he was here. Also this is very… empty. But very important, it has covered camping spots so, at least we’ll be dry. We pitch the tent, put our clothes to dry and hang out the hammock – under a roof of course. We spend the rest of the evening staring out in the distance, pondering about how beautiful this place would be when the sun comes out. But we’re going to have to wait 2 more days for that.

We spend our days relaxing, learning some Spanish, drinking wine and catching up with an old friend. Caue provides us with some really intriguing background on the current political situation in Brazil. And we can only admire the work he’s doing as a gynaecologist with the poor communities in his city. When the rain stops we make a walk on the gorgeous beach. It seems that there is life in the bay. Further down the beach at camping Luis we see some other campers. Out of season, this definitely seems like a better option to stay at. Luis and some other places serve basic set menus for R$30. Given the location that’s a fair deal. Alas the expensive speedboat decimated our cash reserves more than expected and no wifi means no credit cards accepted. So we are stranded with not too much reales to spend. Fortunately for us Caue knows his way around the kitchen cooking Brazil’s favorite snack: tapiocas. Make it as a tortilla or as a pancake, stuff it with everything you can find and enjoy it for breakfast, lunch or afternoon snack. We weren’t real fans before. But we have to admit now it is pretty tasty if you make it properly… And so after 2 days of lingering around, D-day arrives: sun! The forecast doesn’t disappoint and on Saturday morning the clouds clear to finally reveal the tropical paradise that we came to enjoy. It’s simply wonderful. Clear emerald water, beaches as far the eye can see backed by virgin tropical forest. And most importantly, hardly anyone there. If we would have had snorkelling gear we could go chasing sea turtles in the bay, but we don’t. So we do what we do best: lay back and enjoy the sun. We’ve been shivering enough the past 2 days.

By sunset the fun is already over and clouds start rolling in again. Time to check how we can get back off this island. We’re pretty glad Caue is a native! Again this process just involved checking here, asking there and go ask again a bit further. Definitely above our obrigado-level Portuguese. At first it seems we would be stuck here for another day. Most of the weekend tourists that arrived on Friday are leaving with a boat that is full already. We should’ve started asking around earlier. There are six people that still need to get back. Enough for our camping owner to change his mind in the end and make the trip anyway. Together with all locals who’re heading to the mainland we hop on board and off we go! Back to Angra dos Reis. Well, almost. Friday we came by speedboat and it took us an hour. The sea was rough but still OK. Today the sea is a whole lot more torrential. It takes us 2 and a half sickening hours of waving up and down, smacking left and right. With pale greenish faces we step ashore again, proud that we didn’t empty our stomachs aboard, like some others did. It’s time to say goodbye to Caue, who has to rush back to São Paolo to get home for work. We have some more time and intentionally miss a bus in order to first fill up our grumbling stomachs, now that we have regained color. Then we also head to Parati, a couple hours down the road. Parati is a lovely – touristy – colonial town in an area of amazing natural beauty. But as rain was still dominating our days, we just roamed its wet streets and cafés for a day and booked our tickets to Foz Do Iguaçu. Time for some more natural splendor.

Our stay on Ilha Grande was not the greatest success. Avontureiro beach is an amazing place. And we would’ve loved hiking on the beautiful island. But rainy weather makes it feel like a truly desolate end of the world where all you can do is wait. Wait for sun or a boat back.

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