Post-carnaval relaxation. Or something...
Leaving the chaos and hedonism of Rio and its' Carnaval was somewhat of a breath of fresh air. With our new-found friends we headed to Paraty, a little coastal town about six hours from Rio. It was safe to say my Portuguese had improved minimal amounts as I tried hopelessly on our last day at the Church we had been staying in to ask for a taxi to the bus station. It was a personal challenge of sorts, asking the most basic of questions but making zero sense of the answers received! I resorted to ridiculous gesticulations, facial expressions and a form of Portuguese pictionary! The woman at the front desk and I just ended up giggling at the hilarity of how taxing ordering a taxi could be!
We did eventually get to the bus station. BY TAXI. And myself, Sally, Owen, Felix and Lewis trundled towards Partay. I thought that perhaps moving from Rio and the relentless party time that had been my existence there would help my liver to recover somewhat. I was sorely mistaken! The fact that the name Paraty resembles the word Party is not a coincidence (well, in my opinion anyway!). Paraty entailed more drinking and partying than ever before! An old friend from Sally and I's school days, Tom Bush, was working in a hostel in Paraty and he had booked us in to stay there for a few nights. We hadn't seen Tom in about three years so it was a pleasure to reunite with him again. He was just as cheeky and funny as I remembered from Q.E. school days! Everyone who worked at the hostel was really friendly and we soon settled into a cosy little community there.
The town of Paraty is a beautifully idyllic place. Our hostel looked out onto the beach, just a hop skip and jump to the sand and sea. A short walk into town brought narrow, cobbled streets and colourful buildings into view. Apparently in the 1700's when the mines of Minas Gerais were pouring out gold, the perfect bay of Paraty was a busy port, the second most important in Brazil during the Ciclo de Ouro, or Golden Century. It was a hard overland trip, though, and when a new road was built to another port in Espiritu Santo state, Paraty was all but forgotten. This stage of oblivion or neglect is what kept so many of the colonial buildings pretty much as they were when the last gold-laden ship sailed for Portugal. The historic center is a national historic monument. Closed to vehicles, the streets and buildings have been preserved beautifully and the quaint town retains its' colonial charm. Independent shops, bars and restaurants line the streets and invite you seductively with their delightful trinkets, melodic music, and delicious fodder.
Our first full day in Paraty was spent on a large, luxurious boat sailing around the neighbouring beaches and myriad lush green islands. The day was so clear and the sky was crystal blue...we spent the morning basking on the back of the boat, the wind in our hair and rushing around our bikini-clad bodies. A creeping feeling of guilt emerged as I thought to myself how amazingly lucky I was to be on that boat whilst people worked and froze back home (I apologise guys!). The rippling ocean surrounded us as our boat and countless comrade boats plunged through the waters, leaving waves of excitable froth in our wake. We stopped off at numerous little beaches and everyone bombed, dived, jumped and flipped off the boat with a mixture of pizazz, comedy and absolute laughability (more than one belly flop was displayed that day!). We bobbed about in the heavenly cool waters and gazed onto the white sand beaches that stretched out before us. A perfect first day in Paraty!
We stayed in Paraty for five days and one of the days we journeyed to a nearby town called Trindade. Trindade has nine beaches and we sampled three of them on our day trip there. The beaches are alot cleaner and prettier than in Paraty itself - the sea as clear and blue as can be and a little collective of rock pools nearby one of the beaches. Sally, Lewis, Owen, Felix and I trundled up and over the paths and rocks, through the undergrowth, to reach the pools. We were temporarily shaded from the oppressive heat by the towering lush greenery overhead. A stunning sight greeted us when we arrived, sweating and sticky from the walk. Huge boulders were stacked precariously in natural formations that seemed entirely impossible. The cool, shallow pools of water invited us in with their millpond texture and calm ripplings - an enormous difference from the crashing waves on the other beach we had visited, which had tormented the swimmers, pulling one of our friends under like a fierce wolf, chomping and frothing every second (she was fine...just shaken up, literally!). Deeper spots within the pools dared the adventurous to dive from rocks into the mysterious and murky depths. Not for me! The calming rays of light soon started fluttering down through the shady leaves, reflecting from the surface of the liquid onto the smiling faces of those playing in the pools.
Following Paraty and our departure from the lovely lads we had grown so attached to, Sally and I headed to the Argentinian border and the famous Iguazu Falls. We spent a total of about thirty hours on our hefty trip from Brazil to Port de Iguazu, and when we arrived it was raining in the town. And it continued to do so for our entire first day there. We had endured a few days of rain in Paraty too and this weather didn't bode well for our once in a lifetime trip to some of the most impressive falls known to man! Luckily, after a day of sitting on our bored derrieres in the hostel, and before our night bus to Buenos Aires the next day, we were treated to some much appreciated, beaming sunshine. Thank you weather gods!!
We were welcomed to the meticulously organised and humongous park with queues stretching out before us. A small, quaint train transported us to the series of pasarelas, or catwalks, once we had battled through the crowds. These catwalks consisted of wooden decking that meandered over and through picturesque rivers and woodland, boasting an array of beautiful wildlife en route. The butterflies were the most charming aspect of our stroll towards the falls. Flutter-bys of all shapes, colours and sizes swarmed and bewitched Sally and I, landing flirtatiously and carelessly on our legs, hands, hair, arms...we were hooked, spending as much time papping those little critters than the falls themselves! But now for the main water event: Iguazu Falls are a stupendous series of 275 waterfalls crashing 80m on to the Rio Iguaçu river. Guarani Legend says that Iguazu Falls originated when a jealous god, enraged by a warrior escaping down river by canoe with a young girl, caused the river bed to collapse in front of the lovers, producing precipitous falls over which the girl fell and, at their base, turned into a rock. The warrior survived as a tree overlooking his fallen lover. The geographical origins are slightly less enchanting. In Southern Brazil. the Rio Iguacu passes over a basalt that ends just above its confluence with the Parana. Before reaching the edge, the river divides into many channels to form several distinctive cataratas (cataracts). The most awesome is the semicircular Garganta del Diablo, a deafening and dampening experience. As we walked into the falls area the atmosphere palpably intensified and the sheer sight of such natural beauty and force reared up adrenalin from deep inside and took my breath away in excitable gasps. The cascading liquid, frothy and thick suddenly from its' previously smooth and tranquil texture, flew down the immense drop at such speed and velocity that strange thoughts swarmed my mind, of being one of those particles of water, waiting my whole little particle life to finally be thrown down that heady rush, surely be smashed into smitherines and giving birth to a thousand new particles of gleaming beads. The Mecca of the water droplet world, if you please! A truly breathtaking and awesome display of natural beauty. I recommend to all and sundry!
And so, after our day at the falls, we trundled off to Buenos Aires, the city that we'd heard amazing things about and that we were planning to lay our hats for the longest period of the trip thus far. At least three weeks! Let me at the sunshine, Spanish and steak!
Highlights since my last blog entry:
- Feeling the calm in Paraty after the Rio storm. Well, kind of!
- Enjoying the company of some ruddy lovely English lads! Big up to Owen, Lewis and Felix.
- Being a spectator at the most impressive naturally-created water show I'd ever laid eyes on!