As with my trip to Thailand many years ago, I have some low quality photos that were scanned (low quality again) a year or two after my return.
Why hide them away? No good reason; so let’s have a peep.
I seem to recall the trip was in 2003 (my passport is presently with the authorities so enable a compulsory VISA for my next trip).
It was a long haul on SAA (our struggling national carrier) from Durban – Johannesburg – São Paulo – Rio de Janeiro. Well, a long haul in those days as I was still a “junior” traveller.
The photo below was taken at the “old” airport in Durban before my departure.
I first stayed in a hotel, 2 or 3 stars, not far from Copacabana Beach in Rio. I took the photo below from my expensive room that I do not remember at all.
Prior to my departure I read about a biker gang that took over the city, although I cannot easily find any reference right now to that incident. I also watched the movie City of God (2002) Cidade de Deus (original title) three times after returning home – a good movie: highly recommended.
I did the usual tourist things like stopping in at the first bar to sample the beer.
Next of course was the beach to see what all the hype was about re: bikinis on Copacabana and Ipanema.
It was a quiet day on the beach, but Google does help one see what I missed.
But who cares about bikinis when there was an opportunity to pass some time with some fellow anglers.
The highlight in Rio was Cristo Redentor. The statue is 39.6 metres tall, including its 9.5 metres pedestal, and 30 metres wide. It weighs 635 tons, and is located at the peak of the 700 metre Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city.
I felt a sense of calm and stood in awe of this magnificent creation.
The view from the top of the mountain lovely.
I built up some courage a few days later and made my way via coach 150 kilometres to Angra dos Reis, where after I caught a local ferry to Ilha Grande.
Like all “good” coaches and taxis, there were the usual stops at “friend’s” shops along the way, usually the priciest along the road (mark-up to pay the driver and his boss no doubt).
The cans of Skol on the ferry, as seen in the photo, made me feel a lot safer among the locals, none of whom spoke a word of English.
I used the town of Vila do Abraão as my base camp on the island.
Lonely Planet gives a brief summary as follows: “The fabulous island retreat of Ilha Grande owes its pristine condition to its unusual history. First it was a pirates’ lair, then a leper colony and, finally, a prison for some of Brazil’s most violent and deranged criminals. All that remains of those days are some half-buried stone foundations, but the island’s unsavory reputation kept developers at bay for a long time. Consequently, beautiful tropical beaches and virgin Atlantic rain forest (now protected by the federal government) abound on Ihla Grande, and there are still only a few settlements on the island. Vila do Abraão, the only town of any size on Ilha Grande, was itself a sleepy fishing village until 30 years ago. Recently, there’s been a steady stream of new pousadas and bars popping up, but this palm-studded beachfront town with its tidy white church is still incredibly picturesque, and remains small by mainland Brazil standards. Except for Abraão’s lone garbage truck, fire engine and police vehicle, cars are not allowed in town, so the only transport here is by foot or boat. The village comprises a few dirt roads, and everybody congregates down near the dock and beach at night. On weekends and during high season it can get a bit claustrophobic in Vila do Abraão, but you can easily escape the crowds by hiking a few steps out of town in any direction.”
The photo above was taken from the room of the first pousada (inn) that I stayed at.
To say life on the island was laid-back does not do justice to just how relaxed life there appears to be.
Naturally, a good few bottles of Skol made me feel like a local within hours.
As luck would have it, on the weekend I was there, a music festival with some well-known Brazilian singers / artists was about to commence.
The Festival of Music and Ecology in Ilha Grande was an unexpected surprise.
During this festival, known and unknown local musicians offer free Brazillian music performances to the public. These shows are free, and can be seen in the village of Vila Abraao. The first part of this festival is held on the main land, at the wharf of Santa Luzia, but during the first week of July, the festival comes to Ilha Grande (may change from year to year).
Prior to the concert, some of the artists and fans gathered in a local bar where I sat, and played their instruments. Certainly an unforgettable part of the trip, listening to the lovely tunes and watching the camaraderie unfold.
I moved to another “inn” and recall two things from my stay there:
- an old man and his young lady “friend” keeping me awake at night
- not taking my eyes off my fresh fruit salad bowl at breakfast every morning in case the old man caught me looking up and wondering what the hell was going on
I took a few boat trips around the island.
A few visits to Lopes Mendes Beach of course.
I even tried my luck at body-board surfing.
The island is mountainous with narrow gravel paths where one would no doubt get lost. So it was beach to beach (town to town) via boat.
I recall hearing the song Zombie playing when leaving the island. There is more to the story (yes, why would I remember the song). It has stuck in my head since then.
Next stop before returning to Rio was Paraty, which apparently means “river of fish” in the Tupi language.
An “old town” with cobblestones, horses, carts and churches. The new town with all the mod stuff.
I did a canoe trip in the mangroves and was surprised to be told that a fish we back home call “bait” is considered a delicacy in Paraty.Brazilian: Mullet (Mugil brasiliensis).
The trip leader also ranted non-stop about:
- corruption in Brazil
- Brazilian footballers only wanting expensive cars and blond girlfriends
The bicycle I hired did not fair well on the cobblestones in the old town.
It also did not have a 4×4 facility to help on the gravel sand and rocks.
Yes, I did discover the Caipirinha and sample a good few.
Also I discovered that you can eat your salad before your feijoada shown below.