Published: August 28th 2011July 19th 2011
The river that flows over the falls at Iguazu is also the border between Argentina and Brazil. As we crossed the bridge in a taxi, the driver pointed to a car parked by the road and being unloaded and said ´Contriband´. For border smugglers, they didn´t seem too concerned about being caught.
We flew out of a foggy Iguacu 2 hours late (now that we're in Brazil, the spelling is a little different). The clouds thinned as we crossed the Amazon jungle but came in again when we neared the rugged, forested coast. What we saw of Rio was not inviting - untidy and covered in graffiti.
We caught a late bus and drove into the night to Paraty, 4 and a half hours down along a stunning coastline. Rugged, rocky, heavily forested hills dropping straight into the ocean, forming hundreds of bays and sandy coves. All we saw were the lights of the many villages, looking pretty nestled into the hills. They don't look so pretty in the daylight. Wednesday and Thursday
Paraty is an old colonial town with the historical section closed to traffic, except delivery carts and horse carts or buggies. The roads which
Paraty's old centre
it's been closed off to traffic and I can see why: the paving is really rough, even for walking
were built by slaves are paved with rounded boulders making it difficult to walk without total concentration. The buildings are white with coloured doorways and windows, all very pretty. From here yachts and party boats take people to some of the hundreds of small beaches and islands nearby.
On a headland above the town, an old fortress stands, built to protect against pirates who came to raid the gold. Parati was, for a time. the only access to the mines in the jungle and that made it very prosperous. When an alternate road was built to the mines, the town declined until discovered by tourists.
We were staying in a hotel outside the entrance to the town beside a small river and within sight of the main road along the coast. It was a bit under 2kms into town and we walked in and out again each day. Our feet were killing us the first time we did it as we also walked all round town and went up to the fortress.
The rooms were cabins set in a lush garden and with a hammock on the door step. A rock path lead to the pool and
open dining area where we had the most excellent breakfasts. The pool was being renovated, so swimming was out and next door, machines worked all day moving around dirt that was being dredged out of the river. We weren't inclined to sit aroud the pool for very long. Friday
We had fine weather in Paraty, but it changed on the drive to Angra dos Reis from where we took a ferry to Ilha Grande, an hour away.
As we arrived the rain started in earnest but we were met at the wharf by the hotel porter, our bags were shoved into garbage bags and put on a barrow, we were given umbrellas and we followed the barrow along the beachfront, up a back road and finally along the beach to our pousada [hotel] dodging puddles all the way.
This particular hotel had been recommended to us by a friend and it was easy to see why. It was kept spotless (definitely the cleanest of the whole trip), the service was great and good English was spoken there.
The island is quite large (that's what it's name means) and is covered in thick rain forest and had
decided to live up to that fact. There are few roads as cars etc are forbidden. There are only a few motorised vehicles for the island's maintenance. So to get around you must use Shank's pony (your feet) or the many boat taxis. The hiking tracks are steep and generally in poor condition as they are constantly being eroded by the rainfall. Saturday
We went back through town and along the track to the lazaretto. This place was set beside a small stream overlooking the beach. It had started it's life as a farm house, was used as a quarantine station and finished as a prison for political prisoners. It was now dark ruins in the jungle. Further along the track is the aqua duct which is still in use.
Still with plenty of time - to return before nightfall - we decided to continue to the falls about an hour away. The track was steep, damp clay or rock with the going made easier by tree roots. Hard work. At the falls we watched as a woman abseiled down it with an instructor. With a large group of Brazilians invading the small area it was time to
leave. On the trek back it started to rain again, so out came the jackets and umbrellas, again. Sunday
We prepared for the big trek to Lopes Mendes beach on the ocean side of the island. It would be a 2 and half hour hike on steep, rough tracks accompanied by a yellow dog most of the way. We saw few people on that hike. From Abraao it was an hour across to the next beach, Palmas where yellow dog joined us. He looked exactly like the dog that had started out with us on Abraao Beach. He was a timid dog, running into the water with his tail under his belly when chased by 2 dogs on Palmas. Once in the water, he'd turn and bark at them. It was probably not the first time they'd chased him as he seemed to know that they wouldn't follow him into the water. He pretty much ignored us as he trotted along just ahead. However the more time he spent with us, the less aloof he became.
The beach was sure worth the hike; my photos don't do it justice. It has fine white sand that crunched underfoot, cool
clear water and a surf that I enjoyed. It didn't rain and the sun came out for the short time we were there.
Beach almond trees lined the beach and I changed into my swimmers under their dark canopy. Yellow dog found some friends to play with, occasionally returning to sit with us, but when we left an hour and a half later, he had disappeared. Rather than hike back the whole way, most people take the boat taxis...that's what we did. Because even the sections which were supposed to by easy were rough.
The only wildlife we saw was a small squirrel which Jill manage to spot by accident. Both days we heard a loud metalic noise, steel against steel, like when the brakes of a train are applied. Turned out it was a bird that we heard but never saw. And just before we arrived at Palmas beach, for 15mins, we could hear in the distance, someone talking and the roar of a crowd. I think it was a soccer match.
In the evenings a short walk along the beach will bring you to any number of good places to eat and drink.
we left the next morning, the hotel's owner also came back on the ferry with us and drove us to the bus station and made sure we had seats on the side with the view. The ferry is big and old and motors along in it's unhurried way. People chat, play cards, dose, work on laptops or watch the islands go by, besides the many ships waiting to enter the port at Angra dos Reis. And sometimes if you're lucky you might spot a pod of dolphins.
There are more photos below