Ilha Grande: A Return to Eden

Ilha Grande: A Return to Eden

The Tamoio people were the first to set foot on the land which they called the “great island,” Ipaum Guaçú. Portuguese seafarers kept the name, but christened it in their own tongue. For hundreds of years, Ilha Grande on Brazil’s Costa Verde was the antipode of a paradise. Its bright reefs and fine sandy shores witnessed the extirpation of the indigenous inhabitants and the crux of the transatlantic slave trade. Succeeding centuries saw the continued evolution of a most maledictive place, with both a lazaretto and a maximum security penitentiary constructed on its grounds. In light of the misfortunes that befell Ilha Grande and its unwilling captives, there was one hidden grace. Lack of urban development had given nature an unfettered hand in shaping the terrain of this emerald isle. After the prison’s closure in 1994, the island’s perfectly preserved biosphere took to the spotlight with a halcyon charm. Free from the menace of disease and Brazil’s most dangerous felons, this lustrous green pearl off the coast of Rio de Janeiro became at last, in the new millennium, somewhere to set foot on once more. Continue reading “Ilha Grande: A Return to Eden”

Carioca Dreamscapes: Reveries from Rio de Janeiro

Carioca Dreamscapes: Reveries from Rio de Janeiro

The mouth of the January River sang more than just the first beats of samba and the smooth rhythm of bossa nova. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s balmy balneário by the edge of Guanabara Bay, boasts a rich and regal repertoire of cultural heritage and untethered beauty. Encountered by the Portuguese on New Year’s Day in 1502, the city served as the imperial capital of Portugal during the time of Napoleon. It was the only instance in history that a European nation was ruled from one of its colonies.

Yet, there’s neither a trace of pomposity nor of royalty’s rigidness. Rio de Janeiro is as casual as can be. From street corners, the soul-stirring aromas of coconut milk and shrimp call out to empty stomachs. Equally as tempting are the Cariocas themselves, the unabashed residents of Rio who saunter up and down the beachfronts wearing nothing more than Havaianas and a strategically placed strip of polyester. There’s a flirtatiousness even in the way they speak: chewing, guzzling, and gushing their syllables like waves of honey. Every detail is an invitation to be ensnared by the allure of the Southern Hemisphere’s tropical Babylon. Continue reading “Carioca Dreamscapes: Reveries from Rio de Janeiro”

Sunnmøre: A Journey Along the Fjord

Sunnmøre: A Journey Along the Fjord

Long before it became an obstacle to get from A to Å, the fjord was the motorway which connected remote hamlets with the world outside. In wooden rowboats armed with oar and sail, the Viking settlers of Sunnmæri traversed its widths and lengths. Sunnmøre, as the region is known today, is site to some of Earth’s most spectacular sceneries, all of which can be seen on a journey along the fjord. Continue reading “Sunnmøre: A Journey Along the Fjord”

Vega: Norway’s Island Kingdom

Vega: Norway’s Island Kingdom

A crown rests gently on its soft cushion of crowberry bristles. Amid the early morning air tinged with the tang of sun-dried kelp and cracked crab, the urchin’s chassis is an echo of a once underwater aria. In the eons since the Vega Islands were lifted from the ocean, soft shales and hard granite have moulded this Norwegian archipelago into a kingdom whose curling hillsides, sharp peaks, white sands, and capricious coasts have enchanted, protected, and, on occasion, terrified humankind. Continue reading “Vega: Norway’s Island Kingdom”