Days 39 to 41 – Ihla Grande – a very grand island!
We had booked our stay on Ihla Grande, but not our transport. Luckily on Sunday night we managed to arrange for Simone’s daughter, who is an uber driver, to take us to the ferry at Jacarai. Once at Jacarai you are greeted by many tour operators fighting for your business. We managed to find a similar ferry service to our internet research, but with a better launch time. We were able to catch the 9am ferry as it was just about to leave and it only took about 20 minutes to get there. We were fully checked in to our pousada by 10am and left our bags to go exploring.
The main town was much larger than I expected. There are lots of pousadas, no surprise I suppose as the whole island is tourism based. There are no vehicles of any kind here (although we did see a couple of construction vehicles later). Everything is moved by boat and manpower – and it is mountainous; so lots of fit workers pushing huge carts loaded with supplies down (and up!) the streets.
We spotted lots of hummingbirds around our accommodations, but still no monkeys. Here the black and turkey vultures replace our raccoons at the garbage bins.
On Monday as we enjoyed a nice lunch on the beach, Derek took ill and had to leave. After a couple of rounds of the special antibiotics we had brought he was back with us by Tuesday morning fully functional. In the meantime, Mike & I opted for a hike. At about 3 pm we took what we thought was to be a 1 hr hike with about 200 m. elevation change to another beach. But google failed us – turns out it is a 3 hr hike one way! But we figured out early enough that we should turn back – when we had only gone 1/3 of the way and reached 2/3 of the elevation change. So we turned back for fear of darkness (& exhaustion!). In the evening Marketa, Mike & I checked out the town and had a nice, but expensive drink right on the beach. We were quite surprised to have the fee for the music which started 1/2 way in to our stay, added to our bill! For dinner we found a tapioca crepe house – good but not great.
Tuesday morning Derek was on the mend and after our pousada breakfast headed off to rent our snorkeling gear and head out on our ‘fast boat’ with 14 of us to check out the island. We visited Lagoa Azul first followed by Lagoa Verde. Both had decent snorkeling with verde having the advantage. Hopefully the go-pro videos turn out! The coral here was dull for the most part, and there were no anemone and few starfish. There were large patches of vibrant green coral though – hence the name.
The geography of island is interesting. The mountains are steep with large rocky outcrops. There are many inlets and bays all around with small sandy beaches. Most have people on them, on the mainland side at least. We didn’t have time to get around to the far-side which is more secluded and has finer sand. The sand here is quite coarse, almost like fine gravel at times. A huge cruise ship was in the bay today, and there were many transport ships moored in the bays also. We suspect they are avoiding docking fees in Rio while awaiting shipment / deliveries.
Our next stop was for lunch where we ordered beer and some patata frits to eat along with our store bought snacks. Then after passing through a very narrow channel with impressive driving by our “captain” we stopped at our last stop, Praya. As our tour was wrapping up the sky was starting to cloud and the water was murkier. I still managed to spot a sea turtle although there we less fish and coral here.
Once back on land, Derek & Marketa returned to eat the leftovers from the previous lunch which Derek had skipped, so Mike and I headed to eat alone. We found a nice place with a great deal. He had pan fried fish and fries, I had chicken both came with rice and beans and fadafa and we shared 4 caipirinhas – all for less than just our drinks the night before! And we had another coconut popsicle …. sooo good! Derek & Marketa caught up with us shopping in town, and then off for more drinks on the beach. More crabs on the beach again, but smaller ones this time. And we were treated to a lightning show over the ocean – very ominous looking!
We awoke to more thunderstorms and lots of rain. Very hot and humid – and we filled the time in the pool before one last meal in town which was excellent – fish with shrimp sauce on rice and salad. After a challenge getting wifi and arranging transport, we managed to figure it out. We learned that Maryana was not going to pick us up for the return trip as hoped. Luckily we made a deal with the ferry co. and after some stiff negotiating managed to come to an agreement on cost. It was comical how official he made it. He took the money from Derek and placed it in a sealed envelope. He then hand delivered us to the ferry with the envelope and a display made of the process. At the other end we were met and walked to the taxi by another guy; again all very formal; before being handed over to our driver.
Our driver was great. He made many stops for photo ops and pointed out highlights of the waterfalls and had stories of the Costa Verde. He was from Rio originally and worked at a TV station years ago. He showed us a photo of him on the arm of the Christo. He was doing a promo for tourism in the 90’s and wen up via fireman ladder inside and climbed up to exit at the arm. He also claimed to have met Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, and Lionel Ritchie. And in his youth, he lived 3 doors down from Ziko, the famous Brazilian team captain in the 80’s. His nickname was roughly translated to ‘hot chicken’.
And so we returned to Rio at the end of our last excursion.