Land of sun-soaked beaches, all-night parties, ice-cool capirinhas, and irresistable women: Brazil is the dream destination of every South American traveller, and it's also my grand finale stop on this continent. Brazil is an enormous country — most of which is taken up by the never-ending Amazon rainforest — and apart from the fact that they speak Portuguese there (and that some of its cities are really dangerous), nobody should have any excuse for missing it in their Latin travels.
I told myself that after Argentina, I was done with massive all-you-can-eat barbeque dinners. Well, so much for that — tonight's sizzling grill at Aquario was simply too good to resist. Juicy cuts of steak, phat chorizo sausages, and blackened local fish was just the beginning — we also had a line-up of every accompaniment you could ever ask for, and more. My final bottle of Argentinean Malbec red wine went down great with the BA girls. And the free caipirinha went down great with me.
These three lovely ladies, from the fine city of Buenos Aires in Argentina, came on the boat tour around Ilha Grande with me today. "Las Tres Argentinas" (lit: "The Three Argentinean Girls") are a bit older than me — in their early 30s, and one of them is a married mum — but they're still looking great, and still able to jump in there with the best of 'em. Literally. They came over to Brazil for a short holiday from their busy lives back in BA, and a short but sweet holiday is exactly what they're getting.
My mate Tom and I decided to go on a boat tour today. They do a tour once every day, which takes you around the island — on a cool little motorboat — to several different bays and beaches, and which includes a spot of snorkelling as well. We set off at 10:30am this morning, from the dock at Aquario, and there were six of us in all (plus our captain / tourguide): three Argentinean girls; a girl from Bermuda (an island in the North Atlantic, still a British colony); and Tom and myself. We had a very fun day, and the weather was sensational. Lots of cool colourful fishies to see under the water around here!
I only just met Yuri this afternoon, but it didn't take long for me to discover what a crazy bugger this guy is. At about 6:30pm this evening, Yuri comes up to us and says: "hey guys, let's go on a hike to Palmas, the next beach down on the island". It was getting a bit dark by then; but nevertheless, we thought: "yeah, what the hell, whatever, let's do it". So Yuri, Kerry, Larissa, Tom and myself set off for Palmas — as darkness encroached on the island — armed with little more than our boardies and our flip-flops (and, fortunately, a few flashlights). We had a few adventures on the trip, but it was all good, because we made it there and back in the end. Most of us, anyway.
Aquario Pousada Hostel is probably the most famous and the most popular backpacker's lodging on Ilha Grande. Located about 10 minute's walk from the main town on the island (Abraão), it's close enough to have all the island's conveniences nearby, and yet far enough to also offer a bit of peace and quiet. Not that Aquario is a peaceful or a quiet place, as such — what with its seaside bar serving drinks and pumping out music all night, every night. Aquario's good fun, although the staff are not the most accommodating I've ever come across, and the place is not the greatest value-for-money to be found. Probably better to stay somewhere else, and to just hang out at Aquario in the evenings, to mingle with the gringos and to enjoy the ambiance. Oh yeah, and they have a Jenga set — good fun playing this after a few caipirinhas!
This is a precarious yet amazingly-successful trio, if ever I saw one. Kerry and Larissa are two English girls, backpacking round South America, as you do. Yuri's a local boy from Rio, and Larissa met him while staying in the big city. Larissa and Yuri are now a couple — and for a few days, at least, all three of these people are travelling together! I met the lot of them on the way to Ilha Grande today, and they're a great bunch, even if a bit insane at times. Yuri's got a great combination of local knowledge (and local language skills!) and adventurous spirit, that led to some really fun times on the island this week.
Most of the Irish lads that I've met on my trip have been too unfathomably blind drunk to really make a proper acquaintance with. Tom is one of the exceptions to this, being one of those rare Irish people who's only blind drunk for about half of his waking life. I met Tom on the way to Ilha Grande today, and I hung out with him on the island a fair bit, for most of my time here over the week. A fairly quiet and reserved guy, but good fun to be around nonetheless. And yet another of my fellow round-the-world-ers. G-d bless us.
I've only been here three nights, but I think I'm pretty much done with Rio. I know that I haven't seen all the obligatory tourist sights — e.g. Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, favela tour, etc. — but I'm afraid that I'm just not in the mood to hang around here any longer, and that I can't be bothered to go and check out those attractions. Rio's too big, too hectic, and too dangerous for my liking right now. It's time to do what I came to Brazil for: that is, to find a nice, quiet beach getaway, and to relax on it for my final week in South America. So that's why I scooted out of town today, and headed for the not-too-far-away paradise retreat of Ilha Grande (lit: "Big Island").
If you went to Brazil and you didn't have a caipirinha, you must have been living in a cave. It's the national cocktail of Brazil: and like most things in this country, it's sweet, lethally strong, and divine — all at the same time. Made with lime, sugar, and cachaça (fermented sugarcane), the caipirinha tastes a bit like the lime cocktails you can find up in the Caribbean, such as Mexico's margarita, or Cuba's mojito. Only it's better.
Great news: as of this morning, the rain has stopped, and the sun is shining in Rio! And you know what that means: go to the beach, go straight to the beach — do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Fortunately, since my hostel is only a 5-minute walk from Copacabana (Rio's biggest and most famous beach), this was quite an easy task. Armed with little more than my towel, my boardies, and a large supply of sunscreen (although not large enough — never is, eh?), I spent the better part of today swimming at the beach, walking on the beach, and (more than anything else) just lying on the beach, basking in the ferocious Brazilian sun. This is more like it — this is what I came to Brazil for, in the first place.