Laura and Abbey were just my kind of gals! They liked to have fun, were adventurous and open minded, but responsible and sensible. I could rely on them and at the same time let loose with them. They were both traveling and exploring on the inside and out and this complemented my desire to soul search! We met through the Rio Couchsurfing group during my first week and instantly knew we wanted to backpack together. They loved that I had planned my next stop to Peru and I loved that they had planned a trip to a small remote island off of Rio that next week! What was even more crazy was Laura and Abbey were from Austin, so in terms of "getting each other," well, this was easier because we were from the same earth!! We knew no strangers, we were all brave and we were all very good with our money ( very important when traveling in groups due to group thinking.)
This leads me into my crazy story about our trip to Ilha Grande, which we took a week before our departure from Brazil to Peru. The island is known for its beautiful quiet and secluded beaches, its rugged hiking and very very small town with homemade foods and some nightlife. The hippies, richies and wanderers were all present and this was the first place I had visited that was scarcely setup for travelers. So in other words, it was like going even further back in time. I was excited. My first true adventure off the beaten path.
Top Right Picture- left to right; Abbey, Dreadlock man, Laura
The girls researched how to get there and since the bus left extremely early, and since we were staying on different sides of town, we decided to meet at the bus station the morning of departure. I had to leave at 5am and take a taxi to get to the station. My Couchsurfer was so worried but made sure the taxi driver knew where to take me. I kept telling my Couchsurfer the name of the station and he was unsure of the exact route, so he just went along with what he knew. My taxi driver seemed confused when we pulled up to the station because I kept telling him I was going to Ilha Grange!!!! He kept telling me that bus left from another station, but trusting no one, especially at 5am in the morning, I ignored him and got out. There was a whole two people there and I soon realized upon buying tickets, I WAS at the wrong station!!! By the time I got another cab and got to the right place the girls had already left on our bus!! I had to wait for the next bus which left an 1 1/2 later. The bus would take me to a ferry that had a 30 min ride to the island. I was horrified for a few reasons: 1, I didn't have a phone number for them, 2, I had no idea if there would be another ferry, and 3, I had no idea where they were staying!!!!! Remember my comment in my last blog that communication wasn't our strong suit; well it seemed our laxidaisical approach had caught up with us! Instead of feeling scared or deterred, I was determined to find them. It was as if my new mission wasn't to see this beautiful island, but to play where's Waldo with my new friends!!
Once I got to the ferry, I only had to wait 30 min. And was relieved they left quite often. I sat on a bench and was pooped on by a bird, I thought this was good luck! The lady next to me had a good laugh. Once we arrived to the island it was like pulling up to paradise, and I almost half expected to see a pirate or two. My earlier tactics in waiting for an English speaker worked so I sought out someone on the pier that looked like they could help me. I knew the girls had booked a hostel so my first question to him was," have you seen two American girls get off a ferry about an hour ago," which he laughed and replied, " do you know how many people take these ferrys," and then I asked him where the closest hostel was. He also giggled and said there was just one!!! Jackpot!! I was sure I would find them there.
Walking up to the hostel was like a piece of heaven; serene, scenic, wooded with a view of the ocean and mostly outdoors. Guests could either rent a spot to hang their hammock ( so basically no room) or they could rent a bed in the dorm style rooms. There were people all over the grounds swinging in their hammocks and chatter coming from all the open-doored rooms. People were gathered around instruments playing music, and others were reading or dancing. It was so rustic and so raw to see such a large group of people just, well, essentially Chilling and enjoying life.
I found the hostel worker and had her point me to where the girls were. They were so relieved that I caught up, but had some bad news. The hostel was booked up and not just that night but the two nights we were there! Since it was the only hostel, there was nowhere for me to stay, especially since I also found out (at the same time) that there were no ATMs on the island and I had NO cash! At all! Thankfully, the girls knew to bring money and offered to spot me food costs! Ouch! I quickly moved past the bad news with," well I guess I'll figure something out!"
That day we hiked, swam, ate good food and met fellow travelers. One traveler in particular came along on some of our hiking who worked at the hostel. He had beautiful dreadlocks and had some great stories. At about 7pm that night the electricity went out on the whole island and the aura of the island went back even further in time. It was pretty scary yet exhilarating at the same time that when flashlights and candles were off, you could hardly see your hand in front of you! The hostel soon turned into a huge dark party, almost like a festival. What's neater is the hostel had entertainers scheduled to perform fire flare and it just fit in with the blackout, island theme! No one seemed to know why the electricity went out, and none of the locals seemed concerned, so we just went with it! That night I got dreadlocks. Hey, what else is there to do when your sitting around by candlelight talking?!! I actually had been considering it all day because one of the girls commented on how I should have some put in my hair. I had complimented our new friend on his and it gave her the idea! I figured well, I am a solo girl traveler, it wouldn't hurt to look more edgy, it would make me look like a traveling gypsy, which most people avoided for many reasons and I would hardly be a target for theft. I like to try new things and I thought, when will I ever get this opportunity again?! Our friend with nice dreads said he could do them but it would take about 7 hours! He started that night and ended about 5 am. Coincidentally that day we had met a local who was in the construction process of his new hostel! He agreed that for a $10 fee he would let me hang my hammock on his porch for both nights!! It was a 15 min walk from the hostel, so Abbey offered to walk me there with a flashlight since I was the only person on this developing property! I thought the Amazon was exciting, but again there is nothing more scary and more intense Than sleeping in a place you know nothing about with no one around,by yourself, out in the open!!! I look back now and think," wow I was crazy," but those are the experiences that ended up shaping me as an adult.
Anyways, back to the dreads, dreadlocks man taught me that the technique he was using was not a back comb but messy braid ( this saved my hair later!) he briefly explained how to care for them and bam! I had dreads. Of course they took a while to develop, but I loved my new look. I was very unaware, however, of the discriminations I would face with my new dreads and being a white female from America, let's just say that was a new feeling. The same group of hippies that had ignored me that day beckoned me with open arms the next all because I had dreads instead of normal hair! So don't mistaken the discrimination for just conservative old people. It was like experiencing two complete lives in short of two days, just by changing my hair. I began to see that all groups of people judge and hardly ever were they ever perfect or right! I used to idolize liberal and free thinkers who wandered around enjoying life and seeking truth and spreading love, but I started realizing that these people were not as open minded as I had previously imagined. That ideally people always practiced what they preached, but I was seeing a different reality.
The trip to Ilha Grange was a one of the pivot points in my trip that began shaping new world views and showed me that things are not always what they seem. Our two days went by quick and before we knew it, we were coordinating our flights to Peru. We planned our flights where the girls left a day before me so they could find a hostel and Scout out the buses we would take to Cusco. We wanted to trek to Macchu Pichu and spend a week in Cusco since we heard it was so amazing. We would spend a total of two weeks in Peru exploring the many many and really all landscapes there is to offer in this world! Stay tuned!