Pronounced Para-Chi, we had planned on catching the 12pm bus from São Paulo bus terminal after our overnight bus from Foz do Iguacu as we would be arriving at around 11am. Our luck would have it that the 12pm bus had sold out by the time we got to the terminal so we had no choice but to book on the 4pm bus and spend 5 glorious hours in the wonder that is São Paulo bus terminal. Overpriced drinks and snacks inside a stuffy, granite building. Ideal, really. The journey to Paraty was then a long one as we get stuck in traffic, arriving 7.5 hours later but due to the time difference this made it 10:30pm. We walked 20 minutes with our bags, away from the historic centre, to our accommodation Bossa Nova hostel at R$32 (£8) a night.
The next morning, after a decent breakfast of breads, fruit, ham, cheese, jam and granola, we decided to head to nearby Trinidade for their natural Springs. Back at the bus terminal, we ended up waiting a long time for the next bus to arrive, finally catching it at 11am and paying R$3.50 (£1) to board, but the journey itself (bus more than full) took a good hour to reach the town of Trindade and we then had to figure out how to actually get there on foot. Step in Katie, whom had a “conversation” with a local Brazilian through the use of gesture and map-pointing to establish which direction we needed to head in.
The walk took around an hour in total, climbing over rocks through the bush and crossing beaches, passing by locals selling kebabs along the pathway. It was a good walk, although flip flops were at times a bit sketchy and the rocks fairly steep, and for the majority we were kept shaded from the sun.
The natural, open spring itself I was slightly unsure of when we finally made it. Whilst you could wade through the water and swim in certain sections it was quite rocky and spiky underfoot, so it wasn’t the easiest to move around in. Plus the rocks were really huge, steep and pointyo, so it was particularly difficult to clamber up one safely, and once you did you didn’t really want to get down again. So rather than being able to flip between swimming and lying around on the rocks, we spent an hour or so chilling on the rocks (after spending about 30 minutes navigating our way up one) and then took a dip afterwards before taking the hour scramble back to the town.
Knowing they were on the hour every hour we made it back around 4:40, but the queue was already massive that we didn’t manage to get onto the 5pm bus, instead having to wait over an hour in a small town with souvenir shops set up for tourists. We were starting to get a good impression of the local bus facilities in Brazil; not that frequent, not that reliable, and packed.
Back at our hostel, Fernando – the guy that runs the place – said he was driving to a carnival that was happening just across the water in Paraty and offers for us to go with him. Having not yet ventured beyond the bus terminal of Paraty itself we took him up on the offer and at around 8pm we made our way to our first local carnival, arriving on a cobbled side street to find a “band” – if that is even what you can call it – playing loud, pumping samba music with drums, tambourines and maracas. Surrounding the band were locals dressed up in tutus, headgear, masks and extravagant make-up, while some people were in full-body, giant man costumes. Tin foil bunting looped from tree to tree and there was a palpable electricity to the atmosphere, with everyone drinking in the streets and engaging in dance with one another. Katie and I picked up a Caipirinha each (2 for R$ 10, or £3) and joined in.
The carnival finished at around 9 so Fernando dropped us into the historic centre so we could have a little explore and grab some food. There’s something very enchanting about an old town with old church buildings lining narrow, cobbled streets, with the river running through it and around the edge, almost like an old French town. The “cobbles, however, are more like big stones and it can be pretty difficult to walk across them, especially in, once again, flip flops. It had a very warm, local feel about the place, though, with locals dining al fresco out on the dodgy cobbles, overlooking the main square. We eventually decided to eat at a place that sold a wide selection of mini kebabs on sticks, from vegetarian to meat to fish varieties. We ordered a few each and they came out when they were ready, and I was pleased with my choice of eggplant, on cheek and sausage. However we were shocked when we received the bill to find they had added a music charge of R$ 11 (£3.50) when the majority of the time we were sat there the live music had been on their break. Be warned if you to done someone with live music as they may not inform you of this cover charge!
We decided to spend our second full day in Paraty over at Sono beach, which we had been told is the most beautiful beach in Paraty. Having experienced the temperamental bus service from the day before we had planned on an early start but our washing that we handed in the day before was soaked through and half of it had unfortunately got stained by a colourful scarf, so we spent longer than intended trying to sort that out. So we ended up arriving at the bus terminal at the same time as the day before and then ended up waiting just as long again as the bus to Ontorio was delayed by 40 minutes. We were relatively near the front of a queue that had now grown ridiculous in size and when it came round to boarding a local woman tried to slyly slip in front of us. As you can imagine, we did not let this happen.
The bus journey, again, took just over an hour and dropped us on the side of the street where we then had to climb up the side of the mountain and then through the jungle for about an hour and a half before making it to Sono beach. It was a scorching day and the first half of it was not at all protected from the sun, and as I had of course chosen to once again wear flip flops (I’m sorry – they’re so freeing for the feet!) I managed to trip over a rock but smack my big toe into it in the process – my big top that had the blood blister from Santiago. The pressure of the impact basically sliced the blood blister but didn’t quite cut the whole chunk of skin off, so I was left with a big flapping wedge of skin with blood oozing out of the wound. And, of course, despite having a first aid kit with me for walks like this, I had left it safely in my backpack at the hostel.
We took the rest of the walk slowly, arriving to a gorgeous view overlooking the beach where Katie immediately went on a hunt to find me a plaster. Not knowing the word in Portuguese she resorted to action and mime, doing an extravagant slicing motion across her arm that I’m surprised she didn’t come back with a full bandage or stitching equipment. With the wound seen to we could finally relax on this stunning, peaceful, near-deserted beach and reward ourselves with a dip in the ocean. We made the sensible choice to head back slightly earlier than we felt we needed to, but being aware that as there was no such thing as a structured timetable whatever time we arrived we may just miss a bus and have to wait an hour. It became harder for me to walk towards the end at as we approached the start I swore I could hear a bus – Katie galloped ahead while I hobbled behind, and I eventually made it to the beginning to see her stood by the bus door, preventing the driver from leaving without me. After our bad bus luck thus far, we needed this.
Back in Paraty by 6pm we decided to head straight into the centre, this time perusing the shops in search of a money belt for Rio carnival and speaking to tour agencies about a transfer to Ilha Grande for the following day. Unable to book a transfer for the morning as it was too late we decided to make our own way there and instead spent the evening sat by the side of the river overlooking the colourful boats before picking up a couple of beers and Pão de queijo (cheese bread) from the local shop plus some meat kebabs from a hole-in-the-wall street vendor.
The following morning we planned to take the hostel bikes for a cycle around the historic centre and along the river before leaving for our bus out of there, but 10 minutes into our journey the chain on Katie’s bike came off completely. A kind local on a motorbike pulled over and put it back on for her, oiling it in the process, but another 10 minutes in and the thing happened. We are not having luck with bikes in South America!
Frustrated and fed up she decided to head back to the hostel and sort her stuff out while I continued on a cycle around the town, first alongside the river on the other side and then crossing back over to the historical side, bouncing up and down vigorously along the bouldering cobblestones.
The early morning sun was shimmering on the water and the different colours of the boats piercing against one another. The harbour is a small one but it was so peaceful to cycle up and down alongside the moored boats with the grand mountains overlooking them. I actually think this was the moment I fell in love with Paraty.
Back at the hostel at 10:30 we then checked out and left our hostel at 11:15, getting to the bus terminal half an hour before the bus to Angra dos Reis was due to depart – far better to be safe. Luckily we were the first in line and when the bus arrived at just after 12 we paid the R$14 (£4) each and hopped on board, settling in for our 2 hour journey that, naturally, departed late and therefore arrived at around 2:40pm. In the queue for the bus we met Shaye and Ralph, an Irish couple also heading to Paraty. We navigated our way to the harbour with them and just before 3:30pm we boarded the ferry to Ilha Grande, costing R$16.60 (£5) for the 1.5 hour journey. It was a peaceful journey and one of the first that was on schedule, with us stepping foot on to the sand exactly as planned.