After a couple of days chilling in Paraty, we drove to the town of Angra dos Reis where we caught the taxi boat to Ilha Grande. Ilha Grande is a beautiful, car-free sub-tropical island covered in dense jungle and beautiful pristine beaches within Rio de Janeiro state.
After a short walk to the hotel and lunch (cheese sandwiches have become our staple lunchtime diet!), we hopped on another 20 minute taxi boat to Lopes Mendes beach. Well, I say Lopes Mendes beach but really you get dropped at a spot just on the other side of the peninsula and have a short walk over a hill to reach Lopes Mendes.
Lopes Mendes is a great spot for surf and luckily we have been traveling with a super bunch of people, as part of our G Adventures tour and one of the Aussies, Stuart, kindly took Rich out for his first surf lesson. I didn’t manage to get any photos though as he spent a good deal of his time under the water. Rich’s note – I disagree with this assessment of my surfing prowess!!
For the next day, we all were given the choice of various activities. There are a number of boat tours you can do around the islands to attractive sounding locations like the Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon) or different walking trails that range in difficulty. One of these trails is to the top of Pico do Papagaio (Parrot Peak) – called for this as a the rock formation at the top looks like a parrot’s beak.
You can do this as a 3am start to catch the sunrise or as we opted for a self guided hike during the day that we were advised would be good practice for the Inca Trail. The trail is not that long (around 2.3 miles) but goes up nearly 1000m. We started about seven in the morning to avoid the humidity and heat of the day – turns out we weren’t going to escape this though!
For the entire walk, we sweated buckets to the point where Rich had a constant drip of sweat running down the peak of his cap. Grim doesn’t sum it up. The constant steepness of the trail is killer. The trail route was also not very obvious to follow and at times disappeared altogether. We made it pretty much to the top but to get the great views, you have to pull yourself up a rock/mudslide by holding onto a rope attached to a pretty flimsy looking tree. By this point, I was exhausted and having slipped earlier at a waterfall we had to cross the inside of my shoes were also drenched. I declined to climb the rope as I didn’t think I would make it down again so after 3 hours of grim trekking I missed the panoramic view of the island. Instead I saw a lot of green, beetles, ants and even a baby snake!
Rich on the other hand made it up and got to see a bit of the view.
We’re both pretty fit but were utterly broken by the time we had completed the descent (it was three hours up and nearly the same again back down). Neither of us enjoyed this trail(/trial!!) particularly and have agreed never to discuss this day again! If we were back in Ilha Grande again, we’ll definitely be taking the boat to Lagoa Azul!
Make sure you bring enough cash to the island for any excursions and anything else you want to purchase. Not everywhere accepts cards and there is no cash machine on Ihla Grande.
Wear plenty of insect repellent!!! We definitely picked up a few more bites for the collection.
If you do decide to go for the walking trail, bring plenty of water. You are sweating so much you need extra. We got through 3 big bottles of water and could have easily drunk more.
Also make sure you take advice from your guide or some locals – the trail really is quite dangerous and apparently some people have been lost in the jungle for days after getting lost. The path can also get very slippy if the weather has been wet.