Time to leave Rio. We got the bus to perhaps the loveliest spot in all of Brazil – Paraty, a lovely colonial seaside town with cobbled streets where only horse and cart and people can pass, and centuries-old houses with colourful window sills and bursting with vibrant bougainvillea, all framed by stunning jungled mountains.
For the first time on the trip we decided to stay in a hostel, Paraty Hostel Casa do Rio. A young chap at the bus stop who called himself Rafael was gently touting for trade at his hostel, and we went with him, lugging our cases down the huge cobble-stone streets. It was a nice, friendly place, right on the picturesque river, where there were hammocks and a few che guevara types lounging around. The room was a snip at 60 Reals for 2 people. It was in a converted house further down from reception on a quiet residential street, with shared bathroom, a queen sized bed and bunk beds. I took the bunk beds. There’s still a child-like excitement of getting the top bunk. We went back down to reception to speak to Rafael. Rafael was a goldmine of information, and told us we still had time to catch the bus to Trindade beach – and that it was one of the most beautiful spots in all Paraty. This was the kind of information, the kind of helpfulness, we’d been missing. Bigger, impersonal hotels didn’t cater for people like Alex and I. Hostels did – and hostels here, though having their fair share of crusty, penny-pinching backpackers, are used by all – young and old, richer and poorer – they are very popular with Brazilians too. They are designed for the independent traveller. Perhaps we should have stayed in a few more, met more travellers….but what was done was done, and we’d still had a bloody good time so far.
On Rafael’s advice then, we headed off to the bus station again and caught the old bus to Trindade The payment system on local Brazilian buses is interesting. You don’t pay the driver. You pay a woman sitting down at your left as you walk on. She then releases the metal turnstyle, and you walk through to take your seat. The woman, a blonde bombshell, was clearly enjoying her job – perhaps because it was clear that she and the charming driver had the hots for one another, and they flirted all the way to Trindade, a 25km ride up and down mountains, jungle and little villages dotted either side.
We hopped off in the little town and I felt like I were in Goa. Little restaurants, stalls selling bracelets, beads and hippy things, dogs wandering along the dusty streets aimlessly. “Which way is the beach” I asked a woman in classic tie-died sarong, with beads hanging all around her. “That way” she replied huskily, pointing in a few directions at the same time. We found it eventually. White sand, huge boulders in the sea, mesmerising views of the jungle and mountains, and hiking trails up to waterfalls in the jungle. What a beautiful spot. A few little restaurants had been set up and a several pasty travellers were kicking back with a beer. Alex and I had a good wander around, up and down the beach, where a beach footy game was going on, and into the jungle to reach a small waterfall. Then we headed to one of the boulders out to sea and chilled out on the rock looking back at the beach and the wonderful views and thinking how beautiful life can be.
Back on the beach we stopped at a little place for a bite to eat and a beer. It was run by a flamboyant Brazilian from Sao Paulo – Balla, who took quite a shine to me for some reason. He was full of energy, and spoke in that camp, lispish manner adopted by gay men the world, which I’ve always found amusing. I asked him to pose for a photo – I didn’t want to forget this character who’d seemingly been lifted from a comic book on the fashion world – and he shrieked with delight, pouting, preening and posing, throwing back his sun-kissed blonde locks and beaming. He was a character, Balla. He’s been at Trindade for 5 years or more, and loves the peaceful, laid-back vibe. He loves Sao Paolo too, but said life there was too stressful. Like so many people, he yearns of forever escaping modern life and all it’s complications and going back to basics – and with them, happiness.
We had a plate of chips and a warm beer after a 15 minute wait (Balla wasn’t the most efficient of hosts) and then Alex and I headed to the roadside to catch the last bus to Paraty. The same driver and the same ‘conductor’ were on the bus, and the flirting had risen a notch. The driver looked at her more than the road, as he careered up and down the dark mountain passes. I was sure that they’d be heading straight to a bar after this last shift, then straight to bed with each other.
Alex and I went out for a wander around the old streets of Paraty after a quick shower and change. It was quiet, seemingly from another, more elegant era entirely. The clip-clop of horses hooves echoed through the dickensian streets, the quiet chatter of local friends and couples, the soft music coming from any one of the cosy little restaurants – it reminded me of a quieter version of Merida in Mexico. A lovely, romantic place then, so it was a shame it was just Alex and I. Still, we made the best of it, and enjoyed another special 2 for 1 meal washed down with a beer in a local restaurant, before strolling the dark streets aimlessly, past the old church, and to an area where there were a few bars and tables and chairs out on the cobbles. Here we sat and had a caipirinha each, then another, then the fresh sea and mountain air knocked us out and we had to head back to the hostel, for we wanted to be up early to explore the town tomorrow before heading off to our final spot – Sao Paulo.