22 Feb – 14 Mar
I arrived in Paraty almost at sundown, after having spent most of the day on the bus (it was about a 5-6 hour journey), chatting with a cute little old lady sitting next to me. I checked myself into a hostel, not having found a CouchSurfing host in Paraty, and promptly made friends with a delightful Australian girl, Tara, there. We decided to go to the beach to see what was going on, and discovered a pretty cool band playing there.
We hung out there for a bit, before heading to the historic center where pre-Carnival festivities were in full swing.
It seemed really fun, but we were both tired and decided to go to bed instead of partying all night. The next day was a gorgeous Sunday, so Tara and I decided to check out this little hippie town called Trindade. It wasn’t as hippie as everyone made it out to be, but it definitely was more laid-back than other places. We first went to the beach (which had absolutely perfect water – just the right temperature and amount of waves),
then to the cachoeira (waterfall which was overcrowded and not very impressive, unless we didn’t get to the right waterfall), then had lunch and finally went to the piscina natural (natural swimming pool which didn’t really have much water, it being low tide and all).
Glorious day at the beach couldn’t have been more perfect. Tara left that night, and the next morning, I left the hostel to go to Junior’s house, a CouchSurfer who finally accepted my request. I met his lovely niece, Quezia and her husband, Anderson, and had a delicious lunch prepared by Quezia before Junior and I headed to the toboggan at Penha. (Quezia also christened me Angelina because she couldn’t say my name or my nickname – a shortcoming of most Brazilians, apparently) It was super fun sliding down the rocks and jumping into the pools, despite the incredibly cold water.
We also stopped by the local distillery to try some cachaça, a(n awful) spirit made from sugar cane and fruit liquors. That evening, Junior was taking his friend’s mother to a circus nearby, and invited me along. It was obviously a circus for kids, but hey, why the hell not right?
It turned out to be quite fun, even though I didn’t quite understand the jokes the clowns were making.
The next day was a trip to Praia do Sono, a beach only accessible by boat, or an hour long trek. We obviously trekked,
and even saw a snake on the way (first snake sighting!) which delighted me tremendously, but Junior was less pleased.
Still, it was a nice trek,
and a nice beach at the end of it.
We also went to a little cachoeira/ pool nearby, Poço do Jacare, which was nice and refreshing after the salt of the sea. In the evening, we met Junior’s friend, Daniel and his mum (whom I had met at the circus the previous night) for dinner, before heading to town to check out a performance featuring Funk (pronounced funky) music. It was awful music that lacked any real melody, but it was amusing to watch the girls dancing to it.
I realized that despite having been in Paraty for four days, I had not really seen much of the historic centre, so the next day I headed to town to explore. It’s a very quaint little town, with lots of remnants of a colonial past.
It was a little bit like taking a step back into the past. That afternoon, I had an adventure of Tarzanic proportions. Junior brought me to this really cool pool, which had ropes from which one could swing and jump into the pool, just like Tarzan! So so so much fun!
I didn’t have much planned for the next day, but Junior had to prepare some stuff for his church retreat over the Carnival weekend, so I helped him out with that in the morning.
We had lunch at his friend, Alexandra’s home – a really welcoming lady with a delightful family and delicious food. In the afternoon, Junior’s family (his parents, nephew Alexandre and niece Ana Clara) arrived from Rio de Janeiro, as they were also going for the church retreat. Really friendly people, although Junior had to work overtime being a translator – I didn’t speak much Portuguese (understatement of the year) and they didn’t speak English. Ana Clara wanted to go to a cachoeira, so off we went to Pedra Branca! The rocks were really white,
and we had a nice afternoon, swimming in the cold waters. Junior was heading to his church in the evening, so I tagged along, partially because I couldn’t really talk to anyone else at home, but it was a pretty chilled out session at the church (Daniel is the pastor and he was really funny, even though half of what he said sailed right over my head). Anyway, these kind folk were going on a boat trip as part of the church retreat the next day, and they invited me along. I was going to leave the next day, but they all seemed so friendly that I decided to stay an extra day. So the next day, it was chaos and madness getting ready and heading out on the boat trip, but it turned out to be a fun day anyway.
It was a nice mix of kids, teenagers and adults (although I was the only 20-something there), and nobody but Junior and Alexandra’s daughter Raphaela spoke English, but I still had fun, despite my initial apprehension and awkwardness.
And guess what? Junior, seeing that I had gotten along so well with everyone, especially the teenagers, invited me to spend a couple of days at the church retreat before heading to Rio. Being the pushover that I am (and they were all super nice!), I agreed to stay a couple of extra days. Long story short, I ended up staying in Paraty with Junior, his family and lovely church members for the entire duration of the church retreat, completely missing out on Carnival in Rio like I had originally planned. It just goes to show, doesn’t it? Well, highlights of the retreat were the super amusing games we played everyday,
going to the cachoeira every afternoon,
going to Bloco do Lama and embracing our tribal side,
a movie-themed party,
and a country-themed party,
amongst other things.
Needless to say, when the retreat was over and it was time to say goodbye, it was tough. After just a few short days together, these strangers with whom I couldn’t even have a proper conversation, had become my family away from home. ❤
Well, fun and games all have to end, and once we got back to Junior’s house, it was to work, cleaning and reorganizing the house. The next day was a nice trip to São Gonçalo beach,with Junior’s family that had stayed on. We also went to the cachoeira nearby,
but it suddenly started raining, drenching all of us and making the trip back rather amusing. The post-retreat pizza party in the evening was fantastic though, and it was so nice to see all the familiar faces I had grown accustomed to seeing again.
Well, having been in Paraty for almost two weeks, I had planned to leave for Rio the next day, but getting drenched in the rain was obviously not good for me, and I caught a dreadful flu bug. That killed any chance of leaving, and I stayed on in Junior’s home, just resting and trying to recover. His family all left that day, and I was sorry to see them go.
Obviously, my phone was too, as it committed suicide and stopped working that day 😦 A sad day indeed. Junior’s friend’s family was visiting for the next couple of days, and Junior persuaded me into sticking around till they left. It turned out to be a pretty good thing that I stayed though, what with my flu not getting much better. We all went to São Gonçalo,
Penha, a beach in São Paulo called Fazendo (I think),
and Trindade (which had more water in the piscina natural this time). It was nice revisiting these places, but the highlight was the 12 meter jump into the pool at Penha that I did, which I had been too afraid to do the first time.
Really awesome stuff, even though I think I landed in the water weirdly and hurt my chest somehow – it hurt for about a month after that.
And finally, after almost 3 weeks in Paraty, it was time to leave.
Third time lucky, right? So it was off to Rio de Janeiro, with (surprise!) an accomplice – Junior, who decided to visit his family in Rio too. Bought our tickets, and vamos a Rio!
Strangers [Written 14 Mar, opening line courtesy of Junior]
In Paraty, I met a crazy guy who didn’t want to let me go. And why I didn’t rescue myself, I don’t know. Or well, actually I do know. He is a fantastic guy, and I really enjoyed his company. He introduced me to his family and friends, and made me feel like I was home again. And it’s always difficult to leave home, isn’t it? Even if you know that at some point, the time will come for you to leave, it doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. It’s something I’ve come to realize during this trip. That home is not a place, it’s a feeling. It’s the comfort, the feeling of friendship and family, the love that even complete strangers have for you, despite knowing nothing about you or your background, what kind of person you are or anything of the sort. Why? I don’t know why.
People are strange. Strange and awful. Strange and wonderful. They don’t think anything of destroying the planet for profits, of tossing food in the garbage while millions starve, of killing each other in the name of ideals. But they also don’t think twice about opening their homes and hearts to strangers, of sharing their lives with others, of making a stranger feel like part of their family. And to me, this gives me some sort of…something. Hope? Optimism? Confidence? That not all is lost and that there is hope for the human race yet.