Beautiful, eye-opening Brazil was an experience and a half. It was somehow everything I thought it would be, but at the same time…not. There was so much more.
I started in the capital city, Rio de Janeiro. The famous Copacabana beach was inundated with stereotypical tanned, toned men in speedos and voluptuous goddess-like bronzed women in tiny bikinis. There were so many beach volleyball games going on I thought I had time travelled to the 2016 Olympics. The sun was beating down, but it didn’t deter the sporty beachgoers. In fact, I found out that the Brazilian’s love of sport was not limited to volleyball. I ventured to a local football game and the atmosphere was crazy; chanting, stamping, and cheering –not in a scary way. For me as a non-football lover, it was enticing, fun and liberating.
I was eager to try the legendary Caipirinha (said to be Brazil’s national cocktail). I’d tried it at home in the UK and although nice, I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. There were plenty of cute, beach bars selling the drink for practically next to nothing, so I settled in at one that the locals seemed to be favouring. Wow! I instantly knew why. From the first sip it was instantly refreshing, yet intoxicating at the same time; the crushed ice, cachaça (sugar cane hard liquor), sugar and lime definitely hit the spot and I was hooked from then on.
My trip took me to the Christ Da Radeemer; one of the wonders of the world. It is a huge statue of Jesus that overlooks the city of Rio. I’m not religious at all, but it is truly fantastic and I was so overcome, I actually managed to miss my scheduled travel to the ferry port to start the next part of my adventure.
My guide assured me I would be fine; I could just catch a taxi and still make the ferry. Well, that was the plan, anyway. The taxi journey weaved round the mountainous bends, climbing higher and higher into the lush green foliage. The trees seemed to be as tall as the clouds and the greenest of greens. It took my breath away and I momentarily forgot the panic I had been feeling earlier. I left the taxi feeling like I was floating on air. I used my poor, poor attempt of Portuguese to try to find out where the ferry was. Eventually I discovered it had left, but some locals assured me another one would be departing in a few hours. And so I waited. And waited and waited. You guessed it, it never appeared.
Starting to worry about the fast approaching sunset and lack of taxis or ferries, I phoned my guide again. His advice was to ask one of the local fishermen for a free ride. I was heading for Ilha Grande, a small island off of Rio. I should probably point out that I have a fear of water and a small ferry was just about do-able for me.
Reluctantly I set off in the smallest boat I have ever, ever seen. It looked like it was from the 1950s and smelt of mouldy fish. I shut my eyes and tried to visualise sitting on the pretty beach of Ilha Grande, Caipirinha in hand. A huge, loud crash startled me and I soon opened my eyes. A massive thunderstorm had descended on us, seeming to be right above our boat and it continued to follow us for most of the journey. The boat bounced about and I crawled on the floor, trying to find something to hang onto. I was soaking wet to the bone, in the pitch black having visions of Jaws jumping aboard (my other biggest fear is sharks). Not only that, when I glimpsed my friendly fisherman I noticed he wasn’t wearing any shoes. More worryingly though, he was steering the boat with his bare foot. Forget hands, clearly a fisherman’s preferred method for steering a boat through a thunderstorm is his foot. Who knew?!
Somehow a miracle occurred (maybe I should turn to religion and clearly I shouldn’t challenge the foot-steering method); I made it to the palm fringed Ilha Grande. I stumbled to bed exhausted from my experience. The next morning I explored the tiny island and was in complete awe.
I would suffer that horrendous journey ten times over if it meant I could spend time in this paradise. Beautiful white sand. Tropical birds singing. Clear blue skies and lovely hot sun. I was in heaven. Different to the huge city of Rio, it is small, but perfectly formed.
The island is protected (I can see why) and it holds no resemblance to its former self as a national prison. Its history appeals; it makes it different to other islands. The landscape is so effortlessly beautiful and the island is a natural stunner. Unlike the millions in Rio, there are few people on the island. They were so friendly and happy – it is easy to see why.
My journey between Rio De Janeiro and Ilha Grande may not have been the one described in the glossy brochure, but it is definitely one that sticks out in my mind….and my friends and family who although weren’t there, like to laugh about my seafaring-foot steering-paradise adventure! I would highly recommend you experience the city and the island, but I’d suggest your transport is a bit more 5*!
Have you been to Rio or Ilha Grande? What did you think? Have you experienced a hiccup on your travels that seemed scary at the time, but you can now laugh about it? X