This is a really long post, covering more than a week,including our trip to Ilha Grande. I’ll keep the next ones shorter, I promise.
January 10, Thursday
Yesterday, we arrived in Ilha Grande after driving the Tipo to Angra dos Reis, a very interesting drive. You have to cross some mountains, and at the top of one are some tunnnels that are not lighted. Really dark, especially after driving in the sunshine. Seems weird to me.
We had originally planned on taking the ferry from Angra to Ilha Grande, but we found a private “schooner ” that took us earlier and faster for just a few reais more. Our pousada, Casablanca,
was close enough to the pier that we could drag our bags there without help. After checking in, we found Casablanca a nice place. The room has bunk beds in addition to the big bed (we can use them as shelves).
Lunch was nice, in a little restaurant that served normal food. We went back to the room after lunch and relaxed, watched a movie on the laptop and later went out for dinner. Dinner was at O Pescador,
O Pescador (awesome place to eat)
a restaurant that we remembered from last year. We almost didn’t get a table, but a previously reserved one was released for us. Dinner was great! We ordered broiled shrimp with pineapple and salad – a light meal to be sure, but it turned out to be very nice. Monica was a bit upset that it took so long (about an hour) to get our food. We had caipinhras, but I declined a secone one – it wasn’t as good as the ones that I’m used to having.
Our meal was interrupted for a bit by a land crab. The waiter informed us that it was under our seats, but I was not too concerned. How big can crabs get? The folks at the next table moved and the waiter, assisted by someone else, removed the interloper from under the seats. Uh, it was about a foot long, the largest land crab I have ever seen. I didn’t get a photo, but everyone else did.
Jan 11, Friday
Yesterday we had the Casablanca breakfast – mostly fresh fruit and some bread. Coffee and fresh juice, cheese. Mmmmmmmm. We bought Monica a straw hat (she needs to protect her face from the sun). We went to the beach for the morning and part of the afternoon, walking to a beach near here) to the left when approaching the sea – just past Praia Preta (black beach – named for the black sand found there). The beach was great – we found a tree to hide under (important for us pale folks) and had a nice, relaxing time.
Path to Praia Preta, Monica and me and a dog we saw there.
We started home about two and had some lunch at a restaurant facing the sea. Actually, it was just snacks and a few beers. We headed back to the hotel room in the late afternoon. Instead of taking a nap, watched Shrek 3 on the laptop (in Portuguese, but I was able to follow most of it). Out for a walk later and a nice, light dinner. I had a great salad, Monica had salad and crab soup. Curiously, the bottom of the soup bowl was full of crab parts and shell. Guess they didn’t want us to think that it was fake crabmeat. Off this morning to find a hat for me. Found a hat – bought one for a friend at work, too. I also found myself a cold and I think I have a fever, too. Ick.
Jan 12, Saturday
We went on a boat tour to Laguna Azul, which was a lagoon, I think, but the boat couldn’t get close enough for us to see, due to all of the other boats there already. We jumped in the water from our anchored boat with foam noodles and explored the area a bit. Once we got past the other ships loaded with tourists, it was neat, but the closest beach was quite a swim away. The second boat stop was to eat lunch at a second beach. The boat radioed our lunch orders ahead to their preferred restaurant and our order was ready when we arrived. It was an excellent fish dish. The third stop we made was at another beach – it was nice and we were able to find a spot under a tree (the thing that I like best about beaches here is that we can lay down on the sand under trees. If I get a tan at the beach, it’s usually an accident. We went in the water for a few minutes, but I didn’t feel like doing anything else. The boat trip back to Abraao was short, and we retreated to our room for a nap before dinner. The boat trip was okay, but it was probably not something that I would do again. The stops were arbitrary, and the trip seemed more about making money from the tourists than anything else. A guide with a microphone could give us a little additional info, etc.
Jan 13, Sunday
Fever is gone!! Woo hoo! Monica also suffered this cold that struck us on our second day here, but she has had a much better time with it. I’ve noticed other tourists nursing sore noses, so we’re probably not the only ones. After the normal Casablanca Pousada breakfast, we walked to the same beach we went to on Friday, although we ended up taking a taxi boat back to Abraao.
Taxi boat, shady spot, beach bar tables and Abraaozinho Beach
Watched a movie in the afternoon while resting in our room – note that this is the first day that we did not have sun. Accu-Weather predicted rain all day, but we didn’t see that, either – just a lot of low clouds and humidity. I borrowed a book from Casablanca to read at the beach – finished about half of it. Dinner was really nice – we ate at O Pescador again, had a nice Brasilian white wine with dinner and an excallent shrimp spaghetti. I’m starting to get tired of restaurant food, though. Monica and I both noticed that there seems to be less people here on Sunday than the day before.
Jan 14, Monday
The sun is back. So much better than last year, when it rained every day on our trip here. Off to the beach again after breakfast (does anyone see a routine here?) We went to the beach near Praia Preta again. The people at the beach selling junk food didn’t have anything left but Cheetos. Mmmmm. Washed down with a Coke, a truly junky lunch. Dinner at the Marbella Pizza e Lenha again. My choice tonight, and I liked their pizza so much the other day that I thought that I would try it again. Of course, the service was pretty slow – something that we’ve noticed everywhere. I explained to Monica the gringo idea of tipping for service and why we are treated SO much better in restaurants than here where 10% is automatically added to the check. We took a walk around after dinner, taking a lot of night pictures.
Abraao waterfront street, Monica at a dessert cart (yum!)
Both photos taken from the dock, looking at Abraao.
Jan 15, Tuesday
The sun wakes us up at 7:30 – it’s bright and sunny outside. Another breakfast with lots of fresh fruit and juice. I tried to get onto the internet from the room this morning, but although the signal in our room is okay, I hit a logon request that I haven’t seen before – no internet for me. We hiked to Abraaozinho, the same beach that we went to on Friday and Sunday. We were able to get a nice bar table in the shade after a few hours of laying on the sand, so we ordered beer and lunch before taking a boat back to the dock at Abraao.
Jan 16, Wednesday
Time to go back to Angra dos Reis. We wake up early, have lots of fresh fruit for breakfast and check out of the room by about 9 so we can catch the 10am ferry. Before I go any farther, some pluses and minuses on Casablanca Pousada.
Plus – Located near everything, just a few steps from the Abraao waterfront. Plus – Internet is available (most of the time, in some of the rooms, at 54K speeds). Plus – they changed our towels every day. Plus – the staff was nice. Plus – the room was nice and arranged well, too.
Minus – (and this is a big one) We were there for a week on the same sheets. Despite our pulling them off of the bed, they were replaced with the same ones. Even though they did shake the sand out of them, it’s still icky. Minus – The room could get really hot at night (don’t know why). We almost needed the A/C AND the ceiling fan. Minus – The breakfast was not up to the standard set by the less expensive pousada where we stayed last year, Foral dos Borbas. Minus – The floors didn’t ever seem to be cleaned well. Yes, it’s a beach place and we’re going to track some sand in with us, so plan for that and mop every day.
In summary, Casablanca is a nice place, but not worth the price premium that we paid over Forol dos Borbas. Next time, we’re likely to pick somewhere else.
A few things about Ilha Grande.
It’s an ecological paradise, despite the city of Abraao (it only takes up a very small part of the island). There are no private cars. The trails to the beaches are fun, if a bit steep and muddy at times. Most folks were hiking in flip flops, like us. The scenery can be breathtaking. Except for going to the beach, eating and some limited shopping, there’s little to do there (not a problem for me). I’m assuming that the cruise ship folks came for the beaches. With the exception of O Pescador (The Fisherman), restaurant service was universally dismal. At one dinner, our drinks actually arrived after the entree, and only after we asked for them again. We seldom had more than one drink with dinner because our servers IGNORED US!! Once again, O Pescador was the exception. We had better service at the busy beach bars than the restaurants in Abraao. Perhaps good help is hard to find on the island. Their 10% tip policy will pretty much guarantee that things stay bad.
The trip home was interesting. We took the ferry this time, arriving in line for tickets almost an hour before departure (that’s just me). There was quite a line before the ferry arrived – it looked full and it took thirty minutes to empty. We found upstairs seats behind the snack bar in an area open to the wind. Our car was okay (or we thought it was) and we paid our parking fee and headed home toward Volta Redonda.
As we passed through Rio Claro, I had to slow down for a speed bump (they’re everywhere here). When I did, the engine stalled. Although it re-started with an inertia start on the other side of the bump, the car had my attention, which soon found the temperature needle buried in the red edge of the gauge. I stopped immediately in front of a little restaurant and explained to Monica that we needed to let the car cool down for a while. We got Cokes and waited a bit. After about 45 minutes, I found a two-liter bottle and started to add water. This attracted onlookers, as it would in almost any town, who were nice enough to let us know that our head gasket was leaking. Monica translated, as best as she could. The car was really still too hot to add water, so we walked to the local auto shop, where a mechanic was nice enough to take a look at our car. He said that the head gasket was bad too – making this pronouncement solely on the fact that water vapor continued to boil out of the coolant opening. He said that he couldn’t fix it today, and told Monica that it could take a long time. We gave him ten reais and our thanks.
After discussing tow trucks with Monica, I decided to take another look at the (now a bit cooler) engine. I added enough water to see the engine behaving normally, and decided to drive our injured Tipo home. It made it to our street – the bottom of our hill before the temperature needle crept back into the red zone. We shut it down for a few minutes to cool as I vented the cooling system to drop the temp a bit more. Then we got up the hill without a problem, except for the worry about what was wrong with our engine (and where the water was going).
We received a bit of bad news (a death in the extended family) and unpacked, heading for the funeral chapel after we showered. We spent the rest of the evening there.
Thursday, Jan 17th
The next morning, I moved the Tipo out to put some water in the radiator, revealing a big rusty stain on our white tile garage floor from the right side of our motor. Actually, this was good news – we likely have a leak from our water pump shaft We drove back to the funeral chapel for the burial, where I checked under the car and saw a small leak from that area. Some people had spent the night there.
On the way home, we stopped at the grocery store to re-provision the kitchen. Monica made a fine lunch and we spent much time putting stuff away and cleaning up. Monica called her sister Rita, who volunteered to come over with Cinesio to help us with the car problem. He knows a mechanic in the area. We took the Tipo to a place within walking distance where I think it will be cared for nicely. Rita and Cinesio came back and stayed for coffee – they are very nice folks.