Today we decided to hike the rough 14 kilometer (plus ? km hotel to/from trail transfer) round trip to Lopes Mendes beach on Ilha Grande.
We started the day with the included breakfast at our pousada. This morning they added little banana nut muffins to the already ample spread and served plain cake instead of chocolate cake.
Around 10am we left the pousada with clothing to be washed at the laundry place just down the street (drop off in morning, pick up in evening, R$30 for 1 basket/load – other prices: R$18 for 2kg, R$25 for 3kg, R$45 1.5 baskets, R$55 2 baskets). Then we headed for the “T10” trailhead near the eastern end of the Abraao beach. We started off on the trail at 10:40am.
From the start the trail was muddy, steep, and generally rough. There was a long uphill (over 700′ elevation), a somewhat flat part (with some excellent views), and a long downhill to get to the first beach and town, Palmas. We definitely thought this section was the hardest. There were a few bars and restaurants in Palmas. There were also lots of boat taxi signs trying to convince you to take the boat back instead of going back on the trail later on. After Palmas, there was another uphill climb and downhill climb to get to the next beach, Pouso. Since it is the low season, there was nothing to buy here. From Pousa there was a short up and down to the next beach, which is also labelled on our map as Pouso. This beach is the one they drop tourists off on to walk to Lopes Mendes (since there is no surf here but the surf is too rough for boats to reach Lopes Mendes itself). We had a small snack on some rocks at this beach. The trek from this beach to Lopes Mendes on T11 was short, but had a steep uphill and was generally more difficult than expected. We are sure many people taking boat rides to Lopes Mendes in sandals and beachwear were not expecting that type of hike. This trail did have some actual steps though. At one particularly muddy area, there were wood round steps made from a downed tree cut into sections. So it was more maintained than the other trails.
Once we reached Lopes Mendes around 1:40 (after 3 hours of hiking), we wandered out to the shoreline and made the mistake of getting our water sandals wet (although it felt pleasant at the time, this caused blisters on the return hike). There were lots of signs saying no swimming due to rough currents, but these were generally ignored and dozens of people were much deeper in the water. After cooling our feet in the surf for a few minutes, we sat in the shade on a tree limb and ate an entire, rather large bag of honey granola for lunch. Then we walked along the beach for a while. As we were walking, we heard a cry of ‘help’. It took a bit of time to register, and as we were looking around, we heard another call from a man in the surf. JT tried to coach him to swim sideways to a nearby sandbar, and also tried to wave down the lifeguard. A guy came running to help, but soon the guy in the surf was finally able to stand. We’re not sure if the guy actually thought he was caught in a rip tide, or whether he was playing a trick on his friends. Due to the ‘no swimming – dangerous currents’ signs and flags, we figured it was possible he was caught.
We reapplied sunscreen and then started our trek back to Abraao shortly after 2:30pm – in order to make it back before the 5:30p sunset. This trek seemed to go quicker until the last segment from Palmas, as we were chatting with various groups during these segments. Shortly after leaving Pouso, JT spotted a coral snake in the bushes about a foot away from where Katie was stepping. We backed up and went around it, and waited nearby to point it out to the couple walking behind us – who were very thankful. The man in the couple recited the saying “Red near yellow, you are a dead fellow” – and the snake’s coloring certainly satisfied the rhyme. We stayed a safe distance away from the snake with the couple until the snake slithered deeper into the bushes. This sighting spooked us for the rest of the hike. It is scary to think of what might have happened if one of us had been bitten so far away from a boat, much less medical care and anti-venom. It was a pretty sobering experience.
The last segment from Palmas to Abraao was really rough for us. We both got some nasty blisters from hiking in wet sandals and we both had some knee pain. We got back around 5:15 pm, as the sun was ‘setting’ behind the mountains.
We had carried along some leftover meat from last night’s dinner to feed any hungry cats we came across, but sadly we saw none. It seems the many free-range dogs on the island keep the cats in hiding during the day.
We decided to eat dinner before going back to the pousada. Katie was excited to hear about a restaurant that JT had seen with a neon “Mexican Crepes Pizzas” sign, but sadly this was not open yet. Nearby, we ate at Pizzeria e Restaurant K Entre Nous Forno A Lenha which had single-person meals starting at R$17. Katie had chicken “pancake” (which was basically a chicken crepe) with rice and fries (R$17) and JT had chicken pancake with salad, rice, fries, and beans (R$20). We also split a 600 ml bottle of beer (R$7). Everything was great, especially the shredded chicken in the pancake. It was a very economical, delicious, and filling meal after a rough day of hiking! The meal was almost even cheaper, as the server gave JT back too much change. When JT gave the excess back to the server, it seemed he thought that this was a tip – either way, he was appreciative!
After eating, we stumbled over to get a couple of bottles of beer from the nearby liquor store and then picked up our laundry. Then JT showered and we sat on the common area porch for a while, working on the internet.
The hike from Abraao to Lopes Mendes was very well marked and easy to follow. However, the trail was rough and muddy at points, so it actually will take 2.5-3 hours if you are trekking at a moderate pace (and not running, like a few Brazilians we saw). Due to the mud, we were happy to have our water shoes instead of our sneakers, but the water shoes gave us blisters. We would recommend hiking shoes if you have them – with sandals for the beach. There are taxi boats at Pouso and Palmas willing to take people back to Abraao, but we were too proud to inquire regarding their pricing (but reviews online claims about R$10 per person). Lopes Mendes beach was nice, but we were not sure we would want to spend all day there (as many do on boat trips booked on the island) nor are we sure this hike would be worth it for someone that was not interested in enjoying a hike through the jungle. Nonetheless, it ended up being a very cheap way to spend our second day on Ilha Grande, save for the blisters.