“Without darkness, there is no light” read the exquisite calligraphy tattooed across the tanned chest of the Finnish guy on our boat, as we departed the island paradise of Ilha Grande. This reminded me of my own pleasure/pain theory – admittedly not an original one, but which again rang true for the highlight of the trip so far; our trek to Lopez Mendes beach.
Mark and Sebastian, Cass’ dad and brother had teased her that on our travels I’d subject us to perilous trails and enquired if she was prepared with heavy walking boots. I had reassured her that this was a coastal discovery trip with a few vineyard excursions thrown in. On arrival in Arbraõ on Ilha Grande however, we soon learned that one of Brazil’s most celebrated beaches lay on the other side of the island. Although accessible by boat from the many operators in the tiny village, a 6Km trail was also marked through the verdant Atlantic forest that carpets the interior.
With blue plimsolls and box fresh white Converse on our feet, a supply of purloined ham and cheese rolls from the breakfast buffet and a bladder of water in Cass’ new camelback, we hit the trail.
Beads of sweat rolled down our foreheads as the shady but humid forest and steep climb pushed our rested muscles. We were treated though to captivating views of the coast as we reached the upper canopy as well as screeching cicadas, booming monkeys (we hoped…), giant fluttering sapphire butterflies and the odd flying squirrel.
Avoiding the temptation to stop at the three beautiful small hamlet beaches and entreating emerald sea along the way, we pushed on and in just under 3 hours emerged from the leafy shadows on to the blistering white sand of Lopes Mendes. With grains so fine it squeaked as we took turns running down to the refreshing gentle waves, this was our well-earned reward. Even after swimming in Rio, the unspoilt natural beauty of this lime tree fronted beach and turquoise water felt truly invigorating. Sadly there were no waves to surf, which would have made it perfect, but then that may have curtailed our mission or the trip far to early.
Deciding against trekking our return, we opted for a schooner in the previous bay to take us back to Arbraõ. Now I having nothings against a pair of speedos for swimming in, but off the beach they really don’t do any man any favours, especially the “Cuban Brothers”, or so I coined them. Sporting matching white fedoras, feminine gold neck chains, and as a slight departure from the uniform, respective red and white mini swimming briefs. Stranger though, despite being completely waxed, one had a hairy shoulder patch reminiscent of a gun holster slung under his arm. God knows why, but his attentive girlfriend didn’t seem to mind.
After a decadent few days of evening Epicureanism, we decided to share a pizza in the main church square. Thinking the Saint Sebastian festivities were over after last night’s celebrations, we were surprised by a full Sunday service to accompany our meals, complete with a procession and communion. I guess more than most, Christian’s believe in the pleasure/pain theory.
- By Ian