If you travel about 75 miles East of the city of Curitiba in Brazil to the coastal town of Paranaguá you can get a ticket for a small wooden ferry which takes you on a thirty minute journey to one of the best kept secrets in Brazil. Ilha do Mel is a small island just off the coast of Paranaguá which is small enough to be able to take a boat trip around in about and hour and does not have a single motor vehicle on it. The only 2 ‘cars’ on the island are electric buggies which collect the trash from the homes and businesses there.
Cristina and I arrived there in the middle of the afternoon after having to get a ferry an hour later than the one we planned on taking as we arrived 30 seconds late enough to be able to watch it pull away from the dock! We made our way along the pier towards the shore line and the sounds of music coming from the beach front bar that stood in front of us and made the 5 minute walk from the beach to where were staying, Pousada da Tia Tina, owned by Cristina’s Father.
The term ‘pousada’ refers to what we would call an inn or bed and breakfast but comes from the description of what a fly or an insect does on a surface, it lands, pauses and then leaves having taken a ‘pousada’, just like all the guests.
The part of the island where we were staying is a criss-cross of paths and tracks punctuated with the Pousadas and small restaurant and bars. Despite their close proximity to one another (there is not a lot of habitable space on the island!) it does not feel crowded or cramped. The buildings are set in some pretty dense forest and as such the trees offer privacy as well as beauty.
After our hellos and introductions we wasted no time in heading to the beach. Despite the fact were visiting Ilha do Mel at the very end of the season, it was still quite busy as it was the Easter Holiday. However it feels like they have just the right amount of accommodation there, it was not over crowded anywhere. It was never over crowded anywhere, it just had a cool buzz to it. The beaches are quite incredible. They stretch for miles and are lined by forests and green hills right up to where the sand starts. After dipping our feet in the ocean we went back to the dock on the West side of the island and saw the sun set. It was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen and the stars that appeared after the sun went down were brighter than I had seen in a long time. Or course the constellations were a little different to what I am used to, a reminder that I was actually in the southern hemisphere!
The following day Cristina and I 6 joined other people on a charter boat to take a trip around the island. It was a great chance to see the island from afar and really take in the spectacular topography. After waiting nearly an hour to actually leave (it seems island time here is no different to any other islands I have visited) we left the dock and headed out. In hindsight we were grateful for the delay as it meant we departed just after 2pm instead 1pm therefore having less time in the blazing sun; it was very hot!
We stopped at the old fort in the North East which was built in the 19th century to protect the island and the main land from foreign attack. It once had some pretty heavy fire power there much of which was actually made in England and shipped over. I made the mistake of going barefoot for the walk, or trek, as it transpired, to the top of the hill over looking the fort but once there the hike was worth the view.
After an hour so we hopped back in the boat and headed to the other side of the island, it was a little less bumpy on the West side given that we were not exposed to the ocean, also we asked the captain to stop driving like a maniac!
I had been told that we may see some dolphins in the bay but was not prepared for how many. You could not blink with out seeing another pod break the surface in every direction. We must have seen 50 or 60 in total Cris and I jumped in but they didn’t come close enough to actually swim with them but it was incredible to see these creatures in the wild just hanging out. We took a brief pit stop at the cafe on the edge of the bay then headed back to the port with some great memories.
That night, our last on the island Cris took me to a Forró, pretty much the coolest dance party I have ever been to. The live band, made up of guitar and vocals, a drum and a guy playing a triangle and singing, played the most incredible Brazilian songs. The dance floor was hot, sweaty and crowded with people who seemed to have this kind of music in their blood. Cristina humoured me for a dance or two but there was no way I could keep up with the other people there. We just don’t have this kind of thing in Britain. I have been to dance parties with live music at home but at a Forró the music and the dance styles and the party atmosphere are inextricably linked, it is part of the Brazilian culture that I am so glad I experienced.