Today we traveled from Ilha Grande to Rio de Janeiro via CCR Barcas barge and Costa Verde bus.
We awoke at 7:30am, and Katie was disappointed to find that the clothing she had hand-washed last night was not dry. She moved it to the outside railing in hopes to speed the drying over the next few hours, but it was of little help.
We packed our backpacks and enjoyed another included breakfast. Breakfast was much more crowded with patrons this morning, and certain fruits ran out. Even so, there was plenty of food to go around.
We enjoyed the last of the WiFi, finished packing, and went to checkout around 9:35am. Checkout was going really slow with a couple in front of us, so Katie headed to the dock to buy tickets for the barge while JT checked out. The pousada ended up charging us R$240 at checkout, although when we booked on booking.com we were told they were charging our card for 50% of the reservation when we booked (which was R$140). So, we will check our credit card statements once we return home and make sure we were not charged more than R$280 total (note: after checking statements, we were only charged R$240).
Overall, our pousada (Pousada Cavalo Marinho, R$280/$123 for 3 nights in a private double with en-suite bath on Booking.com) was nice. The room was simple, and had no chairs although it had a refrigerator, so we really only used it for sleeping and showering. The coat rack was nice for drying things though. The breakfast/common patio area was right near the wireless router and actually ended up being a very nice place to relax. Katie got a few bug bites though, that were likely from sitting on this patio at night. The wireless was reliably up, but not very fast. When we booked, our room was supposed to have a hammock – but in reality there were only four or five hammocks strung outside the first floor rooms. Although these hammocks were likely for all guests, it felt awkward to use a hammock directly outside someones room. Our bed was pretty poor, as you would sink into a hole on each side of the mattress. The shower would leak a bit onto the bathroom floor when showering, and the toilet would drip water from the flush button. Overall, it was a good place to stay for R$280 for 3 nights, private room, private bathroom, included wifi, and included breakfast. It seemed that the owners live onsite in an apartment attached to the reception.
The barge tickets cost R$4.80 per person again. The barge left at 10:02am, and arrived in Angra around 11:30am. JT’s GPS claimed the barge went about 12 km per hour. Of course there are faster ways to get to/from the island, but the barge is by far the most economical – and somewhat entertaining, thanks to the porters shuttling items to/from the island. Lots of pet food and a washer/dyer highlighted the storage area on the way out; dozens of fire extinguishers highlighted the trip back. There are seats reserved for (1) “disabled people” (2) “with impaired mobility” (3) “pregnant woman” (4) “elderly people” (5) “people holding children” and (6) two 2-seat wide benches up front labeled “preferencial obeso”! There are also bathrooms available on the barge.
We exited the barge and headed for the grocery store (to get water, juice, and soap) and then to a neighborhood cafe that JT stopped to get food at before our barge to Ilha Grande. We ate two beef coxinhas, a ham and cheese pastry, fries, and a cup of sugarcane juice (squeezed to order!) for just R$15! It seemed like a cafe that locals were eating at in their neighborhood. After eating, we wandered down the street and saw a pet store with at least a dozen free-range cats relaxing inside. After considering a small tin of cat treats for R$4, JT got a sizable bag of cat food from the bulk food section for just R$5 that we can give to hungry-looking cats we see from now on. We continued walking through the neighborhood until we spotted what seemed to be a political rally or protest ahead. We walked around it – back towards the port, and then opted to walk 20-25 minutes to the bus station instead of taking a taxi or bus (it would have been a 25-30 minute walk from the barge). We were told by the tourist info booth that the bus station was just 1 km away, but this was off by a few km. It was a hot walk even in winter – we saw a thermometer saying 32 degrees (Celsius)! We got to the bus station at 12:53pm and were able to get seats on the 1pm Costa Verde bus to Rio. We even got the back row on the left again, since those seats are elevated.
Strangely, we did not receive claim tags for the luggage we put under the bus. The bus ride was pretty, as it was a nice day and the views of the coast off to the right were excellent. Such pretty blue water. However, the bus ride was really rough and the bus toilet had no light and had trouble flushing.
Once we arrived at the Rio bus station around 3:45pm, we found a radio taxi would be R$60! Even though our hostel for the night was relatively close to the bus station, the taxi would cost almost as much as if we had been much farther away (say in Copacabana). We considered taking one of the many metered taxis that were calling to us from outside, but signs in the bus station warned against taking these taxis. Hence, we headed to the tourist information desk and asked about bus options. We took bus 165 from near the bus station to the Lapa aqueduct (R$3 each), and then took a R$10 taxi up the hill. The taxi dropped us at the top of the street our hostel was on, and then a free van gave us a ride down since the road was currently undergoing significant construction for the new tram.
The free van dropped us exactly at our hostel, Mambembe Hostel (R$120/$53 for private double with shared bath for one night on Booking.com, Rua Joaquim Murtinho 251, tel: +55(21) 3734-4553). The TripAdvisor reviews forewarned Katie that it was a great hostel with everything you could want but that you needed to have a relaxed attitude because it was a chill, ‘hippy’ hostel. JT was not informed about this and may have come across as a pushy American at first impression. We got in easily using the front door call box, and checked in with Oliver, one of the owners. He gave us a map of the area and highly recommended that we go up to Las Ruinas before it got dark and closed at 6pm. As we were finishing checking in, Katie’s lab-mate Patrick arrived. Oliver showed all of us to our rooms (us to a private, Patrick to a dorm), and then we headed up to Las Ruinas as the sun set.
The view from Las Ruinas at dusk was really awesome! We are so glad Oliver recommended it! It was a great introduction to the massive Rio. Around 6pm we headed to Escadaria Selarón (tiled stairs in Lap that poor Patrick had earlier lugged his suitcase up as he followed Google Maps walking directions from a bus stop). The stairs surprisingly did not feel sketchy at all at dusk, although there were some homeless people sleeping and hippies partying near the bottom.
We ate dinner at Adega Flor de Coimbra, which was extremely close to the bottom of Escadaria Selarón. JT and Patrick split a small feast of feijoada (a traditional Brazilian dish), while Katie had an egg and cheese omelet with roasted potatoes and broccoli rice. The food was good, but did not live up to its TripAdvisor hype.
Once we got back to the hostel we played some foosball, drank some very strong R$5 caprihinis from the hostel bar, and hung out in the expansive common areas for a while. There is really is a common area for any mood you might have! JT also conducted a ‘catitarian’ mission and went to feed the many cats he found around the hostel. The hostel also has three cats of its own, that reside at the hostel and are fed by the hostel. There are also signs on the doors to the dorms asking people to keep the doors closed to keep the cats out of the dorms. 🙂
Next, we showered. The hostel rents towels for R$5, but we were asked for a R$50 deposit when we went to rent one. We were afraid about having to collect this deposit early the next morning, so we used our own. We were ready for bed by 11:15pm, but the party was just starting at the outdoor bar just below our window (which did not really close properly/completely). It is a Friday and it is a hostel – so we can’t complain. We just put in some earplugs. The music downstairs did seem to wrap up around midnight, but people continued to be noisy. Pretty neat place though!