Thursday, 25 November 2010
Brazil's Top 5 Beaches: Lopes Mendes
Although I’ve picked Lopes Mendes as a top 5 beach – and it merits that position – I’m also using symbolically to represent Ilha Grande as a whole. Ilha Grande (big island) can be reached by ferry from Angra dos Reis, which is about two hours south of Rio, and the entire island is a state park that has been largely preserved – no cars are allowed on it. In fact, our pousada (guest house) arranged for a little boat to pick us up from the main anchor point at Abraão and motor back to the pousada. The most striking thing about Ilha Grande is that it seems to be alive. It covers 193 square kilometres of jungle and beaches, so the rich vegetation, and the things living on and off it, are all around you. Yes, you will get bitten by mosquitoes but it was nowhere near as bad as the travel books suggested. Just cover yourself in deet from head to toe. And on the plus side, you see lots of cute little crabs, like the one in the photo scurrying around the beaches, not to mention hordes of colourful butterflies fluttering around you. But back to Lopes Mendes (top picture). We decided to hike to it from our pousada and the map we had showed a unsmiling, neutral face next to the trail. There were unhappy faces, too, next to other trails, so I took it to mean that it would be pretty straightforward. And it was, to most people, who did the two and a half hour walk in their flip flops. But if it’s been raining (as it had when we were there), it’s better to wear shoes, and definitely take water with you – it’s humid, as my hair during the four-day stay could vouch for. Alternatively, you can get a boat to the beach next to Lopes Mendes (the waves are too big for boats to go directly to Lopes Mendes) and make the short, 10 minute walk to the beach. But once the trek is over, you’re rewarded with one beautiful, long stretch of pure white sand, that backs onto rich, dark vegetation, with mountains in the background. The sea is a light, super-clear blue and the waves are just gigantic. Sadly, when I was there, the sun wasn’t shining, so the photos probably don’t do it justice. Which is why I’ve supplied some other pictures of beaches around Ilha Grande. We borrowed kayaks from the pousada and rowed to a nearby, tiny stretch of beach, which we had to ourselves. In contrast to Lopes Mendes, this part of the sea looked almost like a lake or river – the water was a calm, deeper turquoise-green and it was so warm it felt like a bath. If you do go to Ilha Grande, make sure you go snorkelling around Lagoa Azul in the north of the island. It’s supposed to be absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately the weather got so bad when I was there, that we couldn’t go. I can’t wait to go back.