After the madness of carnaval in Salvador vast numbers of party goers de-camp to the beautiful paradise spot of Morro de Sao Paulo. A village on the island of Tinhare, it’s known immediately after carnaval as ‘hangover island’ (or something similar translated into Portuguese). Because of this, for those days it becomes extortionately expensive. That’s why I stayed away until the prices came back down to something more realistic, choosing instead to spend some days chilling out in Salvador – which post carnaval suddenly seemed dirt cheap!

When we finally rustled up the energy to make the trip (‘we’ this time is Me, Laura and Danielle – the Salvador carnaval collective minus Kari), we’d got well and truly into money saving mode and took the long D.I.Y trip rather than the direct boat. There and back this saved us around £70, so it’s definitely worth it if you’re not in a rush (it takes about 7 hours door to door instead of 3). The journey consisted of a taxi to the ferry port, a ferry to a destination who’s name we never knew (there’s only one ferry and one destination, so it never mattered), a bus from the unknown port two hours to Valenca where you get on a second boat which takes you over to Morro de Sao Paulo. Sounds a little bit long winded, but it breaks up quite well and I actually found it to be quite a pleasant journey.

On paper there are a lot of similarities to be draw with Ilha Grande – no cars, an island, very relaxed. In reality however they are very different places. But I did feel the same warmth for Morro on arrival as I did getting off the boat at Ilha Grande, there’s something magical ab0ut the place and I knew straight away we were in for a great trip. We ended up spending 4 nights on the island and I could easily have stayed longer – everyday was great and it was another of those places, a bit like Ilha Grande, that seemed to bring people together. I left here with more friends than I arrived with – many of them from Buenos Aires strangely (in fact I’ve met almost as many Argentinians in Brazil as Brazilians).

Morro de Sao Paulo is technically not an island apparently, as it does connect back to the mainland somewhere – but it feels like an island. No cars, few roads and not too much development (plus having to arrive by boat or plane) gives off that great feeling of having left the world behind. There’s plenty of exploring to be done around this tropical paradise – one one side there are a series of beaches, imaginatively named ‘beach 1’, ‘beach 2’, ‘beach 3’ etc etc. On the other side there’s the strip of coast which leads to the huge (and usually deserted) Gamboa. It was on that side that I had the best days.

Walking out the town, down through the forest past the beautifully secluded ‘One Love’ beach bar, the little trek to Gamboa offered a real sense of island paradise. The 40 minute walk was magical – taking you along tiny little stretches of isolated beaches, surrounded by lush forest as the coast flared in and out. Sometimes you’d be walking knee deep in warm crystal clear water, sometimes you’d have to climb a few rocks. You’d bump into the odd person here and there but not many – it was such a tranquil, beautiful scene but took a little bit of effort, so most people didn’t bother. I did that walk to Gamboa twice and both were really stand out days of the trip so far – and I mean the trip to South America, not just Morro.

As you got near to Gamboa beach you also came across the ‘pink mud’ which has minerals in that are good for your skin supposedly. The thing to do is smear it all over yourself and let it dry before swimming in the sea to complete the free beautifying procedure. Well I couldn’t just pass without having a go and I have to say it was remarkably effective – I really did have baby soft skin after and must look at least 29 now. We also found out from some Italians sharing our mud bath that the yellow mud was actually the stuff you wanted. There was a little less of it but the sulphur present makes it even more medicinal – they were probably right, I walked away feeling like a 28 year old.

One Love reggae bar, right at the start of the trek to Gamboa is where we stopped on the way back both times. It’s built into the hill side above the beach and it’s big platform veranda provides an amazing spot to watch the sunset. We spent a few hours there each time, drinking a few beers swinging in the hammocks and just chillaxing in this perfect little paradise watering hole. One bit of advice though, stick to the beers and cocktails – the food was a bit of a let down. It’s an amazing spot though if you get there for sunset. Happy days!

The beaches on the other side of the island are really nice, but much more your standard touristy beach set up. Lots of bars and shops on beach 2 (the biggest and most popular), sun loungers, traders touting knock off sunglasses and other cheap tat. I found that it was definitely worth the extra 10-15 minutes walk down to beach 4 or 5, where you can find a bit more space and it’s less built up. I had a good game of beach football there with a very international group (Me & 2 Argentines – Mati & Martin against a Swede – Cesar, and two Brazilians). Can’t remember who won, but it was nice to finally be playing a game of football on a Brazilian beach!

Morro de Sao Paulo is also known as a bit of a party island and there are a few clubs dotted around and regular beach parties. The beach party was cool – and free which suited my diminishing budget quite nicely. It basically consisted of a soundsystem on beach 2, surrounded by hundreds of stalls selling drinks – mostly various fruit caipirinha options. The music was just all the big carnaval songs, many of which I’d become familiar with after 8 days of it in Salvador (‘Fode Fode’). We found a guy doing $5 (Reals) caipirinha’s and claimed a little spot… the start of the night had a bit of the school disco about it as everyone gathered around the side of the ‘dancefloor’ waiting for someone else to start dancing. But eventually it got going and proved to be a pretty fun night.

I also went to a couple of club nights – one a mostly trance based ‘rave’ in an open air club which was OK. Nothing to write home (or blog) about particularly. There were two international DJ’s – one Israeli the other German – but I’d never heard of either and one of them was pretty dodgy. The other was a more interesting mixture of bands and DJ’s held at a place called Teatro – a kind of small amphitheatre venue a 40 minute trek up into the hills. This was quite different and a pretty cool night.

I was quite sad to leave Morro de Sao Paulo, I could have stayed for much longer – it’s an amazing place and somewhere I’d like to go back too one day. But I need to leave Brazil, it’s eating away at my savings way too fast!!