May 21st, 2011 – The breakfast buffet was a lavish spread laid out on glass plates in tiers on a long, white tablecloth. The dining ware was equally elegant, which made the whole experience quite impressive. And, at last, I was not dining alone – there were at least 25 others at breakfast, most of them probably in their 70s. The one strange thing I noticed is that the breakfast music that was playing was “Smile, though you are in pain, Smile, though ….” A bit of a curious choice, I thought.
I was excited to get down to the Parque to see the hot mineral waters and discover whether this was a place I might be able to hold future health retreats for Brazilians. I was looking for hot soaking mineral waters, but to my astonishment I learned upon entering the Parque that these mineral waters ARE FOR DRINKING!
There was a large pool house where people could swim in the mineral waters, but the water was not heated, and there was a separate admittance fee to use the pool house after you had already paid to get into the Parque. It was a bit of a disappointment, but I decided to walk around the Parque anyway and see the rest of it since I was there.
The Parque is the central feature of Coxambu, and has a small lake with swans in the middle with a single seat chairlift that hoists people above the lake to the top of a hill overlooking the Parque and Coxambu. I took the chairlift to the top, and on the ride up I saw a wild Toucan in a tree just next to the lift!
The views from the top of the hill were magnificent! Once down the chairlift I walked back towards the Hotel, and passed the Rodoviario on the way. Upon checking when the next bus left for Sao Lourenco, I was told it would be LEAVING IN 5 MINUTES!!! I raced to the Hotel, grabbed my bag and raced back to the Rodoviario and boarded the bus just as it was driving away from the Rodoviario! That was a bit close!
Sao Lourenco was the next mineral water town I wanted to visit, again to see if it might work as a health retreat location. The bus pulled into Sao Lourenco just before noon, and I could already tell from the drive into town to the Rodoviario that I didn’t want to even bother spending any time checking it out. Coxambu and Sao Lourenco were the first two towns I’d been to during my entire journey through Brazil that I did not care for. And now I had only 2 full days left after this day to enjoy the rest of my trip – what was I going to do? I was in a dilemma! I stood at the Rodoviario and looked at maps and schedules.
I decided I really wanted to go to the coast and spend my last two days at the beach. In the 15 minutes it took me to figure that out, a bus left that would have taken me to a connecting bus on to Paraty, a coastal town that Niki, the South African woman I had met back in Belo Horizonte, had raved about. She had spent a week there when she first arrived to Brazil and couldn’t recommend it more highly.
I went back and forth between two ticket windows talking with each ticket seller about buses and schedules, and there was no bus in either direction that could get me to another connecting bus to Paraty by the evening. The ticket agents each called other terminals for me to verify bus departure times, and did all they could to help find me a way to make my destination. But nothing was working.
Finally, after debating all the options, I decided to take a 2+ hour taxi ride to Barra Manus – a taxi would get me there in time to catch a connecting bus to Paraty and arrive at the seaport by evening.
The ticket seller at one of the booths helped me secure a good taxi. Ticket sellers are licensed to make taxi recommendations with licensed taxi drivers, a system which is supposed to spare non-Portuguese speaking travelers from getting ripped off. It worked. He quoted me $R200 in comparison the $R500 another independent taxi driver quoted.
After thanking the young ticket sellers profusely for all their assistance, I was off again, this time in the front seat of a taxi with a driver that spoke minimum English. It could have seemed like a very long two and a half hours to Barra Manus, but it didn’t. He was a kind, likeable man, very thoughtful and considerate. And the scenery was stupendous!
The road wound through the verdant mountains between the states of Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It twisted and cris-crossed back and forth over the borders along the high peaks, and eventually descended down into the flatland of the state of Rio de Janeiro. We arrived in Barra Mannus one hour before my bus departed to Paraty, so the pressure was now off. I finally began to relax – I was going to make it to Paraty after all!
During the bus trip to Paraty I began to realize how tired I was. I was falling asleep while sitting upright in my seat, and I would suddenly wake myself up with a little SNORT! How embarrassing!
We finally deboarded the bus in Paraty at 9:20 p.m. It didn’t take long to walk through the streets to the Hostel del Rio on the waterway. Checked in to a dorm room, and before long was sleeping soundly, finally at my coastal destination for my last two full days in Brazil. What amazing fortune to have made it to the coast! There was a full-day snorkel tour of the islands happening in the morning, and I was already booked!