Ilha Grande, Our Own Fantasy Island
28.11.2011 - 29.11.2011
The next morning dawned bold and beautiful.
I woke long before Matt the next day and was excited to see a bright blue sky staring down at me. We had made a good decision by saving today for boat day!
I took an early morning walk to the village and just enjoyed watching the sleepy town come slowly to life.
Remember how I mentioned there seemed to be dogs everywhere? In the morning, they all seemed to be on the main street in town in various stages of sleeping, waking up, and playing in the sand. We'll call these four: Stayed Out Too Late Last Night, Still Asleep, Trying to Wake Up, and Already Had Too Much Coffee.
Matt was up by the time I returned and we headed to breakfast so that I could get some more of those hot weenies. Yum!
Before we sat down to eat, I asked the girl at the desk about a boat for the day. She told us we had 2 options: a large schooner that would be inexpensive but force us to share our day with about 50 other people or a private speed boat. While Matt wasn’t looking, I quickly told her “private boat.”
Within minutes, she had found us a boat for the day and told us to be at the dock at 9:30 and he’d pick us up.
At 9:30 a.m., we were on our way! Within minutes of leaving the dock, he slowed the boat to point to a large pod of dolphins in our path. He stopped and let us enjoy them for 10 – 15 minutes before they finally headed on their way.
Our first stop was at Lagoa Azul, or the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a natural shallow created at low tide between some small offshore islands and the island of Ilha Grande. It’s filled with beautiful coral and tons of colorful fish.
We had arrived before any other boats. It was deserted. While we had it all to ourselves, we snorkeled for a while and then spent about an hour lounging on the boat in the sun, watching boat after boat after boat arrive.
This was one of those places that was truly so beautiful, that you almost couldn’t believe what your eyes were seeing. The colors of the water, the blue of the sky, the lush green foliage…..I could scarcely take it all in.
We could have spent all day there, bobbing gently on the water, but we finally had to tear ourselves away.
Our next stop was a beach. I don’t know the name of it, but it was striking. Several tall, thin palms lined the middle of the beach, like little soldiers welcoming us to their tiny stretch of sand.
The beach was small but incredibly perfect. A delicious little crescent of white sand, clear blue water, swaying palms.
We were dropped off on shore and left to enjoy the beach for a while.
Waterlogged and pruny, we finally motioned for our boat to return from the middle of the bay. He picked us up and once again, we were on our way. The views from the boat were amazing. I couldn’t believe how incredible this place was. I had been to beautiful islands before, but not beautiful islands that were so pristine and untouched.
As we rounded yet another deep blue cove, lined with white sand and lush green palms, the boat slowed. Thinking we were visiting another beach, we looked up at our guy expectantly. He spoke no English but we had managed to communicate effectively all day. There are only so many words needed on boat day.
He handed us a menu, pointed to shore where we could see nothing more than some shallow sand and trees, and raised his eyes in question.
Do I EVER say no to food?
We nodded in agreement and called someone on the radio. Within seconds, a small boat came whizzing out of nowhere and pulled up beside us.
We piled in and the little boat headed toward the shore. Eventually, the water became so shallow that all 3 guys got out of the boat and pulled it with me sitting inside, very princess like.
I felt very much like the water version of Cleopatra and decided that this should be my mode of transport from now on. It suited me.
When the water got too shallow for even the tiny boat, I was forced out into the shallow water in a very unprincesslike manner. We waded toward the shore.
Had my mother been present, she would have been certain that this was the moment when they would take us back into the woods, chloroform us, and hack out our organs for sale on Ebay. I had no worries. I was excited about this little adventure. We had no idea where we were headed and we didn’t care.
And there it was. A cozy little tropical restaurant all tucked up into the jungle.
This place gets my vote for coolest bathroom.
I was pretty used to the fact that caipirinhas in Brazil were like getting a glass of water as soon as you sit down in a restaurant in the US. They were always there.
We decided to try a Brazilian specialty: Moqueca de Camarao. It was basically a shrimp stew and had appeared on virtually every menu we had seen.
Moqueca is a savory stew made only with fish or shrimp. It has its origins in Bahia and is a staple of the Brazilian comfort food diet. The Brazilians have been making this dish for over 300 years. Its simple name, which translates to "shrimp stew," belies its complex flavors.
Moqueca takes hours to prepare. Fresh shrimp are simmered in a coconut broth and palm oil with a sauté of onion, garlic, bell peppers, cilantro and tomatoes. They say the palm oil is so rich, that a teaspoon takes a year off your life. Hey, the year comes off the slow end, so who's complaining?
It was served with rice, the ever present bowl of farofa, and a bowl of something we didn’t recognize. I ate it, because I am always up for something new.
The weird gravy-like substance didn’t have a very strong taste and it certainly wasn’t offensive, so I slathered it on and lapped it up. Matt is not a fan of the unfamiliar and took a pass. After we returned home, I looked it up to see what it was. Pirão is a kind of gravy usually made from fish broth and cassava flour. It is typically made from a broth obtained by cooking a fish head and scraps not used in whole fish dishes (i.e., the parts you ain’t supposed to eat), with other ingredients such as coconut milk, tomatoes, parsley, garlic, chives, pepper, and fresh cilantro.
At the time, I had no idea I was eating fish head and guts gravy, so……Bon Appetit!
After a long and leisurely lunch, it was time to be carried, Cleopatra-Style, back to our boat.
It had been a full day and we were certain it was time to head back, but were surprised when we were pulled up onto yet another pristine beach. This might have been the best yet because we were the only two people in sight.
We had about an hour of “deserted tropical island experience” before it was time to head back.
We were dropped off back at Sagu. Matt was feeling a little off again and went in to take a nap.
He woke up sounding like a 97 year old smoker.
His head was pounding, he had a terrible cough, and he was hoarse and raspy. I had some Aleve and gave him one but he really needed something for that cough.
“I saw what I think was a pharmacy in the village,” he said.
We headed into the village. Our vision was that we would walk into a pharmacy that looked just like a US pharmacy. We would see medicine we recognized on a shelf and we would buy it.
Are we really that dumb?
Instead we stepped into a tiny pharmacy that had no medicine of any kind out front. There was a pharmacy counter in back and everything was on shelves behind Mr. Pharmacist in non-descript, unrecognizable, black and white printed boxes.
We walked back, hopeful that the pharmacist spoke some English.
Are we really that dumb?
Of course he didn’t speak English. He also didn’t carry any American medicines. Matt proceeded to do an elaborate game of charades that included mimicking a cough and a pounding head. Mr. Pharmacist returned with a strange box containing a little bottle of vile looking brown liquid and a teeny tiny cup. He held up 3 fingers and pointed to the cup. Did that mean 3 cups or 3 times a day?
We were pretty much on our own from there.
I had no idea what was in that bottle, but I am certain that it was not FDA approved.
It made Matt feel better, though. Probably because it was a combination of morphine and crack.
We took it easy and just crashed in a couple of chairs by the water at Cafe do Mar.
It was a cozy little place that was open to the ocean and filled with twinkling lights and candles.
Matt said he wasn’t hungry, probably because he was high on morphine and crack, so I took the liberty of ordering us a “snack.”
We had a fresh caprese salad, what was basically fried cheese on a stick (GENIUS), and the most amazing garlic shrimp. It was lick-the-plate good.
We even had live entertainment as a very convincing pirate seemed to stroll up out of nowhere. Literally.
He was promptly chased off by the bar dog.
It was time to get Matt to sleep before he overdosed on the unidentifiable medicine.
The next morning Matt was worse. A lot worse. It was obvious that he had something akin to the flu. Caught from the lady on the plane that was hacking up a lung for 8 ½ hours, no doubt. The worst part was that we had to load up, take a 1 ½ hour ferry ride, then drive 2 hours back into Rio de Janeiro, and then find our accommodations in the heart of that vile city.
To shore us up, we had our final breakfast at Sagu. Bye, bye hot wieners.
As we piled onto the ferry for the return trip, I couldn’t help but be apprehensive. Matt was sick. We had a long drive. We had to find our way back into that horrible city that we thought we’d never get out of a few days before.
What would the next 2 days have in store for us? Only time would tell.