By Ricky Skelton
Most visitors to Brazil (and possibly most Brazilians) will never have heard of Ilha de Gigoia, let alone been there. It’s not a very big island – twenty minutes walk will take you right across it. The walk is an easy one as there are only footpaths on the island, no roads or cars. This gives it a tranquil air, one of those places where it’s impossible not to relax with no other noises except birds singing, meat grilling and beer cans being opened around the pool. What may surprise you is that it is possible to get from the island to Leblon or Ipanema in a little over half an hour if the boats are timed right. Because Gigoia is right in the heart of Rio. Or very close to it.

It is one of the largest islands in Lagoa da Tijuca, which lies at the northern end of Barra de Tijuca, around the rocks from Praia Leblon and Pepino, and from the twinkling lights of Rocinha. If you have a car, you leave it at the edge of the lagoon. There are boats that transport all the residents from home to work or to the shopping centre and back. This means you get to know the drivers and some of the locals quickly, and feel part of the furniture within a couple of days. It may take a little longer to get where you want to go, but your journey will always start with a smile. You can sit at the Gigoia equivalent of a bus-stop and watch crabs fencing on the roots of the half-submerged trees as you wait. Then you can kick back and watch ducks drift past the boat and clouds drift past the treetops of the Floresta de Tijuca on the hills above you.

If you’re staying at a pousada on the island, it’s likely that you’ll be holidaying in the city anyway, so what’s the hurry? Relax, do it Carioca style, arrive when you arrive. The boats run 24 hours too, so after partying hard for a night, you can sit on the edge of the wooden jetty and dangle your legs over the water while listening for the faint chug that heralds the arrival of the boat from out of the early morning mist, like the ferry for crossing the River Styx. You can also place bets on which driver is taking the graveyard shift this time. All you have to do is to remember the name of the place you’re staying, and you will be deposited right on the private jetty, with only a small risk of falling in amongst the fighting crabs, and tucked up in your bed sucking your thumb in no time. The novelty of arriving at home like this in the middle of one of the world’s great cities won’t wear off if you only stay for a week or less.

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Previous articles by Ricky:

Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

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