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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 almost criminal.

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.

(All Brazil)
Path to the Beach - Paraty
Beach - Paraty Boat Cruise
Endless wonderful beaches
Ridiculous Ilha do Mel sunset
No cars
This sand sings when you step on it
. .