Southern Cross - Paraty & Ilha Grande

Trip Start Jul 30, 2010
Trip End May 29, 2011

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather"
John Ruskin

So far much everything has run remarkably smoothly on this trip. For sure there have been occasions when things happen slower than you'd like or expect, esp in Malaysia and across South America but on the whole it's been pretty easy sailing so far. 

Our bus journey to Paraty wasn't one of those occasions. Between GAP, our inexperienced tour leader and the bus company we found ourselves at the bus station without any seats on the 'nice' bus to Sao Paulo. Our tour leader argued with the bus company, who couldn't find our reservations, he showed them conformation emails and phoned the head office. All of which was met with little more than a disinterested shrug of the shoulders from the guys the other side of the counter.  

We, meanwhile, sat there patiently waiting for our tour leader to let us know what was going on. Not that we told anything other than "Don't worry" which was quiet frustrating when it was obvious there had been a screw-up and all we wanted to know was what was fall-back plan. Finally, and after 'our’ bus had left for SP, our guide realised he had to buy new tickets so did so, getting 6 of the last 8 available for a later 'standard’ bus. 

The bus was packed with raucous Brazilians who’d also been on a day trip to Paraguay and came laden down with boxes and packages. There’s not much of interest to say about the journey itself, it came and went and at some point I must have fallen asleep as I woke up as the sun was rising. Later we told that whilst we were dozing the police boarded the bus looking for smuggled goods from Paraguay. No-one was arrested altho' plenty of smuggled goods were discovered in the huge boxes and packages of some of the Brazilians. Money apparently changed hands as the bus was allowed on it merry way to Sao Paulo.

Shortly after dawn we pulled into Sao Paulo – a huge city with lots and lots of high-tower blocks – where we changed to a minibus that absolutely belted its way to the quaint little town of Paraty. 

To get to Paraty we took the coast road (BR-101, I think) along the Costa Verde and it was whilst we on that when looking out of the window to the beaches below that it dawned on me that we had finally crossed South America – from the Pacific to the Atlantic – and that somewhere vaguely North-East was London and home.

It had taken 4Ĺ months of going backwards and forwards, up and down, but the planes, trains and buses had brought us to our final coastline and the last couple of weeks or so of the trip. Quite a depressing realisation...

Paraty itself was, as mentioned, a quaint little coastal town with cobbled streets (all that pounding on the suspension keeps the Fiat mechanics busy). Its historic centre have earned it UNESCO World Site status which protects it from development and no doubt replacing the cobbles with something easier to walk on. As you expect it’s become quite a touristy place with scores of cafes, souvenir shops and agencies offering 'booze cruises’ which sail around the pretty bays and islands off the coast whilst fuelling passengers with CaipriaŮas.

Rather than do that one our one full day in the town we decided to catch a 40min bus to the beaches at Trinidade. The beaches here were picture-perfect with a series of 4 crescent shaped beaches separated by rocky outcrops. The rocks also created big waves which whilst it made swimming or snorkelling impossible did make it massively fun to go out in to the sea and attempt a bit of body surfing with the occasional slamming by a wave from a mistimed leap.

Sadly we only had one-full day in Paraty which meant that we didn’t get the chance to hire out a boat for a day and explore the islands and the bays. But this was only really brought home to us we left the town and caught a bus to Ilha Grande. As we drove up BR-101 we could see the spectacular beaches and islands beneath us. It’s partially our fault for not doing sufficient research before we arrived but we were annoyed with our tour-leader for not discussing this option with us. Such is life. 

Ilha Grande
Ilha Grande was a short catamaran trip from Angra dos Reis, a port town on the Costa Verde. As we sailed over the weather was good so we were looking forward to doing a spot of sun-bathing or snorkelling and just chilling out.  

I’m not sure I’d agree with Mr. Ruskin’s quote above. When you arrive on a small Brazilian island just a couple of hours south of Rio you kind of expect 'good weather’ usually characterised by blue skies, sunshine, a gentle cooling breeze and for it to be hot.

Sadly that wasn’t to be. Firstly although we had two nights on this lovely little island in reality this meant only one full day and the weather wasn’t on our side. An island paradise, in Brazil, but with English weather, which let's face it isn't often considered the benchmark for ‘good’ weather. It was if the fates were deciding to acclimatise us to living back in the UK. After wandering around the island’s main town of Vila do AbraŠo and getting up to speed with the main options available Claire and I decided to spend our full-day on what was billed as one of Brazil’s finest beaches.

What we hadn’t realised was that after being dropped off on one beach we had a 1km walk up and down and muddy hill to get to our beach.  By the time we had reached the beach the weather had started to turn and large, grey rain clouds were slowly closing in. We managed to get just over an hour in the sun before the first rain-drops were felt and then we, along with the rest of the sparsely populated beach, decided to head back to the jetty, 1km back over the hill again.

And that just about sums up our time on Ilha Grande and Paraty. Most of the places we’ve been to in South America I don’t feel the need to visit again. The Galapagos are an exception to this but I also think both Paraty and Ilha Grande would find their way onto a ‘revisit’ list just because I’d like to spend a few more days in both places when the weather is good.

The following morning we climbed on board our minibus for our last trip of the Southern Cross tour and take us to Rio de Janeiro.
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