Paraty Brazil - beach islands, waterfalls and culture

Paraty Brazil - beach islands, waterfalls and culture
Having travelled for a long time, I find that it is important to pinch yourself every now and again to remind yourself that you really are half way around the world on a grand adventure.
But there are certain places in the world that immediately capture your imagination and are so amazing that you don’t need to pinch yourself. When you round a corner you come across another treasure. Paraty in its tiny way was a treasure.

There is so much to do in this tiny town – from the mountains and the waterfalls to exploring the literally hundreds of beaches on this jagged coast that is full of islands.

This is a small Brazilian town that reflects the influence that Portugal had in this area of the world. It is about a 6 hour bumpy bus ride Southwards of Rio. On the way, there were subsistence farms, tiny towns, jungle, kids flying kites and tiny islands surrounded by ocean moving past my window.

I slowly watched everyone on the bus get off at various tiny towns along the way until I was virtually the last person on the bus. It’s a bit nerve racking to wonder if you missed your stop and you can’t really communicate with the all-Spanish-speaking bus driver.  I’d learnt enough Spanish to ask if a person spoke English, the problem was when the answer was “No”. Luckily a person on the bus helped me out and said Paraty was straight for a while before she got off.

So, my hostel was in the old historic centre of town. This is a couple of blocks of cobbled streets, where only people and horse drawn carts are allowed. It really is a beautiful, idyllic place full of interesting shops, crafts and restaurants and pudding carts. Yes, it does cater to tourists and holiday makers a bit. But that makes it lose none of its charm. Paraty has about 300 beaches around it, on islands and along the coast. Some you can only visit by kayak.

 It’s is also known for its art festivals. And yes, there was one on while I was there. I obviously wouldn’t have understood any plays, but I did follow around a dancing group for a while which led us to all the different art galleries in town. I think it was opening day for them as they were serving food and drinks. So I got to see some good art and much I didn’t understand and I got a free dinner for my efforts. There was a band that walking the streets with the dancers which was great – they had a really great saxophonist.

It wasn’t great weather when I was in Paraty. So, not being blazing hot, I decided to go sea kayaking with a guide. There ended up being about 8 of us going. It was really windy when we set off and the swells were sometimes so big that they ended up in the boat rather than the ocean!  I was rather chuffed with myself for not capsizing for the whole 5 hours of paddling that we did. This was one of my absolute highlights of my world-trip so far!

The feeling of being out in the middle of the water where it’s so quiet, surrounded by islands and sea birds and its only you and your boat and the noise your paddle makes in the water. And then you round some coast-line and there is a tiny beach waiting for you to explore it.

We did at least 6 km of paddling – 5 hours, sometimes stopping on a beach.  It was wet work and I’m grateful that I did it on a reasonable, if not sunny day! (The next few days were colder and rainier.) The guide, Matthew, also took us through the local mangroves.

So, we turned from the open water and paddled into a narrow river between the trees (we were completely surrounded). We had to guide our boats through and around branches. The water was freezing and crystal clear.  Many times we had to duck under a branch or make a tight turn and let the river current pull us through to the next bay.

We stopped for lunch and pulled up our kayaks high onto the sand where a beach bar waited. Not everyone had brought food with them. But those that had shared what they had and Matthew treated us to beer.  This was truly stunning, an absolute highlight of mine. If you head to Paraty, look Matthew up.

 I also spent some time wondering around the town and little shops, sitting on the local beach and taking photos of this stunning town. It’s all white-washed houses with a little colour around the doors and windows. Also, being on the sea, for some reason the cobble stone streets flood with the tide probably about once a week. Well, they flooded while I was there! Check out the photos.

How special. To the locals its nothing and they just avoid the streets for an hour or so, leaving all the camera armed tourists to enjoy and compete for photo opportunities.

Also, the mountains are near Paraty and tours are offered to go visit the waterfalls. Have to say the day I went was freezing and raining, but that didn’t stop us from swimming!

 We swung on Tarzan swings and fell into the pools below and even slid down a natural water slide about 30 meters long. That was rather scary as once you are coming down you notice this large rock in the pool in front of you and you feel like you’re going to fly into it. But all well and good, the waterslide drops from under you and you plummet into freezing water far from the rock. So six waterfalls later and shivering I made my way back to the hostel to warm up and meet people.

Local flower

I made some friends at this hostel, in particular a brother and sister, Felipe and Ana from another part of Brazil. Felipe was such an interesting person to talk to. He knew 7 languages fluently and by the time I was leaving he started e-mailing me in Afrikaans! He was so hospitable too as he suggested that if I got stuck on my next leg of bus trips that I come spend the night with them.
Ana was in Paraty for a conference on I think physics which was drawing an international crowd of people. Really interesting. We became friends over the hostel barbeque and caipirinhas. Caipirinhas are the main alcoholic beverage of Brazil – really good cocktail that is rather on the potent side. It’s made with sugar cane rum and lime juice and sugar.

So Paraty was amazing. The kayak a definite highlight of my trip – wow I would love to do that again!
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