Paraty is Paradise

Trip Start Jun 07, 2009
Trip End Aug 23, 2009

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Where I stayed
Sereia do Mar

Flag of Brazil  , Rio de Janeiro,
Monday, June 22, 2009

Imagine a mountainous coastline blanketed with tropical forest, dotted with granite outcropings and surrounded by crystal-blue, warm water, and you have the setting for Paraty.  It is one part  coastal Washington, one part Maine and two parts Hawaii, with a splash of laid back Brazillian culture. 
(The following History lesson is obviously Darrens idea...)
Founded in 1667, the beauty of the historic towns architecture matches its surroundings, consisting of one to two story colonial buildings, painted in light tones and highlighted by bright colored window trim, which front cobblestone streets.  After early economic success in the 1700s as the primary regional export port for gold to Rio de Janeiro, Paraty has stumbled through a few other sporadic periods of economic prosperity, one based on coffee in the early 1800s, another on cachaca production in the late 1800s and most recently on tourism.  Amazingly, the city which is now only 4 hours by car from both Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo had no road to the outside until the 1970s.  The road transformed the city from being a virtual ghost town to a thriving tourist center.  However, the character of town has been tastfully maintained. 

There is one absoute prerequisite activity for any trip to Paraty- taking a schooner tour.  Our first morning in Paraty we decided to take our schooner tour.  Since by the time we decided to do the tour that day, we only had ten minutes to catch the boat.  We asked our hostel to call for a taxi,  five minutes later two motorcycles pulled up these would be our taxis.  The drivers handed us two helmets and we each jumped on the back of the bikes.  We made the mistake of telling the drivers that we were in a hurry, which was basically a license for them to drive as recklessly as all the other motorcycles in Brazil.  Speeding across dirtroads, cobblestones and speed bumps, we dodged in between cars and pedestrians to reach the harbor just as our schooner, Estrella do Mar, was starting its engine.

The Paraty harbor is picturesque as the town, filled with 30 or 40 wooden old schooners painted in bright colors.  The only drawback is that the schooners have all been converted to motorboats, and any masts that remain being used solely for decoration or to help support a deck which has been added for tours.  Despite this, the boats are still very charming appeal.

As we motored between a few of the islands, stopping three times to anchor and swim, a guy played guitar and sang bossa nova tunes.  At the final stop, they served a delicious lunch of fish and chicken that we ate on the upper deck in the sun and washed down with a couple cold Brahma beers.  It was an amazing day.  After the boat trip, we stolled around town.  The tide was up, which turned several of the lower cobblestones streets into waterways. 

The next day we caught a bus over the mountains to the neighboring small town of Trinidad to attempt to rent surfboards and surf.  The surf was cranking a nice overhead swell but decent boards could not be found, so we hadlunch on a beach cafe and just watched some local guys from the rocks. 

The next morning we were planning to take a taxi to the bus terminal and then a bus to Angra dos Reis, but we met an english and an Irish guy at the hostel and just shared a taxi to Angra with them.  The ride along a twisting two-lane highway was made even more fearful once we heard stories from the English guy.  He had dreadful bad luck, and we were certain it was going month of travelling, hed been mugged in Sao Paulo, hospitalized in Peru after a  taxi crash and had to get stitches in Bolivia after passing out and hitting his head on a table.  He also happened to wreak of alcohol (the morning-after alcohol sweat mixture), having consumed something like 5 or 6 very large caipirinhas the night before at the hostel.  Thankfully we made to Angra with no problems.

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