For years I’ve heard about Ilha Grande, a tropical island off the coast of Brazil with one of the richest ecosystems in the world. There are no roads, cars are illegal and the island is largely underdeveloped.
Orien and I threw a few articles of clothes into a backpack, grabbed a tent and took off for Angra dos Reis, where we could catch a boat to Isla Grande.
On the bus ride alone we saw many sights; An abandoned Santa Clause theme park, wandering road cows, a bombed out mosque made from brightly colored stained glass, an epic junkyard display of airplane parts, tanks and bizarre vehicles, a half-built carnival float inside a giant dilapidated warehouse, an açaî factory, giant tunneling machinery, miles of graffiti, a tire fire… our eyes were glued out the window the whole way.
The harbor of Angra dos Reis
We arrive in Angra dos Reis and hop on a fast boat ($40 real each- about $20 US) to Abraão, the largest settlement on the island. The wind whips our hair around as the sun sets majestically behind the mountains. About twenty minutes later we arrive at the dock of Abraão.
Topographical map of Ilha Grande at the boat terminal
The fast boat from Angra dos Reis
The place is full of little shops and restaurants, and as we soon realize… there are no banks or ATMs; no way to get cash. We are visiting in the off season, but still, as we anticipated, most everything is numbered with island prices. Hotels are expensive, which is why we brought a tent. But the first camping spot we check out, a sucker trap at the end of the dock, is $40 Real per person (about $20 each). We ask a local guy instead and he leads us down a labyrinth of dirt paths to his buddy’s house who lets people camp in his yard for $10 Real a head.
Our luck is on, our host cooks up sardines for us and shakes a tree in the yard for limes… caipirinhas flow late into the night and we drink them happily.
We wake up the next day and break down our tent and prepare for our journey into the island’s lush rainforest. We’ve heard that it’s prohibited to camp on the beach or in the jungle, but we are determine to find a good, hidden spot so that we don’t get trapped staying at a pricey island hotel.
We fill our bag with water, cheese and guava paste (a pairing know in Brazil as Romeo and Juliet) and set off down the trail into the wild unknown.