Fact: NYE is expensive. This applies to pretty much anywhere in the world, and on a traveller’s budget NYE prices are even more prohibitive. So, what to do? The solution we came up with was to scrimp on accomodation and go camping (in 30 degree heat, woohoo). So after some intensive research we agreed a tent would be a savvy solution, but little did Annalie know that Miss Savelli was sneakily scheming in the background.
After xmas by the beach with Annalie’s mum we got back to Rio. We enjoyed a last swim, the summery sun, had a lovely meal in Fogo de Chao meat feast restaurant, and headed back to our flat.
“Riiiiing”. The intercom suddenly rang, it was the porter. My basic Portuguese managed to answer his questions but a couple of minutes later he summoned me again to head down to reception. Annalie was clueless but I secretly knew what was going on and struggled to keep in my excitement. Our dearest Hannah and Seb (Annalie’s friends from uni) had joined us in Brazil for their honeymoon! The 3 of us headed back upstairs and barged into the room where Annalie – confused and gobsmacked – was surprised to tears. It was so lovely and so heart-warming to see her so happy to be reunited with her friends, and I too was glad that the secret was now in the open!
We celebrated with a quick drink as the following morning a bus was picking us up to take us to Ilha Grande, our home for NYE (in an actual house, not a tent; that was a little white lie to make the surprise all the better).
Ilha Grande is a hugely popular island destination for international and local tourists alike, and it’s easy to understand why. Dozens of beaches make up its coast line and tropical vegetation decorates the island from head to toe. There are no cars so all movement is done by boat or on foot, which is great for all hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers.
We did a fair amount of beach exploring, and on day 1 walked west from the main village along the teeny bays and cosy beaches. This is where Seb broke the 1st of 3 beach bats. RIP my beloved.
Day 2 took us on a trek to the south of the island visiting Lopes Mendes, ranked by Vogue as one of the top 10 beaches in the world thanks to its clear blue water and natural palm tree shade.
Day 3 was the 31st of December and we thought we’d have a chilled day on a boat tour, which turned out to be tiring and intense but lovely. There were 15 people squashed into a small motor boat – half of whom had to sit in the sun (wrapped up in towels and sarongs to avoid getting burnt) – and we were taken on an 8 hour excursion along the northern side of the island. Sadly a few of the coastal spots were complete tourist magnets with multiple tour boats mooring so close to one another we could barely swim without getting smog in our face. But the majority of it was highly enjoyable, dipping into clear fresh water, snorkeling with plenty of fish, and taking in the beautiful views with a beer. We even saw a huge turtle swimming freely in the sea, till our guide swam up to it, picked it up and held it up like a trophy for people to see. Annalie, Seb and Hannah quite rightly yelled at him to stop. I, from afar, sensed the commotion and was worried a fight was picking up, but luckily no humans got hurt, and hopefully the turtle got back to safety unharmed too.
Our adventure at sea slightly took its toll and, despite a few caipirinhas to gear us up for NYE’s celebration, we had a pretty tame introduction to 2017. A lovely home cooked meal coupled with some games lead to a midnight boogie on the beach under the fireworks, and by 2am we were happily at home and in bed. Isn’t old age great.
The 1st of January was very chilled, we ate about 20 ham and cheese toasties and then went for a little walk to a beach with black sand via a waterfall filled with teenagers. Here Annalie made her first Brazilian enemy who clumsily fell onto her in the waterfall and in return received a strong right fisted punch on his arm. Go Annalie!
The 2nd of January was sadly our last day on the island, so after a few swims we said goodbye to our friends (and to our beach brolly that saved us from many sunburns here in Brasil) and separately made our way back to the mainland. The following day we were scheduled to reach Sao Paulo which would be our last stop in Latin America before South East Asia!
Our 36hours in Sao Paulo were very lucky. Annalie’s old colleague Carol was in town and she and her friend Freddie nominated themselves to be our private tour guides. They took us out for a yummy meal of steak and manioc chips, they gave us a walking tour of Sala Sao Paulo (where Annalie’s old client – Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra – plays) and wandered with us through a couple of hugely varied food markets where we had a delicious pastel de bacalau (deep fried pasty stuffed with salted cod). A short but highly interesting dip into this gigantic city, and an excellent way to leave the continent on a high.
We already miss Latin America but know we’ll love Asia just as much.
Ciao for now! Xx