From Rio de Janeiro, we took a bus to the coastal town of Paraty. As we were travelling before the high season started, we were lucky enough to be able to make last-minute decisions and accommodation bookings based on where our moods took us. After the hustle-and-bustle of Rio, we were in the mood for heading somewhere relaxed and quiet, and our guide book seemed to indicate that Paraty could be that spot.
Paraty (pronounced ‘pah-rah-chee’) is a UNESCO world heritage site, a four-hour bus ride down the coast from Rio. It was the first colonised settlement in Brazil, and has a definite Portuguese feel to its cobbled streets and white-washed buildings. Ironically, it also appears to be sponsored by Mastercard and Visa – all the street signs have the Mastercard symbol on them, and there are signs for both cards everywhere.
I imagine that during high season, Paraty is overrun by tourists. However, we saw hardly any other tourists during our visit, which made for a peaceful couple of days. As we watched the sun set over the local beach on our first evening, we were pleasantly surprised to see that it was locals, not gringos, enjoying the water. There were also lots of stray dogs, lazing about on the sand. One decided to make himself at home under our table, until there was some sort of dog excitement that caught his attention.
On our second day in Paraty, we took a boat trip – the local “port” is filled with boats, and for R$25, you choose a boat and get a five-hour trip to some beautiful beaches and bays. The water was a beautiful turquoise and lovely to swim in; we snorkelled and swam and had a delicious fresh fish lunch on board. The crew were very friendly and our boat had a guy singing and playing guitar which added to the experience. The fact that we couldn’t understand a word he was saying didn’t matter a bit; he liked Tall’s Arsenal t-shirt – funny how football is a universal language…