In pursuit of the practice of the important Brazilian concept of "relax" (pronunciation: "hay-lash-a"), Steve and I headed to Ilha Grande for a couple of days.
Ilha Grande is about a 3-hour trip south of Rio de Janeiro (or a little longer if you're stuck in Rio's rush hour traffic, ahem). The island is comprised of tropical beaches and pristine, nearly untouched Atlantic rainforest. This is because before it was packed with pousadas, Ilha Grande played host to pirates, lepers, and then some of Brazil's most violent incarcerated people. In the 1990s, after the island's penitentiary was destroyed, a very eco-conscious version of tourism kicked into high gear.
Vila do Abraão is the tiny fishing village that has the lion's share of amenities on the island. Streets are sand, and there are no ATMs on the island. Though it is entirely tourist-focused, we found it to be relatively uncommercialized.
We hiked 6km to Praia Lopes Mendes, considered to be Ilha Grande's best beach. I may have been swayed by the clouds that rolled in once we reached Lopes Mendes, but I also really liked the tiny, secluded beaches we passed along the way in Palmas, and Pouso. The vegetation in the forest was so thick that views of the island were often hard to come by.
No water taxis were serving Lopes Mendes the day we were there because the waves were too rough, so we hiked back to Pouso, grabbed a caipirinha on a floating bar (is this real life?) and waited for "Lambroghini" the boat to take us back to Vila do Abraão.
We also did a shorter hike nearer to town, checking out the black sand of Praia Preto, a still-functioning aqueduct, and the ruins of the Lazareto prison. Lazareto was used as a place to quarantine European immigrants to Brazil from 1884-1913 in an attempt to stop the spread of cholera. From 1940-54 it was a federal prison, and it was demolished in 1963. Paradise never looked so ominous.
As our ferry pulled out of the dock, a thick cloud of fog settled in. I give you "Abraão gray:"