Adventures on Ilha do Marajó

Probably the most well known island at the mouth of the Amazon is Ilha de Marajó, famous for its pineapple, cheese, and beautiful beaches among other things.  It was far easier to get to Marajó than our trek to Cotijuba.  There’s 2 boats that leave every day from the Hidroviario, one at 6 a.m. and the other at 2 p.m., except on Sundays when the earliest departure is 10 a.m.  Theoretically it sounded nice to go on Sunday; we could sleep longer and miss out on the weekend crowd, but I’d suggest getting up for an early boat.  It took us almost four hours, despite a projected three, to reach the island.

Ilha do marajó, praia, mangrove tree

Crazy trees that we saw everywhere on the island, sending their roots down into the water.

At the port there were vans to take you to one of the three cities, Salvaterra, Cachoiera, or the capital Soure for around five reais (we’re pretty sure the guy lied to us when we got dropped off because we had a really strange money exchange with him).  Based on nothing besides internet photos, Phyllis and I decided to head to Salvaterra where things were supposedly a bit more wild and deserted.  This may very well be true, however, you have basically no way to get to any of those places unless you have some kind of transport — car or motorcycle — and Phyllis and I had nothing but our feet.  After spending enough time at Praia Grande, which was not pretty, to eat lunch we ditched Salvaterra and took a three reais boat to cross the river to Soure.

ilha do marajó, praia pesqueiro, birds flying

It was Sunday so there was basically no one around and there certainly wasn’t any tourist information.  We kept asking were there was a beach we could get to and decided on Praia Barra Velho, but everyone insisted everything was super far and then proceeded to give us all the wrong directions.  Finally some guy just walked with us till it was a straight shoot to the beach and even though plenty of mototaxis stopped for us we refused on principle because we’d already walked so far and the price was still the same (ten reais).

star sky, tree silhoutte, ilha do marajó, praia barra velho

The stars lighting up the sky at Praia Barra Velho on Ilha do Marajó.

The sun had already disappeared when we got to the beach and we had just enough light to put our hammocks up in some trees that looked like they were well out of the water’s reach.  It was super perfect and magical for that first bit when the stars started to come out.  There were a few houses on the beach, but there weren’t many people around and we were cut off from them by a line of trees.  We went to sleep dreaming about how great it would be to wake to the sunrise.

Instead I woke up to the sound of the waves roaring and put my hand down to discover a few inches of water.  I think we’d considered the possibility of water potentially licking the roots of the trees so our bags and everything else was off the ground.  We tried to go to sleep for some twenty more minutes, but the water was too loud and when I put my hand down again to discover the water had risen enough that another twenty minutes would bring it close to the bottom of our hammocks.  At this point we collected our things, the water now waist deep and stumbled around in the dark trying to get to some higher ground.  Easier said than done.  The beach was full of dunes and there was even a river where the water became exponentially deeper without warning.  In the end we headed for the houses, naturally all on stilts, to save ourselves.  Eventually we did find a patch of sand the water wasn’t going to reach and we watched for a while as the water rose a full 200 meters from where we had originally found it.

praia barra velho, ilha do marajó, sunrise beach water reflection

The water had backed down to low tide and looked harmless yet again

In the morning the water had receded again and we got to see the magical sunrise we had awaited.  We hung out on our abandoned beach till the tide was well on its way to swallowing up the beach again before heading into town to head over to Praia Pesqueiro.  On the way we discovered that you can’t buy any bread in town because it’s all sold out by 8 a.m., that there was only one mango ripe on any of the trees, and that almost all the açaí places were still closed.   Then we shelled out the money for the mototaxi (10 each) because we couldn’t walk 15 km.

vacas, cows, ilha do marajó

These cows are apparently famous on Marajó.

For the next 24 hours we hung out here, taking in the sun, swimming, and drinking a sunset caipirinha.  Then we hung up our hammocks in some random trees, but this guy told us we could just put our hammocks up on his porch for free.  He had the only pousada on the beach, but he said he only charged for rooms.   It was low season so we were the only guests and he spent a few hours talking to us and even told me he’d teach me all the trails and give me a job if I wanted since there was basically no one who knew English.  If you learn enough Portuguese (and speak English natively) you can basically stay anywhere in the north/northeast of Brazil where there’s tourism and be set it seems.  Not surprised, as of yet I still have not met any foreigners who have even bothered trying.

Praia Pesqueiro, Ilha do Marajó, Kite surfing

There were only a few other people around at Praia Pesqueiro. Yay low season!

Praia Pesqueiro, Ilha do Marajó, madrugada, sunrise ocean beach

Sunrising over Praia Pesqueiro.

In the morning he took us on a quick mini-trek to some totally abandoned places with his goofy dog.  It really was a shame we hadn’t planned on more time there because he told us he could have taken us on a bunch of longer excursions for free.

Ilha de marajó, private beach, hidden beaches

A hidden beach on Marajó

We ran into more confusion with the transport back and almost missed the boat, because I was taking a nap and some guy lied to Phyllis about us having to take the ferry (or she didn’t understand him).  I woke up shortly after and asked when the vans were coming and found out the mistake so we had to run and pay another small boat to catch the ferry and get on the bus that went back to the port.

pineapple, cheese, ilha marajó, abacaxi, queijo do marajó

The famous pineapple and cheese from the

But alls well that ends well and we got there and even had time to buy a pineapple and some of the cheese that are the island’s claim to fame.

Here’s a video!

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