LEISURE

www.mumbaimirror.com/leisure

MumbaiMirror

SUNDAY, JANUARY 2, 2011

27

ere I was, in the most exotic place I could think of Brazil, and I was thinking of ways to take it up a notch higher. When I heard of an amazing island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro where time had stood still, I could almost hear it calling out my name. Serene beaches ideal for snorkeling and diving or just a swim, 16 excellent trekking routes, island hopping, fantastic food and the wild tropical nightlife - it was just too heady to pass. But the most pleasurable part of exploring the island is that it is blissfully vehicle-free, save for a few bicycles. The lifestyle is relaxed, and everyone covers the distances on foot or by boat - what a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of Rio de Janeiro!

H

Kaushal Karkhanis leisure.mirror@indiatimes.com

KAUSHAL KARKHANIS

Emerald isle
Ilha Grande, an island off the coast of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, can only be explored on foot or by boat —the perfect way to enjoy its stunning beaches, lush tropical forests and trekking trails
me on board. I felt like the king of the world. My boat docked at the port of Abraao on the south side of Ilha Grande - The Big Island, aptly named for its generous spread of towering lush green mountains. For a place that sounds similar to abracao (big hug), Abraao also seems to have been named thoughtfully, as it welcomes visitors with arms wide open like Rio's famous Christ The Redeemer. Abraao is the only commercial region on the island, with most pousadas (hostels), restaurants and bars concentrated here. The rest, and major part of Ilha Grande is just natural, dense forests and virgin beaches! I lost count of the number of fancy yachts that dotted the island's periphery. Evidently, Angra dos Reis and its surroundings are home to the most elite Brazilian executives and businessmen. swimming pools. If you were to traverse the entire island on foot, it would take you seven full days, stopping each night for sleep! The season was not the best to visit thanks to the rains, but that also made the entire region more lush and tropical. Before I set off on my first trail, I stopped for a bowl of fresh acai berry - the de-facto snack-cumdessert-cum-energy food in Brazil. It's a specialty fruit which grows wildly in the Amazon forest - the extract of which is served chilled with granola, banana and strawberry combos among others. Like most places in Brazil, pousadas serve breakfast and restaurants serve buffets by the 'qilo' - pick all you want and weigh your plate, then pay accordingly. Moving on, I explored three trekking trails covering a beach with black sand, the aquaduct, the prison ruins and the natural pool. Another cup of acai later, the exhaustion was gone - just in time to catch the party scene on the island.

A PRINCELY RIDE

Although the best way to get to Ilha Grande is by ferry or catamaran from the port of Angra dos Reis, I decided to go via Mangaratiba instead, a smaller town with local boats. The captain of the 20-crew boat I found was hoping to have at least 10 persons on board, but eventually he chose to stick to schedule with just

SAMBA Y SALSA

GETTING THERE, GETTING AROUND

KEEP WALKING

» There are no direct flights to Brazil » »

from India. Fly via Dubai / Johannesburg/ London, etc. Reach Rio de Janeiro city and drive/take the bus down to Angra dos Reis / Conceicao de Jacarei/ Mangaratiba, then take the sea route to reach Ilha Grande. From Rio City, buses and taxis ply regularly to the port city of Angra dos

Reis. Thereon, take a catamaran / rented boat / ferry to reach the island. Most of the pousadas (hostels and accommodations) are on this end of the giant island. Ilha Grande's entire landmass is a carfree zone. You can explore the island either on foot, using any of the 16 well demarcated trilhas (trekking trails) or take a boat to reach other beaches.

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Finding a pousada wasn't difficult, and I settled for a colorful youth hostel and proceeded to explore the island. Ilha Grande has 16 well defined treks or trilhas, one better than the other. The simpler ones take you to some of the closer beaches and places of interest like a now-defunct jail, a towering aquaduct and two natural

Abraao transforms into a party zone post sundown. Most clubs here play some samba, MPB and forro (easier, more relaxed form of salsa) and I couldn't get enough of lessons from the lovely ladies who seemed to have taken on the onus of turning me into a pro! By the time I retired, I realized it was technically morning - 5 am. After a measly three and a half hours of sleep, I was recharged and ready to take on a longer trilha (trekking trail) to Lopes Mendes - the Holy Grail, the Mecca of surfers from around the world.

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