This talk of frisbee (see previous post) has brought back a flood of memories of my well, ULTIMATE frisbee experience ever (and maybe for the rest of life) tossing around a disk in the warm but strong waves on a little island two hours south of Rio. Specifically, we were at Lopes Mendes on Ihla Grande in Agra. To get to this beach – ranked in the top 10 beaches in Brazil (which is saying something) -we hiked for a few hours on a twisting path through the jungle, past Jurassic Park-sized trees and vines and boulders, and arrived at a gorgeous, expansive, white sand playground with NO ONE on it – no snack shack, no life guard, no boom boxes, nada. We were the only visitors. I took off my hiking boots and shorts, stripped down to my bikini, and dove right in. Yes. Loved it.
And by “love” I do mean the head-over-heels variety. In fact, I’ve been back three times since. That’s because I keep returning to The Island Experience, a wonderful week-long fitness/adventure program on Ihla Grande (a tropical island with no cars) and a hike to Lopes Mendes is always on the schedule.
The Island Experience is my kind of paradise. You start every day with yoga, then hop into a sea kayak and paddle through bright blue lagoons until you disembark and hike through the jungle to the day’s beach and picnic lunch spot. After an hour of splashing, you hike back to your kayak, kayak back to the lodge, do some more yoga, GET A MASSAGE (!!!!), have a healthy dinner (fish and veggies mostly – there’s no salt, alcohol, caffeine and very little fat) and collapse. You keep this up for six days -wash, rinse, repeat – and by the end you’re bionic.
Who knows – for you the high point may be something other than Lopes Mendes – it could be snorkeling or scaling the boulders that surround the jungle waterfalls or learning to samba in the evening with the scraps of energy you may have left.
Yes, you’ll lose a few pounds after a week here and without a doubt your skin will glow and your eyes will shine as a result of the detox food plan. But something else may happen here, too – you may decide to give yourself a break and accept your body. I’ve seen the same arc repeat itself every time I go: the first day in our bikinis and briefs, everyone in our small group (8-12 folks) is self-conscious and self-critical and squirmy. Gradually -it may take 2 days it may take 4 -everyone (and I do mean everyone, regardless of shape) lets that go and forgets about looking good from a particular angle. Who cares? Who is looking at you, anyway? We’re all working hard kayaking and hiking and swimming and stretching and we’re doing this in one of the most spectacular natural settings on the planet. It’s so so so much more satisfying to look outside yourself at the starfish, turtles, tropical fish and delightful Brazilian guides than to stress about your thighs. In fact, you may just come to truly appreciate your body as it and it alone will power your paddle and lift those feet. Out there on the water, I feel like The Little Engine That Could (“I Think I Can, I Think I Can”) and hey, after a week at the Island Experience you’ll not only feel great and be adept at kayaking (a new sport for you, perhaps?), but your own little caboose will be tighter and stronger.