October 12 in Brazil was a holiday, Nossa Senhora Aparecida, resulting in a four day weekend.
Seeing as we live in South America (that still feels cool to type), a trip to the coast was in order!
So Dave and I planned our first Brazilian road trip! Our destination was Ilhabela, a small island reachable by ferry from the coastal city of São Sebastião. We left São Paulo bright and early on Thursday in an attempt to beat the massive migration from the city to the beaches that occurs every holiday weekend (think I-70 in ski traffic). Armed with breakfast from our local padaria, translations for emergency cellphone-less situations (“help, our car broke down”), and gallons of bug spray (we were warned countless times about the atrocious borrachudo bites), off we went!
It was very much like a typical road trip on any highway back in the states. That is, until we got off in some raw, podunk town only to get right back on to the highway a few miles later. (Cool side trip bonus: we did pass a small religious parade that had half of the road closed down.) Just when we were prompted to do that again, we realized we had the no-toll option on Google maps: whoops!
Once we got out of the city, the drive was beautiful. Rolling hills eventually gave way to a rather aggressive winding road dropping down the mountainside to the sea. (I guess we have a little bit of Colorado here!) Just as we started that descent, we hit the traffic we had been expecting the whole way: not too bad in the scheme of things.
After about an hour-long cue for the ferry, we were on the water! We could see Ilhabela in the distance, vertical and verdant. Even though I’ve never been there, it reminded me so much of Hawaii.
On the island, we drove the one main road that runs along the Western side of the island (the developed side) to Hotel Maison Joly, where we were staying. To our left were the Atlantic-fed waters of Canal de São Sebastião. To our right were small neighborhood streets jutting up to the wild Parque Estadual de Ilhabela. All along the streets walked couples, families and other groups of people, mostly in wet swimsuits. Sunbathers lined the beaches. Runners dripped in the humidity. Dogs frolicked in the sea.
After dropping off our luggage, we visited a beach recommended by our hotel staff: Praia Portinho. Parking, as to be expected, was crazy; we barely managed to squeeze into a spot in front of the bar on the beach. Score! Plastic chairs with umbrellas shaded picnickers, and soon us. Sadly, as it’s still spring here (oh right), the water was super cold. However, we did enjoy people watching (and by people, I mean swimwear watching–what little there is of it). We explored the rocks and watched the sky. We felt small.
After a long commute capping a long week, we stopped for some pizza on the way back from the beach (the Brazilian go-to dinner…who woulda thunk it?!). Day 1 in Ilhabela in the books.
The next day, we sat on the patio of the hotel to enjoy a delicious breakfast with a sea view: fresh squeezed juices, an overeasy egg cooked in a heart-shaped hole in toast (how cute is that!), fruits, assorted breads and pastries. While finishing up, the owner of the hotel came over to chat with us. He was delightful. He suggested activities for us to do on the island, and checked in to make sure our stay was up to his standards.
Friday consisted of spending the morning at the beach: Praia Pereque. Then we explored the one road to the Southern end of the island. Because we were planning on hitting up dinner late (it doesn’t open until 8pm, oh Brazil), we napped. Good thing. The highly rated Thai restaurant on the island didn’t seat us until almost 11. (What is that?!) But the view was beautiful (the outdoor garden area and the people watching), and that curry was del.ic.ious.
The highlight of our trip came Saturday: a speed boat trip to the east side of the island. We visited three beaches: Praia Fome, Eustáquio and Castelhanos. It was amazing to ride the waves alongside birds diving into the ocean for fish. And on the open sea, we couldn’t help thinking about our friends who lived and traveled on a boat; clearly their courageous and adventurous spirits inspired us more than we realized at the time.
Here is a video of our boat-trip-slash-roller-coaster.
Sunday. Oh Sunday. It was a 12 hour commute to get home. It was brutal. It agitated the underlying sense of culture shock I’ve (we’ve) been feeling lately. So I’ll save that for another post.
Here are some pictures from our first Brazilian road trip!
Next up on the Team-Possum-Always-Have-A-Ticket-In-Your-Pocket-Adventure-Agenda:
November 2017: Guarujá and Buenos Aires
December 2017: Illinois
January 2018: Rio
February 2018: Southern Brazil road trip