Ilha Grande: Island Paradise off the Coast of Brazil

Jackie Steves is guest-hosting her Dad’s blog with 17 posts in 17 days. Follow the adventures of Andy and Jackie Steves as they ‘ the first Steves to venture into South America ‘ report on their experience.

We were five and six of six packed into a five-person car when we got picked up from our hostel the next morning. One was the driver, a middle-aged man with kind eyes. Two was a soft-spoken Asian-American from San Diego. Three and four were lively, talkative, 19-year-old British girls. Soon they revealed themselves to be the crazy hooligans they were. One of them mentioned getting a split lip when she instigated a fight with a cab driver she disagreed with. She proceeded to break off his windshield to whack him with it, and while her friends wrestled with him, she went to grab the key from the ignition. The driver surrendered the argument. One of their other stories showed another reason they weren’t to be messed with: When a few guys pissed them and their friends off, they got them kicked out of the hostel. Then they called around to other hostels so the guys were barred from most places in the city and had to sleep on the street.

Without asking the driver, one of them turned on the radio to blasting volume. At a rest stop they immediately started chain-smoking and drinking beers. It was only noon. One of them wore high heels, Daisy Duke jean shorts, an absurd wide-brimmed sun hat, and a tank top hanging so low her nipple peeked out on occasion. They had Andy and I nonstop laughing as they talked about their travels and their schemes on how to swindle money from their parents to extend their trips. They provided entertainment the rest of the car ride, singing and dancing along to popular music. I almost envied them with the insane stories they told so casually like it was nothing. While they both looked like they could use a good shampoo, teeth cleaning, and facial, they certainly had style with panache.

We transferred to a boat to be ferried over to Ilha Grande, pure underdeveloped paradise. Yellow-sand beaches, rustic Pirates-of-the-Caribbean ambience, people lazing away in hammocks, a harbor speckled with small weathered sailboats, absolutely no cars, and nothing more than a dirt trail stringing the town together. It didn’t bother us that our six-bed dorm room was dingy and crammed because maximum time would be spent in the sun.

Do you see what I am saying?

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Andy and I followed the dirt path and the sandy shore into town. Restaurant owners were wheeling their food supplies back with them from the small grocery. It was the kind of small town where nightlife was going out on a stroll and bumping into all your friends. We had our own happy hour with French fries and caipirinhas, the typical cocktail of Brazil, consisting of a rum-like liquor, sugar, and lots of lime.

Andy remarked, “This is where I would honeymoon.” I seconded that. It surprised us that big developers had not yet commercialized and overdeveloped this haven. We were grateful its more natural, virgin magic was protected and intact.

Our dinner was all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbeque back at the hostel’s restaurant. The hostel’s youthful employees sang behind the bar while they cut bread, sliced tomatoes, and grilled chicken.

The hotel’s surroundings again had that rusty, jungley Pirates-of-the-Caribbean feel. So did one of the male employees, who looked like he could be straight out of the movie with a big, crooked smile, nearly black skin, long messy dreads, and a rum-drunk laugh.

We all sat at long wooden tables with chill Jack Johnson playing over the speakers. I met a sweet Swedish girl who met her Aussie boyfriend on the road a month ago and had been traveling with him ever since. We met a British Tweedledee, Ian, and his Italian Tweedledumb, Paolo, whose grins and jokes kept us laughing all through dinner.

Not long after the people had cleaned their plates of food, we all started making our way to the dance floor. Jack Johnson was replaced by the rave techno music they love so much down here. Some local Brazilians drifted in. Dance dynamics turned crazy so that even the shier backpackers broke out of their shells. Dance-offs and this one Brazilian goofball swinging from the ceiling beams all made for a wild, fun dance party.

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