Ilha Grande takes it from concrete jungle to jungle jungle only 150km west of Rio de Janeiro. The island serves as a weekend getaway for weary city folks from Rio and São Paulo as well as a palmy base for expats and backpackers.
The common interest of the syndicate comes as no surprise given numerous heavenly beaches, among which Lopes Mendes; the star of the island made it into Vogue's top ten of the world's most beautiful beach exemplars, but no bay on Ilha Grande is ugly per se. They are accessible by boat or on foot from the island’s only settlement, the little village of Vila do Abraão, where all trailheads congregate.
"Outpacing the convenience of a boat ride back to some snuggly dorm bed was the whole agenda..."
So there I started my petty conquest of Lopes Mendes on an overcast day. The path was quite strenuous, or maybe I had made it that by carrying my crammed hiking backpack – my physical challenges have become shamefully few over the years, so every now and then a little voice inside my head tricks me into these endeavours to prove who knows what to who knows who. This voice also stubbornly insisted that I camp out there, completely ignoring the clouds, brewing a foreboding grey above my head. Comfort-me felt increasingly uncomfortable.
Outpacing the convenience of a boat ride back to some snuggly dorm bed was the whole agenda for that day, a rewarding micro-challenge that was to liven up the dullness of a cozy comfort zone where dwelling is all too painless. Traveling, nay life, meets us with the most intriguing mementos somewhere off the easy route I feel.
Well, to be fair, it wasn't that hard: beautiful beaches hemmed the trail and every one of them would have been worth staying. But none of them was Lopes Mendes, and I was in it for the long haul, the farthest bay, the infamous shooting star.
"Alas, convenience wanted me back in its enclosing walls for the same reasons it always does – for all the wrong reasons, distracting us from the bigger picture..."
By the time I got there, the skies had cracked open to share their rainy burden with me and even Lopes Mendes had a hard time shining without sun. A bland view onto miles of palms and sand suggested a paradise on better days. Convenience had to be reconsidered. Why? Because the wind hurled a mean chill at my soaked body; because there was a patrolling boat making sure no one would camp out; and then there was this girl tripping fiercely on something and performing otherworldly rituals, while one of her breasts peaked out of her rags. Suddenly the endless beach didn’t seem big enough for the two of us.
Alas, convenience wanted me back in its enclosing walls for the same reasons it always does – for all the wrong reasons, distracting us from the bigger picture of hindsight. After all, there were enough palms to shelter me from rain, patrolling boats and a modern day witch. I like to think that I rarely step onto comfort’s trap door, camouflaged by shallow excuses; but that day I did and the camping adventure was forever lost. Not like I think of it every day; but when I do, I scold past me, shivering in the harsh blow of winds and anticipation, for having deprived present me of an experience more interesting than sleeping in a bed.
Comfort and convenience had played their distraction game well, and, despite my awareness of their skillful and deceiving tactics, I had lost. That night I spent in a bed I can’t remember today and the stale aftertaste of regret lingers. Note to self: the sweetest memories lie hidden behind the bulky comfort zone.
Caye Caulker / Inflate-Burst-Flux of a Clichéd Island Bubble
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