After Rio de Janeiro, Mehek and I headed to Ilha Grande, followed by São Paulo. From the photos we’d seen, we were hoping for Ilha Grande to be the tropical paradise we craved after months trudging through the rainy South American summer. Unfortunately, it was just as much winter in Brazil, and we caught the two overcast, cloudy weekdays between the sunny weekends we heard about from other backpackers. Lucky for us, even cloudy days at the “Paradise Islands” are still incredible.
After one night on the island, we took an overnight bus to São Paulo, our final destination before returning to Buenos Aires for 24 hours – just enough time for Mehek to pack up our things, have one final salsa dancing night out, and for me to explore the Sunday San Telmo Market. We spent one night in São Paulo at the Ô de la Casa Hostel – and it even turned out to be free! Unfortunately, it was because the lock on our door was broken, causing it to be permanently locked after we checked in. We had to climb in and out through the decorative window that opened up to the hallway in order to grab our stuff. But Peace Corps has made me thrifty to a fault, so we were thrilled to get our $16 investment back for the small price of a little inconvenience. We even got a bonus free breakfast! Dry toast with a side of orange juice.
São Paulo is the largest city in Latin America, as you can see from the header photo above. I had seen a similar view once in Tokyo – the sea of high-rises in every direction, regardless of what side of the building you’re on – but at least in Tokyo it was bordered by ocean seas as well. Here, you could see nothing but buildings. We headed up to the roof of Plaza Italia, the third-tallest building in the city, to catch this view at dusk.
The photo above is from the first island we visited after Ilha Grande during our all-day boat tour. The water was really this bright shade of turquoise! When we first pulled up, the island was absolutely deserted except for us.
Beco do Batman, or “Batman Alley”, was just a few blocks away from our hostel in the Vila Madalena neighborhood of São Paulo. If you’re ever in the city, I definitely recommend staying in this neighborhood. It reminded me of a more upscale version of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. It was filled with street art, quirky shops, trendy restaurants and bars with customers spilling out and filling the sidewalk around them. It was about a ten minute walk to the Metro from our hostel, and the subway made it easy to navigate the largest city in Latin America.
Out of the eight or so people on our boat tour, I could only convince the solo traveling Irishman to run and jump off the dock with me. The others were too busy trying to conserve their body warmth for when would go snorkeling later on in the day. Side note – the snorkeling was incredible. There were colorful tropical fish completely surrounding us, just a hand’s reach away. But luckily, I had grown up swimming in the frigid snowmelt of Quincy, California. In the Sierra Nevadas, braving a “polar bear plunge” – early morning jump into freezing lakes or creeks – is a rite of passage. The Brazilian Atlantic was downright warm compared to that.
That’s it for my vacation pictures! Not pictured is an exhausting 32 hour trip getting home – it involved getting to the Buenos Aires airport around dinnertime, sleeping over in the Asuncion, Paraguay airport, waiting around at the Santiago airport Starbucks for another five hours, arriving in Guayaquil at almost midnight, and finally taking the bus home to Cuenca, making it to my bed by 4AM, nearly two days after I had left. And as soon as I woke up around 9AM the next morning, my entire family was in town! Both my parents and my two little brothers. For my next blog post, I’ll be talking about what we did on their trip.