- When: December 25, 2015 – 8 January, 2016
- Where: Salvador– hotel Casa do Amarelindo, Lençóis (Chapada Diamantina)- guest house Canto das Aguas, Rio de Janeiro– Bed and Breakfast Pouso Verde, Ilha Grande– Pousada Mara E Claude
- Transportation from Boston, MA (BOS) to Rio de Janeiro (GIG) – American Airlines, Rio de Janeiro (GIG) to Salvador da Bahia (SSA)- Delta airlines, rental car Hertz to Lençóis (Chapada Diamantina) and back to Salvador, flight from Salvador da Bahia (SSA) to Rio de Janeiro (GIG) again on Delta airlines. Costa verde bus from Rio de Janeiro (Novo Rio bus station) to Conceição de Jacareí port, but bus broke down half way so continued in a taxi. Boat to Ilha Grande and back.
- Must see and do: Salvador da Bahia– Pelourinho– old town, Sao Francisco church, Elevador Lacerda, Mercado Modelo market. Lençóis – Chapada Diamantina National Park, Rio de Janeiro– Christ Redeemer (Corcovado), Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, Lapa district, Sugarloaf Mountain, Copacabana Palace, Santa Teresa and Escadaria Selaron stairs, Feira de São Cristóvão – local fair, Botanical gardens (Jardim Botanico). Ilha Grande– Lopez Mendez beach, Scuba diving with Elite Dive Center, Praia do Pouso (beach), Praia do Abraazinho (beach).
- Food/drinks: Brazilian drink Caipirinha with local rum Cachaça- anywhere in Brazil. Salvador– Pelo Bistro at the Hotel Casa do Amorelindo, Lençóis- Cozinha Aberta restaurant, Azul Restaurante at hotel Canto das Aguas, Acai na Tjela, Iampiao culinaria nordestrina, El Jamiro restaurant, Rio de Janeiro– Jojo restaurant, Borogodo Bar e Restaurante, Ilha Grande– Pato Crepes, Marola bar e Restaurante, Bar Aperitivo.
The long awaited trip to Brazil is here! It has been a dream of mine to visit this country for quite some time. I’ve planned it a few years ago with my girl friend from Lithuania. It did not work out. Then I booked it with my boyfriend at the time but things did not work out between us. I did not cancel the trip and planned on going alone- what the heck, I want to see this beautiful country and being single will not stop me! And then I met Sean- my now fiance. On our first date, I asked if he has any desire to go spend the New Year’s in Brazil (mind you, it was June!). He looked at me like I’m kidding (or crazy 🙂 ). I really wanted to have a companion to travel with, especially to Brazil, where I don’t speak the language and so many people warned me about the safety issues. Two months into dating (and me joking about the upcoming trip, where I will be surrounded by the speedo wearing Brazilians at the beach), Sean bought his ticket and we joined forces in planning this adventure together 🙂 .
As we are both tall, American airlines had mercy and gave us the exit row with room to stretch our legs. Flight from Boston to Miami arrived late afternoon and connecting flight to Rio was overnight. Merry Christmas to us on the plane! Best present to ourselves is this trip!
Awake for about 24 hours now, we landed in Rio. Delirious, but so happy to be out of winter. And we could feel the heat! Either the airport did not have the AC, or it was not working very well, but by the time we collected our baggage, switched terminals and checked them back in this time with Delta- we were sweating. Shower cannot come soon enough! But we have two more hours of flight till we reach Salvador da Bahia. Rio- we will be back for you, let’s check out the northern part of the country first.
As we planned to rent a car later, we arranged a driver to pick us up and bring us to the Casa do Amorelindo hotel. Centrally located at the Salvador’s old town Pelourinho, hotel was in a perfect spot to explore this town by foot/taxi if needed. There is not much parking in the old town, so rental car would’ve been more of a burden than a benefit.
The driver spoke NO English, but that’s where the magic happened. We had a conversation using body/sign language and my limited Spanish skills! A lot of Portuguese words sound quite similar to Spanish. By the end of this 30 min drive, we saw pictures of his 3 kids and wife, found out that our driver’s cousin works at Chapada Diamantina National park, where we were going in a few days..He even pulled over on the side of the road to draw us a map where we can find his cousin’s office when we get to the park! And all of this with no English!
Hotel was BEAUTIFUL! Rooftop bar with the pool overlooking the ocean, California King size bed- it’s more than we expected. Oh, and the waterfall shower! Any shower would’ve been heavenly by then, but the soft rain/waterfall option was a nice bonus.
Pelo Bistro- the restaurant right inside the hotel had the tastiest food we tried in Salvador. Strong, delicious caipirinha’s, grilled fish with moqueca sauce- everything simply melts in your mouth. Only regret that we did not have more days in Salvador to eat here a few more times.
I am not sure how we did not collapse out of tiredness, but after a couple drinks and a good meal, we decided to venture out and see Pelourinho- the old town of Salvador.
Important note: Security is a big issue in Brazil. We knew that going to this beautiful country. We did not bring any watches, jewelry, not even a small silver necklace that I had on previously. We were told that tourists usually are not targeted, but there is a lot of poverty and small kids sometimes run/drive by on their bikes and grab what they can get- necklace, earrings etc. Why risk it? We brought our iPhones for photos and GPS use. But I carried mine on my wrist and Sean had a fanny pack (I know, sounds so bad!) close to his body under the shirt for money and his phone. We left our passports in the hotel safe and only carried small amount of cash and our credit cards while out and about town. Hotel gave us a map which had a red triangle- they clearly told us, do not leave this triangle area if you don’t want any trouble. Pelourinho is safe, there is a lot of police, but what happens outside of the triangle, is not something we want our guests to encounter.
I cannot say that we felt unsafe. Guarded, yes. All the stories and now being told by the hotel to stay in the certain areas- it gets into your head a little. But we never were bothered by anyone or followed, or hassled.
We wandered the beautiful streets of Pelourinho and admired the colors, the architecture, the history.
As it was Christmas Day, one of the most important holidays in Brazil, there was Mass being held right outside the Cathedral Basilica de Sao Salvador. We got to participate in that together with hundreds of Brazilians. Unexpected and quite amazing.
Being nearby, we stopped at the Sao Francisco church and Convent- important colonial monument in Brazil.
This never ending day is going to an end- time to rest, so we can see more of Salvador tomorrow.
As comfortable as the bed was, the room was very bright and I woke up early. Maybe it was because I was hungry and could not wait to see what is for breakfast at this lovely hotel! It did not disappoint. Fresh fruit, juice, eggs, sweet pastries. It was as delicious as yesterday’s lunch.
We went to explore the town and first thing we saw, was several young men practicing Brazilian martial arts- Capoeira right on the street. We stopped to watch and as soon as they saw us taking pictures, they came up and started showing signs that we need to pay money if we want to keep enjoying the show. Well, this did not look like a professional performance- we did not want to waste our cash, so quickly moved away. The guys did not look overly pleased, but oh well…
Next tourist destination in Salvador we wanted to check out was the old elevator- Elevador Lacerda. Opened in 1873, this elevator was the first public elevator in the world!
The elevator is the main access point between Uptown and Downtown and transports around 900 000 passengers per month in 30 second trips. We took it down and went straight to the market- Mercado Modelo.
Tourist shopping heaven. From art, to souvenirs, to hand made jewelry-just bring cash, because not every stall accepts cards. And if they do- it will not be American Express. Most places did not take this card all over Brazil. Before we spent all our money, it was time to get to the beach. It’s December, summer in Brazil, and we just came from a cold weather- let’s check out where the locals go to cool off.
We chose Porto da Barra Beach due to it’s proximity and good reviews. Taxi ride was not expensive and pretty short. But the beach was OH SO CROWDED…We were able to rent a chair and umbrella, but being so close to other people was not the most relaxing beach experience. We were told to not leave our belongings unattended and to not go in the water together- you might come out and be left only with your swimming suit. We did not like that idea, so we took turns swimming. It was hard to relax with so many people around.
I’m glad we stayed till sunset though…The reward was this postcard perfect view.
For dinner we tried out Bar Zulu. Despite the long wait and them being out of the burger I wanted, food was pretty good. Not as good as at the restaurant in our hotel, but it was another new place to try.
Last night at the lovely Casa do Amorelindo, so we enjoyed the rooftop pool with the cold drink in hand. Ahh vacation…
LENCOIS (CHAPADA DIAMANTINA)
This is the day with A LOT of driving. But first- we need to make a stop at the local pharmacy…Maybe the travel, maybe the new local flavors and spices, but Sean’s stomach has not been agreeing with him since the day we arrived. As we are about to spend nearly seven hours in the car, we better take some preventative measures. Hotel told us about the closest pharmacy, but we did not think to ask how to say “anti- diarrhea medicine” in Portuguese. If one of us was not suffering, it would have been a comical scene explaining to the pharmacist what we came for. Showing it with hand gestures, sounds- charades for ‘diarrhea’ anyone? Finally, she opened up google translate and we typed in our request. The lady was super sweet and sorry for ‘no English’, but we got what we came for and it really worked! Note to self- bring some basic meds next time, never know when you might need them.
The same driver, arranged by the hotel, took us to Hertz rental car office and we picked up our wheels for the next few days. Driving out of Salvador was easy. But even without traffic it was a loooong trip. Road to Chapada Diamantina National Park was mainly one lane each way. With A LOT of huge trucks flying by. We thought we were going fast- trucks were passing us in over 140km/hr (almost 90 miles per hour).
Arrived at the hotel Canto das Aguas tired and very hungry.
We were met by the very pleasant staff and the grounds of the hotel looked beautiful! We wanted to set up a few things right away for the next few days of stay here. One – to see the most of the Chapada Diamantina park and second- have a massage. After speaking to the friendly concierge, we were told that the national park is huge and some spots are hard to find exploring on your own. Hotel suggested that we get a tour guide that would drive with us and show us the best of Chapada. Us not speaking Portuguese was a slight challenge, but the concierge called around and was able to find an English speaking guide- Carlos Murta Dida. We are to meet him tomorrow at 8.30 am and venture out in Chapada wilderness. Now time for dinner! Luckily hotel had a great restaurant Azul right on site. Fish in the coconut milk sauce, pasta and of course the caipirinha were delicious and exactly what we needed after a long day.
Guide Dida (that’s how he called himself) came to our hotel right after breakfast. We chose to use our rental car for the trip and Dida was telling us where to turn. From the very start we were happy with the decision. As concierge mentioned, the park is huge and to find all of the sights on our own would have taken us much longer. First stop- Pai Inacio mountain.
The views were amazing during the day and I can only imagine it during sunset. We did not want to deal with the crowds, so chose a day visit.
There is a short hike to the top, therefore wearing sneakers is highly recommended.
Yoga on the cliffs- optional 🙂 . Some did better than others, but our 56 year old guide showed us off for sure! After the hike, we refreshed with the sweet sugar cane drink made right in front of us.
Next stop is Lapa Doce cave. It is the most famous of the Chapada Diamantina caves and was discovered in 1986. It is about 800 meters long and that is only the area where tourists can walk in. The cave itself is even bigger.
It has both- stalagmites and stalactites. Guide used the flashlight and at one point turned it off. We were surrounded by complete darkness. That’s how big the cave is!
Next on the day tour- Pratinha.
It was a hot day, so the dip in a clear cool water was very much appreciated. There are a ton of little fish, so if you are into snorkeling, this is a good place for it.
Last stop of the day- Poco do Diablo waterfall or Devil’s Pool. There was a good amount of driving and several turns to get there.
After we parked the car, there was a bit of a hike. Again- we were grateful to have the guide to lead the way. It’s a beautiful hike and we worked up a sweat- just enough to jump in the pool and swim around the waterfall. The water is clear, but the bottom must be muddy- it looked black. Slightly unsettling and I did not want to think what’s deep under, so never tried to touch the bottom 🙂 .
The guide was excellent and we would highly recommend taking a day or two day trips with him.
He’s also an artist! In the evening, we went to Lencois to have dinner (Cozinha Aberta was AMAZING- try their chicken with coconut milk dish) and walked into one of the art galleries to find out that our guide has his exposition there! He specializes in lizard art and we ended up getting one of his pieces for our living room decoration.
Probably THE MOST relaxing day of this trip. If you recall, we had two goals coming to Lencois- travel around Chapada Diamantina and get a relaxing massage. Well, Chapada has been explored with our wonderful guide. Now time for a massage. We booked them with the concierge the first night that we arrived. There are cabanas outside and they have masseuses coming from different salons depending on their availability. Can I just tell you- it was a snowstorm in Boston that same day. And we were posting these type of photos on social media…We may have lost a few friends that day. Just kidding 🙂 . Who does not want to see their friends enjoying themselves in the warm weather while you’re shoveling snow, right 🙂 ?
The rest of the day went just as relaxing- good book by the pool, followed by delicious acai in town at the Acai na Tigela, shopping (bring cash if you can, this is a very small town and credit card machines do not work very well). Internet connection is not that good, so sometimes transactions don’t go through. Dinner was outside at the El Jamiro restaurant and was once again delicious. Little town comes alive at night!
Oh, and regarding security. Not like in Salvador, there is nothing to worry about here in Lencois. We felt extremely safe and relaxed. Back to Salvador tomorrow to take a flight to Rio. We’ll see how the 6 million people city is going treat us. So far Brazil has been a pleasure to travel in.
RIO DE JANEIRO
Long long day with lots of driving…Same way we came from Salvador, same two lane roads back…Probably the same huge trucks flying by.
The trucks passing trucks over the double yellow lines made us feel like we were in some movie or a video game.
After quite some time, we figured out why the trucks had their turn signals on while driving on the straight road. Because they are so big and the roads are narrow, it’s hard to see if there are cars coming in from the opposite traffic. So trucks would give a signal when it’s safe to pass! If you see the right turn signal- road is clear, go ahead and pass. If you see the left turn- stay behind, the car is coming. Yea, it took us a while to understand this and it became a lot easier to pass without the fear of hitting a car coming from the opposite direction.
Total drive to Salvador this time only took us about 5.5hrs. It may have helped that we woke up at 4am, had quick breakfast that we bought the night before and left still very early in the morning. We did not hit any rush hour traffic and made it to the airport on time to catch our flight to Rio.
Oh hello, traffic here! Taxi ride from the airport to our bed and breakfast near Botanical Gardens took over an hour. We’ve heard stories about taxis taking tourists for a ride and going all around town, so we had Waze app on, which surprisingly switched to Portuguese and basically held it near the driver’s ear so he would go the way it tells him to.
Marcos greeted us warmly, gave us coffee and snacks and provided maps and great advice on Rio’s sights. The best idea was buying tickets to the Christ the Redeemer tram online a few days in advance. It saved us SO much time later and allowed us to skip the long line.
As for the first day in this huge city- we decided to explore the nearby lagoon, have dinner and walk around the Copacabana and Ipanema areas.
Exhausted as we were from waking up at 4 am, driving then flying, we still took another taxi to Lapa district for some nightlife. It was actually more than tired selves could handle. Bar after bar full of loud, young people (is there even a drinking age in Brazil 🙂 ?) I think the fact that we were up nearly 24 hrs did it- we checked this off our list and took another taxi home.
Interesting fact: Taxis in Rio drive fast. Like “Fast and furious” fast. They also do not stop at the red lights, especially at night!! If they see the road is clear- they go right through! First, we thought that they are crazy maniacs and we will just die in a taxi car crash. But you know, eventually you get used to everything and it did not scare us as much. Later we found out that the reason they don’t stop is safety. There are a lot of robberies at the stopped by the lights cars if no one is around, so taxis avoid potential bad luck by blowing through the red lights without stopping. They also did not really had any headlights on! Yes, Rio streets are well lit, but still. It was scary few rides at first, but a day or two later we accepted that this is how it is done here, buckled our seat belts and hoped for the best. Luck was on our side- nothing bad happened.
Last day of 2015! It has been a wonderful year and we are so lucky to be spending the New Year’s in this amazing country. Those were not my thoughts exactly when I woke up this morning.
What I was thinking was how much I still want to see/do here and how we don’t have enough time before the trip is over. It happens to me sometimes while planning the trips- I am trying to bite more than I can chew…And eventually it catches up to me. That was today. The plan was to stay one more day in Rio and on the 2nd of January to squeeze in another beautiful Brazil town- Paraty. The same plan involved 4.5 hours (if there is no traffic) bus ride, sightseeing the town in the afternoon, staying one night in Paraty and then bus to Agra to catch a boat to Ilha Grande, where we would spend the rest of the trip. I was trying to book the bus tickets online, system did not work (everything happens for a reason, right?) and I lost it. Literally had a mini panic attack. It was hard to breath, tears were coming down my face uncontrollably and that’s how Sean found me. We made a new plan- skip Paraty and enjoy Rio for an extra day. Luckily our host had the same room still available and we did not need to look for accommodations. We lost accommodations in Paraty, but the peace of mind was well worth it. The world became much brighter after that 🙂 . Knowing that we don’t need to stress about getting to another destination and just having that one extra day to see Rio made a huge difference. I can now relax and enjoy this trip without a rush! It should have been the plan in the first place, but lesson well learned for the future adventures.
Now that we got this next part of the trip sorted out, let’s actually see this incredible city of God- Rio!
And before you know it, we were in a looong line for the tickets to go up the Sugarloaf Mountain. Can you see my happiness from here 🙂 ? The wait in line is absolutely worth the views you see up top.
Pictures don’t reflect the beauty, you just have to go and see it for yourselves 🙂 !
One tourist destination off the list, we took a taxi and went to a famous Copacabana beach.
To be quite honest we were not overly impressed. It was crowded and loud. And we still had the fear of having our things stolen if we both go swimming together, so we took turns. One of the guys walking down the beach selling water and shouting in Portuguese, walked up to Sean and in clear English Terminator-like voice whispered ” I HAVE COCAINE”. Umm ok, Obrigado, but no Obrigado, we are ok with water, thanks.
Another tourist destination to check out (and we are hungry by now)- Garota de Ipanema Restaurant. It is well rated, food is average and I would say it’s more of a tourist trap than something to go back to. It was one of those places where you say ok, been here, done that, over it.
Well, 2015 is coming to an end, time to go home, change into white clothes and go back to Copacabana beach to watch the fireworks!
New Year’s in Brazil (unless you already going to this country during Carnival) is something to be experienced once in a lifetime. It is a next level massive white party! Millions of people from all over the world come to Rio beaches for this celebration. Rio is one of the most gay friendly cities in the world, so gay community is strong here. And they know how to party! Bring your white outfit and get ready to celebrate ALL NIGHT LONG.
It is not mandatory, but white is a base color for anyone coming out to New Year’s celebration in Rio. All colors mean something here and white is all about peace.
Come very much open minded and ready for crowds. Come early! We took a taxi and were stuck in a huge traffic jam. Luckily Waze found a faster way and we were at Copacabana beach by 10pm.
You think two hours before fireworks is early- might want to think again. If you want to get a spot on the beach, rent a chair, sip on the drink (yes, you can definitely drink on the beach) 10 pm was just the time to get there.
Music was playing, crowds were gathering and waiting for the best fireworks in the country if not in the whole world. And there it began! 15 minutes of the pyrotechnic magic reflecting in the ocean. No pictures will transfer the energy that was on that warm Copacabana beach. Best. New Year. Celebration. Ever.
But the party is far from over! Nobody is going to bed right after midnight in Rio ever anyway. And certainly NOT on New Year’s night! We had no booked arrangements, so decided to wander around and see if we can check out the Copacabana Palace hotel. Well, turns out there is a party there too! With security all around the building. Maybe it was the champagne that I just drank that gave me courage, maybe it was the fact that we are in a strange country and had noting to lose- we walked up to the barricaded entrance to the hotel like we belong here and security said something in Portuguese. I asked in English if we can go in and see the hotel. Clearly his English was not very good and he said something that sounded like ‘card’. Maybe he thought we are guests at the hotel? Maybe the ‘card’ was a ticket to the fancy party- I don’t know. But I opened my cell phone holder with my credit cards lined up next to it and he moved the barricade and LET US IN! Talk about blind luck 🙂 .
Apparently, this is one of the fanciest Rio parties that cost about $500 USD to get in! When we told our host at the bed and breakfast, he was shocked! He said he lived in Rio all his life and never was able to go to this party! Free champagne was flowing, great music with fun DJ, food, flip flops to change into in case you are wearing heels. We were in our simple clothes, while some guests had long fancy evening gowns 🙂 . It was one of the best parties I have ever had a chance to go to. Later in the night, guests started jumping in the pool and we followed the lead. How often do you get to dance in the pool outside in January 🙂 ?!
I did not want to leave…But it was 3am and we had the tickets to the Christ the Redeemer at noon. We also did not think it will be so hard to get back to our place. Due to the massive celebrations in Copacabana/Ipanema areas- the streets were closed for traffic and no taxis could drive up there. So we started walking. And kept on walking. And then we could not walk anymore. It was 4.30am by then and per GPS another hour of walk. When we finally reached the streets where cars were allowed- no taxis would stop! They were off shift and were not taking any new passengers.
When finally one stopped to let people out, we literally ran to him and offered R50 which was about 3-4 times what the cost to our bed and breakfast would be, but in USD it was really only $15 and the taxi took us home. 5am was when we finally reached the bed completely exhausted. And were up mere five hours later. Who needs sleep on vacation, right?
Thank you, Marcos, for the suggestion to buy tickets to Corcovado (famous Christ the Redeemer) tram in online in advance. That saved us SO much time. Those who did not have the tickets had to wait in the longest line and we just breezed right through to the gate and got on the tram about 15 min later.
The statue is everything that you have ever imagined and more.
You know how sometimes it looks big in photos and in real life it turns out to be a disappointment (Mona Lisa was like that to me).
This was not the case. It actually looked bigger than I pictured it to be! We finally saw the main symbol of Brazil that was such a dream come true. 2016 will be a good year! Well, at least January 1st is on to a good start 🙂 .
We returned back to the Bed and Breakfast for a short nap and decided to see the Ipanema beach today. It was much more quiet and more beautiful than Copacabana. At least that was our impression. Lovely place for a relaxing afternoon after a long New Year’s night.
Day to sleep in! Finally! After breakfast our host Marcos offered to take us to Tijuca National forest for one of the nicest views of Rio from the Vista Chinesa. Only thing we did not see coming was the fog/clouds! So the beautiful view we could only imagine or look up online 🙂 . But at least we visited one of the largest urban forests in the world…
As we had the extra day in Rio, we continued to explore this vibrant city.
Cheap taxi ride took us to the Santa Teresa neighborhood in the old part of Rio.
Absolutely charming little streets, colorful Escadaria Selaron steps, funky wall art- it’s definitely a neighborhood to venture to for a couple of hours.
For the afternoon we chose shopping and food at the local Feira do Sao Cristovao fair.
It had music, people were dancing and the food at the Chiquita restaurant was amazing with huge portions! They were serving northern Brazil food, which we loved so much back in Lencois and Salvador. If you have time, this fair is absolutely worth checking out.
As tomorrow we are getting on a bus and then boat to Ilha Grande, the island right near Rio, we wanted to get bus tickets in advance. Their website was having issues, so we took a cab to the Novo Rio bus station and encountered yet another comical situation, where the cashier spoke no English, but we managed to explain where we are trying to get to. The closest town to take a boat to the island was Conceicao de Jacareis, but that’s tomorrow. Now we do some shopping at the Ipanema area. Since I am in Brazil, I might as well get some Brazilian bikinis!
For dinner we did not go far- Jojo restaurant was literally a few steps away from our place and Marcos assured us of their great food quality. It was incredible! No English speaking wait staff went above and beyond explaining the dishes and making sure they understand what we are looking for. We ate like we haven’t seen food before- ravioli with gorgonzola, black rice, gnocchi AND two desserts- brownie sundae and cheesecake with guava syrup- yes, we finished it all with not a crumb left!
We had some time in the morning before our bus ride to Conceicao de Jacareis and, knowing how I don’t like wasting time, we decided to see the Botanical Gardens. After all, we are staying right next to them! Because Marcos is a resident, he and his family gets free access to the gardens.
So awesome host that he is, he gave his pass to Sean and his wife’s to me.
Now we are Marcos and Sarah, residents of Rio (only not speaking the language, but who cares right 🙂 ?)
Despite the cloudy day, the gardens were beautiful! Nice walk before a long bus ride.
We left a large suitcase with the clothes/ souvenirs and anything we did not need for a few days in Ilha Grande at the Bed and Breakfast. Again- the host was kind to store it for us, so we are not dragging it to the bus/boat and then at the island. We will pick it up on our way back when it’s time to fly home. That was huge help, we did not even know then how much easier it was that we only had two small carry-on bags!
Now about the bus…We got to the Novo Rio bus station on time. Well, cannot say the same about the bus. It was at least an hour late. However, waiting for the late bus, allowed us to make new friends. We chatted with the Brazilian woman who was on her way to visit her sick granddaughter, told her that we are worried we will miss the ferry to the island if this bus does not hurry up. She was extremely nice and so happy we came to explore her country.
On the bus we met a fun Colombian RN Jaime. We are still friends with him on Facebook and hope we’ll see him again either in Boston or somewhere else in the world. Well, good that we made friends, because not too long into the drive, the bus broke down! 20 minutes it just stood there and there were no news on when and if the next one is coming. Now we REALLY started to worry about missing the last boat to Ilha Grande. After some debating on what to do next, we decided to take a taxi. It beats having to look for a place to stay if we miss the boat. Once we got the cab, the sweet lady took the driver’s phone number and mid ride called the taxi to check with him on how he’s doing time wise and to hurry him, so we don’t miss the boat!
Now the taxi part was the most fun! We were not the only ones that had same idea. Jaime joined us and so did another Italian gay couple!
This is when we felt EXTREMELY grateful we did not have our huge suitcase! International crew continues the adventure- two Italians, Colombian, Lithuanian, American and Brazilian driver who does not speak English and neither of us speaks Portuguese 🙂 !
The road is narrow, the suitcase pressed on the window opening button on the door and my handbag with our passports nearly fell out..The downpour rain began- it was quite a ride! But the company was fun and we were all happy to have left the broken bus.
“United Nations” made it to Conceicao de Jacareis and after the VERY bumpy fast boat ride to Ilha Grande! Island time begins now…
Mara e Claude pousada is right on the beach. You can hear the ocean waves from the bed (or the hammock right in the balcony).
The island is close to busy Rio, but might as well be thousands of miles away. There are no cars and not all roads are paved. Once again we were grateful for not having a big suitcase, since we had to carry our stuff through the beach sand to reach the pousada. You can pay locals to bring it in a little cart, we did that on the way back. But when we arrived after the crazy taxi ride and the rain, there was nobody to offer that service.
The island is calm and beautiful. And we really hope it stays that way. My friend that recommended it, has been there a couple of years ago and we already reported some not so good changes. There is a lot of trash. Some side streets had piles of it. It’s very sad, considering the natural beauty of this island. Apparently there used to be a prison that provided free labor to clean the streets. In an attempt to attract more tourists, the prison was moved off the island, leaving a gap in this service. Hopefully the issue gets resolved before it’s too late.
We came to this island to relax after the busy first part of the trip. We put on our bathing suits (we will certainly find a beach, it’s an island!) and ventured out to the little town called Abrao. It’s more like a village than a town, but it’s the largest settlement on Ilha Grande. There are hotels, shops, restaurants. Talking about shops- we spent a good amount of time at the Havaianas flip flop store. Brazil has so many different colors, you can get them embellished and the price is much cheaper than in the US- perfect for us and as gifts for everyone!
This is how many we bought 🙂 . No wonder TSA inspected the suitcase! After some serious Havaianas shopping, we walked around town and saw a very nice pool near the hotel. I don’t know if it was the heat or the relaxed state of mind that we were in- we walked in and jumped in the pool to cool of. That was NOT our hotel, but the pool was empty and beautiful pools should be used on a hot summer day 🙂 . We swam around until some housekeeping staff started looking and pointing at us. I think it’s time to go now 🙂 . Before they called someone that spoke English, we were on our way out.
We dropped off our purchases and went straight to the beach close by. There was a bit of a hike, but nothing strenuous and we reached Praia do Abraozinho just in time for lunch.
The local little restaurant Point do Verao had the most amazing fresh seafood dish accompanied by caipirinha of course. I may or may not consumed at least two caipirinhas per day on this trip…
The beach was lovely, quiet and extremely relaxing. Exactly what was needed after a busy week.
We returned home by water taxi so to speak. They run several times a day and brought us back right at the center of Abrao. If you don’t feel like hiking back, that’s a nice easy way to return to town.
Dinner was at the awesome crepes place – Pato crepes. You can find sweet and savory crepes ( we got both) as well as our favorite in Brazil- pineapple juice (suco de abacaxi).
Only towards the end of our trip we asked how do they make it that it has the foam and tastes so amazing. Well…they add a LOT of sugar of course:) ! Everything that tastes so good has sugar. Caipirinhas are no exception. No wonder I loved them so much!
Before going back to our pousada, we stopped at the local travel agency and booked some activities for the next two days. First one- snorkeling trip around the island, including Blue and Green Lagoons and a stop for lunch. The second- scuba diving excursion with Elite Dive center! We are not scuba certified, but in Brazil you can do that without the certificate, just have instructor with you at all times. That’s the day after tomorrow! So excited!!!
Snorkeling trip started at 10.30 am, very reasonable time to sleep in and have breakfast before. The group was small- american family with two daughters, Brazilian couple and us.
First stop- Blue Lagoon. Seems like a lot of other boats had the same agenda- very busy and hard to see any cool fish with another hundred snorkelers splashing around.
Green Lagoon was much better! There is a shallow area where you can go past the rocks and enjoy a ton of colorful fish.
Third stop was lunch, which we pre-ordered on the boat and they had it ready when we arrived. Chicken, rice and beans. And the usual- caipirinha 🙂 .
Love Beach was another stop, but it was so crowded that we did not even leave the boat. It was a fun day. But I am really the most excited about tomorrow!
We are going scuba diving, we are going scuba diving! Whoop whoop!
Ok, I am a little nervous, I won’t lie. We asked a lot of questions and the guide was very patient and informative. The group was large, so we went in two boats. Ours is the first one to go scuba! We put on the oxygen tanks and got about 5 minutes orientation. I kid you not. We were shown how to equalize and how to get rid of the water if it gets under the eye/nose mask. And then we jump in!
Luckily we each had our own instructor who was on our backs the whole time and had control of all the equipment. As we got in the water and my instructor asked to put my head under water and breath, I had a bit of a moment of panic. The sound of the bubbles when you exhale was very strange and unusual and when instructor said we will be under water for about 45 minutes I was not sure I could do it!
But am I glad I overcame that fear! The instructor calmly reassured me that she will be with me the whole time and that everything will be OK. I tried again and was feeling more comfortable and breathing evenly. The key is to take it slow. Not just slow breaths, but also slow floating under, moving only the feet, not swimming with the arms at all.
Sean was so excited and swimming fast despite the signs from the instructor to slow down. He used up his oxygen 20 minutes faster than I did! So he missed out on 20 minutes of the incredible under water world!
But before he ran out of air, we got to experience the magical moment of sea turtle swimming right by us!
It was worth all the fear and this trip was complete!
One disheartening fact though-the people of Brazil do not protect their nature as they really should. A lot of coral is dead and they were encouraging us to touch it! Very sad that the magical underwater world might soon be black ruins if this practice continues…
Last day on the island…Time flew by, but also, as I am finishing writing this, I also see how much we did in the past 2 weeks…It has been incredible and it is not over yet! We have one more beach day and we are spending it to the fullest.
Lopez Mendez is the nicest beach on Ilha Grande, so we saved the best for last. To get to it is a bit of a walk. Well, there are two ways- walk and see a couple more beaches along the way- it will be about 2.5-3 hours total with the stops. Or, you can walk to a Praia do Pouso beach and take a boat from there.
We wanted to see more of the island, so we walked. It was not hard, despite the warm weather. The first beach we came to was Praia de Palmas.
Beautiful beach with not many people. Perfect for a swim before continuing the walk.
Next beach- Praia do Pouso with the floating Marola bar e Restaurante restaurant to quench the thirst along the way.
This hike is not so bad at all!
And then finally we arrived to the paradise that has a name – Lopez Mendez…
The beach is huge, sand is soft and white, waves are big enough to body surf. No boats come directly to this beach and it feels big but also secluded. We spent the blissful afternoon there reminiscing about this trip and how much we want to come back to Brazil again…
If we don’t want to walk another 2 hours back in the dark, we better go catch the last boat back to Abrao. A boat is at another beach just over the little hill. Time to pack and prepare for some long flights home tomorrow.
We bought the boat tickets to Conceição de Jacarei the day before and good that we did- the line was very long. Looks like a lot of tourists are leaving the island today. We made it to the bus and this time it did not break down 🙂 – we are back in Rio! We grabbed a cab and got back to Pouso Verde to pick up our big suitcase. Marco greeted us with open arms – it felt like coming home.
There was enough time to have a quick lunch, but Jojo was closed, so we went across the street to Borogodo Bar e Restaurante for some pretty amazing chicken curry, creme brule and brownie with ice cream. Then another hour long taxi to the airport and two more flights home. Missed the connection in Miami due to first flight being late, but at that point it did not matter- not in any rush to get back to the reality that is called Boston winter 🙂 .
Brazil was very kind to us. We did not experience any violence, robberies or any other potential issues that many people warned us about before this trip. Maybe we were just lucky or maybe it is not as bad as some people say it is. It’s a beautiful country with welcoming people, it has a lot of potential, but also has a lot of issues. One way or the other, we look forward to coming back. Obrigada, Brazil and we shall see you again one day!