Published: March 21st 2008March 6th 2008
We know we already claimed we found Paradise two blogs ago, and we hate to sound like brats, but we are pretty sure this time, we found Paradise. For real.
The final leg of our Brazil trip was spent on the famed Costa Verde, the coastline between Rio de Janeiro and the Sao Paulo state. The Costa Verde can be described as hundreds of miles of tropical coastline and islands with one perfect beach after another.
After a 2 hour drive south from Rio down the Costa Verde and a 1.5 hour boat ride, we arrived at the lush and laid back Ilha Grande
. We stayed in the small port town of Abraao, the only major settlement on the entire island. The port town has lots of boats and dessert carts, but not a single automobile in sight. With the exception of the giant snails that covered the roads at night like land mines, there was little to worry about in the way of street traffic. After spending a week in the bustling metropolis of Rio de Janeiro, always on guard for potential muggers, crazy drivers, or shemale prostitutes, we were thrilled to be on such a tranquil island
Taking a breather on the hike to Lopes Mendes Beach
paradise. Though a week in the city had hardened us a bit, the rasta vibe, deserted beaches, and emerald forests were sure to loosen us up.
While on Ilha Grande, we returned to our routine of taking beautiful hikes to different beaches around the island. The two hour hike to Praia Lopes Mendes was our favorite excursion. What started out as a difficult uphill hike through a disgustlingly humid forest began to improve as we stumbled upon deserted beach after deserted beach on the way to the afforementioned Lopes Mendes beach. Just as we would begin to get too hot to walk any further another beach would reveal itself.
The next day we took a boat trip to some inaccessible parts of the island, with the highlight being Lagoa Azul. Lagoa Azul is not a lake at all, but rather a little cove where the water just happens to be incredibly clear and full of tropical fish and colorful coral. People on the boat throw crackers into the water and the fish swarm around you. This was some of the prettiest water we have ever seen, great for snorkeling, especially with all the fish.
Nights in Ilha
This guy was incredible
grande were very relaxed. Restaurants and bars line the water front and it seemed like there were always a couple of guys playing live reggae music. The water front was also lined with dessert carts--large display cases on wheels, full of fruity and chocolatey goodness. On our last night in Ilha Grande, we were lucky enough to see a local Capoeira group on the pier. For those who aren´t familiar with Capoeira, it is an Afro-Brazilian martial art and dance created by slaves in the 16th century. It is believed to have been created as a way for slaves to practice fighting, but because it looks more like a dance, slave owners wouldn´t know what they were up to. Capoeira is very athletic and entertaining to watch, a real slice of Brazilian culture.
After 3 days on the island, we headed back to the mainland and continued our tour of the Costa Verde. Our next stop was the colonial town of Paraty
. Paraty has a beautiful and very well preserved colonial part of town. This part of town is, in fact, so beautiful and well-funded, that the rest of Paraty is, well, shit. These roughly 10 square blocks of
town is full of churches, colorful houses, creative restaurants and art galleries, and cobblestoned streets that were so old and original that you could easily sprain an ankle if you weren´t careful. Every night the sounds of live Bossanova would float out of the restaurants and into the streets, giving your incredibly relaxing stroll a beautiful soundtrack. Paraty was our first chance to listen to Bossanova in Brazil, and although we didn´t understand the words, its sounded beautiful.
We spent the majority of our days in Paraty doing much of the same...beaches, beaches, beaches. Praia Trinidade was a beautiful beach. I am sure you have heard enough about beaches at this point. With beautiful, warm water, very fine sand and tropical forests creeping right up to the sand, Brazilian beaches do not disappoint.
Having spent nearly 2 weeks on the Costa Verde cooking in the sun and downing Açai until we turned purple, we left Paraty with great reservations. We were a little apprehensive about our next destination, but had little choice seeing as how we had to fly out of Sao Paulo
to reach the next leg of our trip (Peru). Sao Paulo is HUGE. With a
I wonder why they chose green trim for the door?
population of 17 million people Sao Paulo is South America´s largest, most influential, and possibly most dangerous city. Ask any Lonely Planet´s South America on a Shoestring
disciple and they will tell you two facts about the dangers of Sao Paulo: 1) 700 people are murdered a month, and 2) the city center is so dangerous at night that you do not have to stop at red lights but simply slow down a bit, to avoid car jackings or worse.
We decided to spend one night here to check out the sights before our afternoon flight the next day and found that maybe Sao Paulo gets a bad rap. I mean, think about it. Sure 700 people get murdered a month, but to be fair, 17 million
people live there...we did the math and figured out that we only had a 0.00004% of getting capped...we decided to take our chances. We stayed at a hostel in the university district run by a bunch of recent college grads who would never want to live anywhere else. The way they talk about Sao Paulo is the way a New Yorker talks about NYC, how the city is so alive, so many
Skyscrapers for days
The Concrete Jungle that is Sao Paulo
things to do, so much culture, etc. etc.
We woke up early to try to get a very small taste of what Sao Paulo is all about. From our hostel we took the subway to get the historic city center. This may bore some people, but I just wanted to mention that Sao Paulo has the most impressive subway system I have ever seen (its worth a trip just to see this thing!) (Kidding, of course). Some highlights of the city included the gothic Cathedral de Se, the Municipal Theater, and the BANESPA Building. Once the tallest building in Sao Paulo, it has a free elevator ride to the top. From the observation deck you can really get a feel for how big this city is, skyscrapers for as far as you can see, not really beautiful, but jaw dropping and impressive. It dwarfs New York and makes Los Angeles´ air look smog free.
Possibly the coolest part of the day was going to Sao Paulo´s municipal market. Sarah and I have come to realize that we love markets, especially food markets. We have never seen one as impressive as Sao Paulo´s. Meats, cheeses, fruits, nuts, spices, flowers--the
smell´s were amazing. Anyone who loves food would appreciate this place. We couldn´t help but think of Sarah´s Uncle Larry when we walked down the aisles.
Sao Paulo´s historic center was attractive, a nice mix of modern buildings and colonial churches and theaters. It was not nearly as sketchy or ugly as the guidebooks made it out to be. We happily made it out of Sao Paulo unskathed and with a new found respect for the megatropolis.
From Sao Paulo we would fly to Peru, the so-called Cultural Capital of the Americas. Things were about to change quite a bit. We would be going from South America´s most wealthy and modern country to one of its poorest. Steeped in a mix Inca traditions and Spanish Catholicism, Peru would be a complete cultural 180. The remainder of our trip through Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia will prove much more challenging than the more Westernized countries of Argentina, Chile, and Brazil. Although we have spent nearly 6 months in South America, we feel like the real adventure is only now beginning.
There are more photos below