On Ilha do Mel (the Island of Honey)
Mar 12th, 2006
At nearly 7pm, I'm trotting down a dirt path;
my only light to catch the curves from intermittent
lightning flashes against a dark purple sky. There
are no roads here, no cars, just a three feet of
dirt snaking through the mangroves between villages..
I have a few minutes to get back to my cabana before
a tropical rainstorm rears up against the steep
hillsides that guard the island's many beaches.
The "island of honey" (love pirate-inspired names),
sits a few miles off the coast of Southern Brazil.
In many ways, an island paradise, with smooth beaches,
protected coves, and butterflies fluttering between
the trees. Geologically, it's an infant, just 5600
years old in its current form, younger than some
of the pyramids or man's written word. Little did
the pirates know how aptly they described the
island. Over 95% of its surface is flowing sands
that cling to the multimillion year-old rounded
hills, formed when South America and Africa said adieu.
Earlier this afternoon, I climbed one of the
green beetles mired in geological caprice. Tall
grass everywhere, dancing in a stiff Atlantic breeze.
The whole island spread out below, with the pulse of
white surf on 6 visible beaches, empty otherwise.
The island has a unique tourist ecosystem too -- plastic
2-Liters for lixo (trash) hang from mangrove branches
and the beaches are nearly spotless. From my hill, just
2 or 3 of the pousadas (cabanas) are visible between the
trees. Without roads, days are slow and tranquil, rolling
to the rhythm of the twice-daily boat to the mainland.
To graft high-speed anything to the island would feel
Later today, I will reverse my course and return to
the mainland, speeding up 5000 years in an hour and a
half. Just a night bus away, the falls of Iguazu,
waterfalls bigger than Niagara and Victoria combined, set
amidst (of course) tropical paradise.