Paraná is Paraná, southern Brazil, without being the last state.
Subtropical and exposed to frequent ascents and invasions of cold fronts from the South Atlantic. These cold fronts and their rains had already made us wait in Foz de Iguaçu.
In the last days of summer in the southern hemisphere, when we decided to visit Ilha do Mel, which doesn't even have a dry season worthy of the name, the weather in Paraná punishes us again.
When we embarked, in Pontal do Sul, about six-thirty in the afternoon, it was already raining. During the entire navigation, the crash only intensified.
There are no streets or roads on Ilha do Mel, just forest, sand and narrow trails.
Ilha do Mel and its Abundant Rain
The increase in rainfall made life difficult for the boy with the wheelbarrow who, Clemente, our guide for a few days, was in charge of transporting the luggage, up the beach, to the inn that would welcome us, Zorro.
We settled in three times. Clemente tells us how pleased he is to return to one of his favorite places in Paraná. As if it were necessary to prove it, he challenges us to take a dip. It was getting dark, but we couldn't refuse.
In a flash, we were back in the rain. We ran along trails that Clemente knew inside out and that looked more like streams.
Shortly after, we arrive at the Atlantic side of Ilha do Mel and Praia da Gruta.
Without being able to understand if the sea was reliable, we just threw ourselves on the last moments of the waves and splashed in them.
Again and again, several more, in a strange bathing ritual that was as salty as it was invigorating.
We return to the inn. We had dinner.
We fell asleep expecting the dawn to bring us the sun.
Nor the dawn. Neither the afternoon nor the night. It rained almost all day.
At six in the afternoon, it stopped raining. The sky remained lead gray. We went to the new day under new weather.
And for another, almost all, once again, rainy.
After the Storm, the Bonanza
The third day, a Sunday, dawned with the sky slowly opening.
Finally, Ilha do Mel gave us an opening that lasted a good part of the afternoon.
As soon as we noticed it, we went out equipped and fired.
With the sun back, the island glowed with life.
At Praia das Encantadas where we were staying, at the foot of a forest-covered slope, the local fleet of fishing and transport boats displayed the various colors
The ones from “Valentin”, those from “Lua Cheia”, those from “Cristalina”, among others.
Hang gliders and paragliders crossed the already blue sky.´
Surfing, Bodyboarding, Hang Gliding and Endless Nature
The beaches facing east, exposed to the Atlantic, once again attract bathers and regular sportsmen, almost all of whom are in shape and determined to keep it.
Bodyboarders rolled around inside tube sketches.
Surfers competed with them for the waves, which at this hour were passable.
A young father, with thick curly hair, entertains a child as he tries to put on what he lacks in a neoprene suit.
On the left side of the torso, just below the heart, displays a “Vanessa I love you” tattooed.
Gradually, we learned how much Ilha do Mel and its residents live due to the sea and marine sports, with an obvious emphasis on surfing.
There are several inns and hostels dedicated to surfers. Portals crowned by old boards identify the beaches with the best waves.
Praia do Farol and all the others in Volta da Ilha do Mel
With the tide going out, the vast sand of Praia do Farol receives successive waves in the process of smoothing.
Sometimes, they are just lines that the side light distorts and duplicates.
This is how we see them from the top of the hill opposite Farol das Conchas, in the middle of a colony of exuberant bottle cleaners.
As low as they turn out to be, they are South Atlantic waves.
There, as in the other coasts facing east, the unpredictability of the sea forces the presence of lifeguards, members of the Fire Department, equipped with large yellow and orange boards, the same color as the uniforms.
From Praia do Farol, we return to the forested interior of the state park, in search of Clemente and other places. Despite the scorching sun, most of the trails that cross it remain undrained.
They force us into delicious new amphibious hikes.
We recovered Clemente at the inn. Aware of our “patrician” origin, the guide offers us a program that cannot be refused. “There is a colonial fortress here on the island, from the time when you were masters. We should go there.”
Of course we should. In a few minutes, we were heading there. Clemente warned us that, with the sun going down, going all the way on foot would be tough.
We subject ourselves to your judgment.
On the way to the Nª Srª dos Prazeres Fortress, back to the XNUMXth century
We board a boat in Encantadas that takes us to the pier in Brasília, to the isthmus that joins the two main sections of Ilha do Mel and to the entrance to the long Praia da Fortaleza.
From the isthmus, we traveled four kilometers almost straight to the north.
The fortress appears, finally, adjusted to a zigzag of the coast and at sea level.
So one-story that, with the rising tide, the ocean surrounds it on all sides, except inland, integrated into the forested foothills.
Unusual, as it is so low and exposed, the Fortress of Nª Srª dos Prazeres was built in 1767 by D. José I.
By that time, the Bay of Paranaguá had already become important for Portugal, free from the yoke of Castile, since 1640, but not from the obsession of the Spanish Crown to seize the Portuguese domains that were politically theirs during the period of the Iberian Union.
Paranaguá, specifically the island of Cotinga, is considered the inaugural place of the Portuguese population in the state of Paraná.
In 1550, the first settlers disembarked there, convinced that they would find gold nearby, and that they would be able to extract it despite the prevalence in the area of the Carijós indigenous.
The Carijós collaborated.
The good relationship with the Portuguese allowed the colonist settlements to spread, driven by the finding of precious metal in several rivers, some named after the families that first arrived, the Almeidas, the Correias, along with others that preserved the indigenous baptisms, for example, Guaraguaçu.
The city of Paranaguá was founded a century later, in 1649, financed by the growing profits from gold. Spaniards, pirates and, in the meantime, even French, Dutch and British ships furrowed the South Atlantic offshore.
Colonial Rivalry in Southern Brazil and the Fortification of Ilha do Mel and Paranaguá
Alerted to the vulnerability of Paranaguá, D. José ordered that Ilha do Mel be garrisoned with a fort and respective cannons, those on the bastions and those placed above, on Morro da Baleia.
It thus ensured the protection of the northernmost entrance to the bay, the furthest from the islands of Cotinga and, as such, the most vulnerable.
Long devoid of its war purposes, today, the authorities that manage the island's colonial heritage have to deal with the double threat of the ocean and the Atlantic forest, both always on the verge of invading the structure.
We go around the walls.
We enter, walk along the adarves and take a look at the complementary buildings, which used to be storerooms, casemates and the like, all white, covered in baked clay tiles, very Portuguese.
Clemente complains that the long march along the beach had left him to his knees.
Accordingly, we resorted to the service of a boatman, well before the pier at Nova Brasília. Once on board, we returned to Praia de Encantadas without even stopping at the isthmus.
Clemente indulges in a therapeutic nap. We have detected a multicolored and artistic sign that announces “we have açaí".
Incorrigible connoisseurs of the fruit and snacks derived from it, in addition to being hungry, we ordered two very cold and creamy bowls.
First, these two. So, with no way to resist, two more, a gluttony that, whenever it involves açaí, we get into without remorse.
In both glasses, the grenás mounds of iced açaí were covered in granola and, of course, honey. As we devour them, our minds come to terms with the explanation for the island being called Mel.
Ilha do Mel and its Mysterious Toponymy
At the end of the day, Clemente confesses that “he has no idea!”. When we investigated, we came up with an assortment of possible explanations.
There is the extraction of wild honey and sugar from endemic cane, carried out by the Carijós Indians and by the settlers at least until 1950, when industrialized sugar did not reach the island.
The theory of a German family coexists (that of a certain Admiral Mehl; in German, “Flour” means flour) owner of a manioc flour mill, which simultaneously dedicated itself to beekeeping and inspired several retired sailors to do the same there.
Another possibility lies in the fact that the island's fresh water contains mercury, which, when mixed with salt, spread a yellowish color into the sea.
The toponymy of Ilha do Mel stands out for its inaccuracy. According to the weather that keeps it lush.
Even in those precious days of calm, we just weren't sure how much rain was missing.