May 22, 2011 – Woke with the dawn and went out for a walk down along the waterway, over to the beach and on to the pier, around the perimeter of town, and back via the main street. What a charming town this is! Originally built as a port from which to ship gold back to Europe, the fort was designed to protect against the pirates. Another fort port is up the coast a few hundred miles, so the pirates didn’t know which port was being used at which time. Now the historic fort is used as the high end shop and restaurant area – nicely done!
Back at my Hostel, I had breakfast overlooking the waterway, where I watched a cormorant swim at least 80’ underwater and schools of very large fish swimming past. Though the water is a muddy brown color, it still has fairly good visibility.
Our boat trip was to begin at 10:30, so the group of 8 passengers – all from our Hostel – walked out to the pier together with the skipper. Normally the boat would come up the waterway and pick us up at the dock of the Hostel, but the tide was so low this morning there wasn’t enough depth for the boat to come up the waterway.
As we approached the pier, a horrible fight was going on between a young woman and an older man – perhaps her father. The police were there keeping the “domestic” under control, but the screaming and crying and raised fists were the first I’d ever experienced in Brazil!
Walking down the length of the pier we saw dozens of tour boats ready to take tourists to the various islands for the day – it was astonishing how busy it was! We boarded our small, hand-crank engine boat, and it putt-putted out into the flat water ahead of all the other tour boats still loading at dock.
Our first stop was an island where we anchored just offshore and snorkeled for at least 45 minutes. The water was crystal clear and lukewarm. The skipper tossed some small bits of bread into the water and INSTANTLY a group of fish appeared and ate it! They looked like Pirhana to me, but he called them some other name…hmmm.
From there we putt-putted over to another island beach and anchored offshore again. This island had a restaurant with beach tables and umbrellas – Lovely! I had brought my health food with me – apples, cheese, carrots, nuts and crackers – so I was already set for lunch. After more snorkeling and sunbathing I fell asleep on the sand. It felt divine to relax in the sun to the sound of the gentle waves lapping at the water’s edge.
About 1 ½ hours later, we putt-putted to another beach, and our skipper took us on a short walk into the jungle to show us where the Germans built a factory 150 years ago to make a highly potent alcoholic drink from sugar cane. The large water wheel that powered the pressing of the cane is still standing, though quite overgrown by jungle. The Brazilian who owns the land is interested in preserving this historical landmark and is not planning to develop it, according to the skipper.
Late afternoon was underway, and our skipper putt-putted the boat back to Paraty and up the waterway, where we disembarked at the dock of our Hostel. We arrived just as the sun was going down. I grabbed my duffel bag and headed over to a different Hostel – the first one had horrible sheets and flimsy bunk beds made with aluminum frames – scary. I had arranged my new Hostel – Hostel Che Legaro – during my early morning walk.
My new room was not a dorm room – I now had a double bed, fresh cotton sheets that felt like sheets should, a great bathroom and a wicked-good shower! After showering I headed down for a delicious dinner of fresh fish.
Making the extra effort to get to Paraty was well worth it. The entire coastal area is stunningly beautiful, peaceful and as close to paradise as I have perhaps ever been.
This is a town I could see myself living in. It is situated half-way between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, so if one wanted to visit a bit of city life there’s plenty not far away. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of small gorgeous islands to explore, fishing, snorkeling, swimming, sailing, kayaking, diving, beaches, fresh fruits and veggies, delightful restaurants and shops, incredible views of mountains circumferencing the town, and clear blue water to gaze upon. Paradise looks like Paraty!