Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ilha Grande, Angra Dos Reis, Brazil, Part Two

No shortage of places to spend the night, Ilha Grande (photo by Luis Bastardo)

The next day, Luis, Ina and I met in front of her hotel to begin our exploration of the island. We walked down to the pier to catch the boat to Lopes Mendes Beach, said to be one of the prettiest beaches in the world. It is also possible to hike directly from the town, about a two and a half hour trek. While we were waiting for the boat, we decided to try the local specialty, açaí. The açaí (pronounced ah-sigh-EE) is a type of palm fruit that looks a bit like a grape, but is much more acidic. It is generally served as pulp, frozen like a sorbet, then topped with all kinds of things: granola, bananas, honey, strawberries, guaraná, etc. The açaí fruit is said to be an antioxidant and to help with practically everything health-related including weight loss, arthritis, cancer, high cholesterol, detoxification and even erectile dysfunction and penis enlargement (that would explain the mile-long line at the açaí stand). 

 Bowl of frozen açaí with bananas and granola (photo by Luis Bastardo)
The boat ride is about 45 minutes, followed by a 20 minute walk along a forested trail to Lopes Mendes beach. It's a fairly easy hike but the weather was getting hot and humid, so I was glad when we reached the beach. The trail opened up to a beautiful white sand beach, edged with tropical forest on one side and lush green mountains on the other. The sand was the softest I have ever felt, like walking on corn starch. I dropped my pareo onto the sand and flopped down, but Luis and Ina immediately headed for the surf, leaving a trail of clothing behind them.

   Lopes Mendes Beach (photo by Luis Bastardo)

Luis is from Caracas, Venezuela, a city which is within an hour or two of many lovely tropical beaches (unlike Buenos Aires where we live now) so he never misses an opportunity to go for a dip in the ocean and usually stays in there until every conceivable part of his body resembles a prune. I finally picked myself up off the beach and joined them in the waves. The water was refreshing and the surf wasn't too rough as it can be in Brazil, a country obsessed with surfing for good reason. The waves can reach heights of 10-12 feet and several tourists have lost their lives ignoring high wave warnings.

"Levitating" boat and snorkelers, Lagoa Verde (photo by Simone Cannon)

The next day, we decided to take one of the many island cruises available to visit other parts of the island and to do a little snorkeling. The boats are pirate-themed (in a modified schooner/galleon kind of way) since Ilha Grande was once a hideout for pirates who amassed treasure by looting European trading ships. We talked to an agency in town, Navegantes, and booked a day trip to visit Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon), Lagoa Verde (Green Lagoon) and Praia do Japariz (Japariz Beach). We arrived first at Lagoa Verde, literally green, and with the clearest water imaginable. Striped tropical fish darted everywhere, swimming around the boat and the snorkelers. We grabbed our gear and jumped off the side of the boat. The water was so clear that it created the illusion that the bow of the boat was floating above the lake. We next visited Lagoa Azul, a deep blue lake, with shallower water, but more fish. After lunch, we arrived at our final stop, Japariz Beach. I was pretty waterlogged by then, so decided to lie in the sun on the boat to dry out a bit. On the way back to town, Luis got a sailing lesson from the captain, with much help from two small Norwegian children. Miraculously, we arrived in port safely.

Ina looking a lot more worried than the captain as Luis brings us into port (photo by Simone Cannon)

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