Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mini vacation in Paradise, Brasil

Well, I'm back home in the states, sweltering in the summer heat here! Although it's nice to be home, I do miss Brazil. Tonight I'm making feijoada (traditional bean-pork stew) for dinner, and I baked pão de queijo (cheese bread) for breakfast. Yum!

My last week in Brazil was wonderful. After breakfasting on tapioca at the weekly sunday market in Glória I headed to the bus station and spent four uneventful hours on the ride to Paraty. The hostel I had booked was right next to the bus station, so it was easy to get to. I spent the evening on Sunday there, since I had arrived after dark.

Monday was spent exploring the beautiful colonial town of Paraty. It was a big change from Rio—much smaller, and quite quaint, with a beautiful harbor. Paraty is known for having a very well-preserved historic center: it is filled with colorful colonial buildings and rough cobbled streets that are only accessible by foot, bike, or horse (and there are many horse-drawn carriages). I relaxed by the beautiful harbour, had lunch at a buffet à kilo full of signs advertising Jesus (a proselytizing cafeteria?) and saw the cultural museum. I also checked out some of the shops and restaurants.

Paraty is very walkable in a day, so the next day I decided to do something different, and took a kayak tour. That was a great experience—we kayaked all around the harbour, stopping at some beautiful beaches where I took on my mermaid persona and spent a wonderful time in the water (not as cold as Ipanema!). I was in a group with portuguese, spanish, and french speakers (no native english speakers), so I had a great time trying to practice my french which the other frenchies, while speaking portuguese with the guide.

That evening, I changed out of my bathing suit and hopped on a bus to Trindade, a small beach village around 40 minutes away that had been recommended to me by one of my friends back in Rio. When the bus arrived in the town it was like a roller coaster ride—a narrow windy street that even passed over a brook at one point. My hostel was nice—in the jungle, with some nice other guests I got to know. That evening the owner of the hostel (from England), made sashimi for us from fish that had just been caught and hauled up onto the beach a few hundred yards away. Mmmmm fresh fish.

The next day I spent relaxing on the beach (Trindade is known for its beautiful beaches) and exploring the little town. My real adventure came the day after that, when I embarked with the owner and guests (2 canadians, 2 south africans, 2 english) from the hostel on an overnight trek to Ponta Negra, a fishing village even smaller than Trindade. We started off in motorboats from Trindade, and spotted some dolphins on our way to the first beach! From there we hiked most of the way, stopping off at other beaches for swimming, bathing, and at one point, rock jumping off a pretty crazy high rock. We also stopped at a nice (yet chilly waterfall) to rinse off from all our dips in the ocean.

We got to Ponta Negra in the evening and set up our stuff in the house where we stayed the night. Ponta Negra has no electricity and no roads leading in to it—all arrivals are on foot or by boat. They do have gas and solar power, so we did have electric lights and running water, but it was still quite basic. It was a wonderful vacation—physically and mentally. We had (can you guess?) fish for dinner—wonderfully cooked, with rice and beans, and enjoyed watching fishing boats come in with their catches and teenagers playing soccer on the beach.

The next day was a beach day—I alternated between sunbathing, swimming, and jumping off rocks (sometimes getting scraped up—I got a lot of cuts and scrapes and bug bites on that trip!). We had another wonderful fish lunch, then took a boat back to Trindade (no dolphins this time). Later that evening, I took another bus back to Paraty with the 2 canadians, had a quick dinner in Paraty, then took the 4-hour bus ride back to Rio, arriving around 1 AM. It was a long day—from a tiny fishing village back to Rio de Janeiro—but wonderful.

The next day I mainly spent packing—though I did get to have a nice lunch with a friend of my record teacher from home. It was nice to meet another "local," and it was nice to be back in Rio, if only for a day. That evening I said goodbye to my friends at the hostel and headed to the airport to catch my flight back to the states. 10 hours to Charlotte, 1 hour 40 minutes to Boston, and I was home, exhausted, but not too exhausted—no jet lag from Brazil!

It was a wonderful trip, and I think the experience really taught me a lot. I suppose I thought "I've traveled so much, there won't be any surprises here" but I do think that my trip to Brazil stretched my boundaries and opened my mind and helped me grow. So I'll finish up by saying: obrigada pela experiência fantástica, Brasil! Thanks for the fantastic experience.