This past weekend, I left the concrete jungles of São Paulo to take a relaxing vacation at the small beach town of Paraty in the state of Rio de Janeiro. I went with seven other students, all from Maastricht University in the Netherlands- six Germans and one Dutch girl. We definitely looked like foreigners with the very blonde German boys all being around 6 foot 3. The trip started off a little shaky (literally.) Since there were 8 of us, we decided to rent a car. We got an 8-seater hippie VW bus and headed on our way. We took the shortest route that Google Maps offered, a 4 hour drive through the interior of Brazil. The trip was going smoothly until we ran out of actual road. It turns out that they hadn’t actually built the last 70 kilometers of roads through the jungle, but seemed to have hacked a path through with machetes which our bulky bus had trouble stumbling over. It was completely dark outside and there wasn’t a sign of civilization sans the construction materials alongside the rocky path. We started making horror movie jokes, light-heartedly joking about if the bus broke down who would be the first to die. Fortunately, the bus made it all the way to 200 meters away from our hostel before giving up its little VW spirit and stopping in the middle of a street in Paraty. I can’t even fathom what we would have done if that had happened even 30 minutes sooner in the pitch black jungles of Brazil’s interior.
The city of Paraty is a beautiful, colonial-esque city. The streets of the charming historic center are made of irregularly shaped cobblestones which force you to take life at a leisurely pace as you carefully navigate through the streets. The buildings, which still have their 17th century charm well-preserved, have been turned into restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and little shops. We stayed at the coziest little hostel called Backpacker’s Hostel. The atmosphere, like most well-visited hostels, was very laid-back and comfortable with hammocks hanging from the ceiling both on the porch and inside. The owner, Paulo, arranged an amazing breakfast for all of us every morning with fresh pão de francês from the local bakery, a wide assortment of tropical fruits, and other foods.
The next day, we soothed our post-roadtripping anxiety by taking a bus to a nearby beach called Trindade with our new Australian friends we met at the hostel. We spent our time there enjoying the South American sun, crashing into the waves, and hiking through the tropical forests to find a rumored waterfall slide. The “slide” turned out to be less of a slide and more of an underground rock cavern that you could slip your body into through a crack and then explore while resurfacing from the other side of the rock while trying to not think of the different species of poisonous spiders Brazil is known for hosting. Not exactly Schlitterbahn, but it was a cool experience.
Our little VW bus magically came back to life on Saturday, so we took it out in search of actual waterfalls and found a wonderful spot called Cachoeira Tobogã, which translates to “Waterslide Waterfall” in English. It was made up of this river running through the tropical forest, flowing over slippery rock formations and creating many different cool and refreshing waterfalls along the way. At the bottom was a long slab of rock which people were using as a giant awesome waterslide. After hanging out at the waterfalls all morning, we headed back to Trindade Beach to relax and work on our Brazilian tans.
The last day of our vacation, we explored the islands around Paraty with a boat tour. We had an adorable pink boat named the Rockin’ Rio which had a nice cushioned area on top with pillows to lie around on. The captain stopped the boat around at several places so we could jump into the ocean and swim around. We put on snorkel masks and saw tropical fish and sea turtles- one of the schools of fish we saw swimming around looked like tiny swordfish. We stopped for lunch at one of the island restaurants- the markup on their food was more expensive than at ACL or the Texas State Fair, we paid a little less than $10 USD for a basket of french fries. After the boat tour, the girls and I had a bus to catch back to São Paulo since the guys were staying an extra day. The bus was really roomy and comfortable and a great place to sleep after an exhaustingly relaxing weekend at the beach. We didn’t run into any car trouble, but the traffic made up of all the other million Paulistas who were returning back to the city after a similar weekend vacation turned a 4 hour trip into a 7 hour one.
I loved Paraty – we managed to find the perfect balance of adventure and relaxation in our trip. Coming back to the hustle and craziness of São Paulo was a bit of an adjustment, but I’m already planning my next trip to Rio! Até logo