Who can forget the bittersweet memories of our former loves? Most times, it followed the same parabola: The flush of excitement upon meeting, the whirlwind of good times spent together, and that sensation of loss that you don’t yet fully comprehend when inevitably your time together runs out. You might be sad for awhile but life goes on and so do we. But there will always be those random triggers that will have you thinking about those magical times on a Tuesday afternoon when driving home from work, or some rainy Saturday while doing laundry.
A year ago I experienced such love. Fortunately I don’t have to hide it from my wife because she was there and I believe was equally enamored as I was. The object of my affection was not a person at all but a lovely island on Brazil’s Costa Verde called Ilha Grande. And now, on the one year anniversary of my arrival there, I’ve decided to write the love letter I always wanted to send.
I first met Ilha Grande (pronounced eel-ya grun’jee) after a 2.5 hour bus ride from Rio and a 15 minute transfer in a glorified Zodiac with an outboard motor from the tiny hamlet of Conceicao de Jacarei. The day was overcast and well on its way toward evening, but even in the diminished light she was sufficiently beautiful for me to fall in love at first sight. I felt excited disembarking in the only settlement of any size on the island—a village called Abraao. I was enchanted by the lack of vehicles and the sandy streets cutting through the lush greenery that makes up the entire remainder of the island. And I felt that buzz of contentment walking downhill from our hillside pousada and dining right on the beach until a thunderstorm chased us off. Yes, for me sparks were flying on my first night there and the prospect of several more left me in a state of complete well-being.
The next day we spent time together at Ilha Grande’s most famous beach—Lopes Mendes. While everything is walkable if you have the time (and stamina) we opted for a boat transfer to the trailhead for the 30 minute hike to the beach past monkeys, sloths and slower tourists. Stepping out from the jungle, I fell in love all over again.
The sand was a glimmering ribbon of white stretching out in a giant crescent—most of which was peacefully empty. The water was turquoise but choppy given this was the Atlantic side of the island. Laying there listening to the surf, feeling the sun and drinking uma cerveja estupidamente gelado (literally: stupidly cold beer), like many former loves, you wish the good times could last forever.
Such longing continued into the evening while dining outside in a backstreet pizza parlor followed by a few hours of leisurely souvenir shopping in the small but lively village. After that it was another walk along the beach under a starry sky with the rich smell of wet vegetation like an intoxicating pheromone. Man, I miss her.
The next day we spent some more quality time together, leaving the curve of Abraao Harbor and entering a state park with a loop trail that brought us to scenic overlooks, black sand beaches, an ancient aqueduct, and the remains of a former prison that was once this island’s raison d’etre. This was followed by more dining, shopping and strolling that left us dreading the following day when we knew we’d have to leave.
It’s hard to accept when something good has to end, and leaving Ilha Grande was no exception. Sure, we moved on with our trip, returned home and got on with our life. But like other loves gone by, I still steal a thought or two of our times together, wondering if we shall meet again, and hoping in my heart of hearts that the answer is yes. And it’s that thought that keeps the memory fresh and flame still burning. And yes, it makes doing the laundry all the more enjoyable too.