I can’t believe it’s nearly 2 weeks on the road already. I’ve quickly been swept back up into the travel adventure that comes with backpacking. Exploring Brazil certainly is not as easy as traveling around Asia, the Brazilians so far assume you know enough Portuguese, so boats & bus trips are all announced without any English included. I’ve become very good at simply listening for my destination and going with that one. It has created a few issues such as not getting to an ATM and landing up on an ATM free island with limited cash, or ordering a Lasagna and getting a layered mac & cheese made with Lasagna sheets!
São Paulo Metro to Bus Station
I mentioned the insanity of the São Paulo metro in my last post so with this madness in mind, I was stressed about getting to the Portuguese Tietê Bus Station for 9am to catch our bus to Paraty (pronounced: Parachi). We got into the Metro system at about 7:45am and thankfully Vila Medalena is an end of line station so the train was empty and we got seats, we transferred from the Green Line only once to the blue line, avoiding the busy yellow line. The blue line crossed the red line (which was just madness) and at this stop Rhoda got off the train for some reason, I shouted and lucky she was able to dive back onto the train again! We made it through the São Paulo morning madness unscathed. The bus station was quite impressive, more like an airport with free WiFi, restaurants, seating and luggage trolleys. Amazing.
Chaos at Paraty Bus Station
The bus ride to Paraty was pretty much uneventful, except for two stops and a long mountain pass in the mist and rain that slowed us down by about an hour. We arrived in Paraty with some light still in the sky, the plan had been to arrive at 4pm giving us some time to walk to our hostel… but with the threat of rain and Rhoda fighting a bit of a sore throat we thought we’d take the local ‘regular’ bus (R$3.90) around town.
This proved to be more of a challenge than expected, as more than one bus runs from a single platform. Three routes run from the platform we waited at and turned out that the ‘circular’ bus also had two loops. We would never have known this if it weren’t for standing at the bus station looking partly lost until being greeted by a lady waiting with her son also tying to get to Jabaquara Beach (praia do jabaquara). Turns out she is a Durban born South African living right here in Paraty just a block or two from our hostel. What are the odds? We hit it off, and chatted for a good two hours whilst we waited for this damn bus. The walk would have taken 25mins, but it was now dark and not worth the risk.
Cobblestones & Beaches
With all the threat of rain from the day before I woke up to find the sun shining. Amazing! I left Rhoda sleeping and walked just 50m down to the beach. The sun was still busy burning off the clouds leaving some low clouds clinging to the surrounding mountains, little dogs and bird life were all actively exploring the beach. Seabirds dive bombing the ocean busy fishing, surrounded by palms and tropical plants I was suddenly in my happy place. Its official I need to live on a tropical island or in a tropical beach town, the fresh sea air, the gentle waves just seem to calm my soul.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the beaches, rocky out crops and the magical historical center. The blocked off from cars, central district of Paraty has bumpy cobblestone streets, and when I say stone I literally mean stones/beach rocks, not nice square cut stones. It’s incredibly difficult to just walk the streets without twisting an ankle, I can only imagine how ruined cars suspension would get if they were actually allowed in this part of the city. It really is gorgeous, with old colonial style buildings, churches which at the time were built for 3 different race/demographics (the old days had their pitfalls), obviously it’s now mostly curio shops & expensive restaurants but still lovely to walk around.
I had been told by a Brazilian friend of mine that they have a pay per weight buffet style restaurants, known as Self Service Restaurants, which often work out the cheapest way to get a big meal and sure enough just after leaving the historic center of town we found one for R$35 per kilo and decided to give it a try. I must have taken about 300grms of pasta, meat (carne) and other fish/veg items, so it really did work out to be an affordable meal. That evening we met up with Michaela our new South African friend, her husband and son for a BBQ on the Praia do Pontal and had a great evening with delicious food and meeting some local Paraty’ains :p
Cachoeira (waterfall) do Tobogã
I had seen a few waterfalls on my map of Paraty, but had not considered visiting one until Michaela suggested we catch a ride with them up to the Eco Village where she worked. We could either walk or catch a local bus from there, my faith in the local bus system had been lost so after the bus did not show at its designated time we began walking. It was 3mins later when a little red car (that looked like the whatsapp emotji) pulled up and a voice shouted something in Portuguese but I picked up the end bit ‘cachoeira’? ‘Si!’, I said.
A friendly chap had just offered us a ride up to the Penha waterfall saving us a 4km walk. Not totally a waterfall, but definitely a bunch of entertaining rapids, the water flowed down and over rocks one of which made a really fun 20m bum slide. The adventurous could grab a rope and pull their way through the water to a cave behind a wall of water. Its clearly a popular spot with the locals and tourists a like as it seemed a bunch of jeep tours kept bringing new tourists. We landed up walking the 4km back down the mountain during which we were caught in a down pour, but nothing an umbrella and poncho cant protect from.
Its been quite an exciting few days, and the adventure continues now as we move to Ilha Grande an island (193km² so pretty big) 2 hours up the coast as we move our way toward Rio de Janerio.