20 May 2015

Here we are - Brazilian Cruising Waters!

After 1,902 NM we have arrived in the Brazilian cruising territory.  Beautiful Ihlabela!  Our sail here was so fast that we arrived at the island at about 2:00 a.m.  Too dark to go into port.  And, of course, it was raining with very little wind.  Our sailing was over but motoring allowed us to dawdle and let the squalls roll over us as they would, without worrying about how much sail we had out.  

We came into port in the early morning.  For the first time, there were more recreational boats than fishing boats - although still plenty of those.  With the help of two smiling young men at Yacht Club Ilhabella who communicated with us through a translator on their phone, we picked up a mooring ball.  
Festive church spotlighted in blue at night
According to our guide book, the island is the holiday destination for the “rich and famous” who live in Sao Paulo.  It shows.  Compared to the cities and towns we have visited, this island is clean, very tastefully developed, especially where we are, with some lovely homes within view of the coast. The village shops sell expensive artisanal crafts and/or top notch casual clothing.  The restaurants are many and varied.  There are bike paths and cobblestone streets, even a pedestrian street, all in a village about ten blocks long.  It is a very pleasant place to be.  

The island itself is very steep volcanic rock mountains, again clad with the Atlantic Rainforest, I have previously generically labelled as jungle.  Across the channel are the lights of Sao Sebastio and more mountainous coastline.  Quite spectacular.  Squalls roll off the mountainsides of the island but very infrequently soak us.

The club is lovely and the people helpful and friendly.  We get three free nights at the mooring - a very nice perk in some of the sailing clubs in South America.

We have explored the village, reprovisioned - again - and done some boat work - again. 
Our driver knew everyone, constantly waving, shouting hello, even chatting to a motorcyclist as both drove on the main drag.
One day, we took a jepe adventura tour up and over the mountain in the middle of the island to a beach only reached by this road or by boat.  I use the word road very loosely.  It was a trail, as wide as the jeep, that wound up the steep mountain side with precipitous drops over the edge.
Washed out mud; the crevice is very deep, road very steep.
The rainforest growth was incredibly lush and thick.  My favourite were tall trees whose trunk was like a palm tree but the leaves were like huge ferns.  I wish we had a picture.  The “road” had deep crevices, washed out portions, fallen trees, mudslides, rocks, boulders, ruts etc. We forded two rivers. It took 90 minutes to go 17 km.  We bumped along sitting three across, three benches.  The others on the tour were all twenty-something.  We were the only English-speaking.
Where we are headed from near the top
The beach was long on a crescent bay with islands at both ends.  In the palms were three “restaurants” in a row with tables on the beach. 
In each of the four guide books we have, authors stress the need to use repellent against the “ferocious, little blood-suckers, the borrachados”. Peter and I noted the welts on our tour companions legs and smugly believed that living on a boat at a mooring had kept us itch free.  Nonetheless, for this hike, we lathered up with Off complete with DEET and set off up - and I mean “up” literally - a 2 km trail.  The ground is always sodden so slippery mud was a feature as well as rocks, tree roots etc. and the slope was steep.  There was much squealing with lost footing and two of the young went down but perhaps from practice balancing on a forever rocking boat, we stayed upright.
People pose for pictures in Brazil, especially the females.  When taking selfies, all take multiple posed shots.  

At the end of the trail we were delighted by a wide waterfall that flowed 45 ft down a boulder and then dropped vertically to a single, narrower pool below where we swam.  The water was cold! and the stream was so powerful that it swept us off our feet, knocking us back into the pool. 
As directed, we posed

The swimming hole
Peter went first.  Posed as directed.
Battling the torrent
Triumphant!  Posed as directed.
More DEET.  Then back down the path.  More slipping and sliding and yelps - again, none from the aged.  We walked back along the beach to the tables for lunch, fording a thigh deep river on the way. (No DEET reapplied.) And then sat at a table on the beach, feasting on freshly caught fish.  We noted there were insects smaller than black flies on our feet.  Hmm.  Sand fleas perhaps?  Of course, we had to return on the same one and only road.  The driver was just as able in the dark as in daylight. Great tour, stunning island.

The beach of "flies"
The next day we knew we had been attacked by the infamous borrachados.  We were covered in big, ugly red welts from toes to bathing suit line.  And Peter was itchy, me not so much.  We were no longer smug.  Instead, very sympathetic.  

Nonbiting beach critters
Another first was achieved at Ilhabela.  We hosted our first cruisers onboard for a beer.  One thing missing in Brazil is the cruising community we have read about and look forward to.  In Brazil, cruisers are few, at this time of year especially, and those that are around are local or perhaps from Argentina, not international.   So when we saw a Belgian boat in harbour nearby, we were excited and leapt at the chance to chat - not that we are tired of chatting to each other but other voices are welcome and, by this time, sought after.  We had a great evening.  They are headed north as well - we are bound to see them again.

Tomorrow we are head for Ubatuba.  With a name like that, it’s got to be good.