Paradise in Paraty

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Paraty is a small town about 5 hours south of Rio de Janeiro, famous for its cobbled streets I was looking forward to being in a smaller town and exploring its famous colonial architecture and islands. The town became famous during Brazil's gold rush when it became one of the main export ports of gold travelling to Rio de Janeiro and further. This soon got out of hand as pirates staying on nearby islands intercepted the gold laden boats; thus, a safer inland road was built to Rio. Today the main town is a pedestrianised heritage site popular with travellers and holiday makers alike. The islands and beaches that surround the bay here are beautiful as I found in the coming days.

After an initial wander through its cobbled streets I was in love with Paraty and signed myself up for a boat tour of its islands the following day. Before this though I had to find food, exploring the streets more with one of my fellow roommates we stumbled across a restaurant called Seu Joaquim, and were won over by its patrons charm and musicians mellow music. I decided to be adventurous and order a local fish dish. When it arrived I was surprised to find a plate of rice, grilled fish and what looked to be mashed banana. Not something I'd ever have dreamed of serving warm with fish but to my surprise the soft sweetness really went well with the melt in the mouth fish. I think the banana had been mixed with some potato and spring onion to mellow the flavours a little. After our meal we were treated to a Cachaça, a locally brewed spirit the town is famed for, very tasty and I'm sure the first of many.

I was up bright and early the following morning and excited to see the islands and do some swimming. We stopped at five different bays throughout the day and each was completely different, the first a small beach beneath the holiday residence of a doctor from Sao Paolo, we swam and enjoyed the scenery before heading to a small cove with a beach no more than 2 metres in size. The next stop was one of my favourites, as the skipper pulled snorkel masks from the cupboard we knew we'd be in for a treat but little did we know it wouldn't just be underwater wildlife we'd see. From shoals of fish beneath the surface to lizards, birds and tiny monkeys on the rocks I was enthralled at how all the species coexisted, sharing the bananas and breads being thrown from the boat rather than fighting over them. The monkeys with tiny faces and giant ginger manes were definitely a highlight of this stop. Hopefully I'll see some more throughout my travels.

The next stop was a lunch stop and my new favourite kind of restaurant, a kilo restaurant, it's basically a buffet where they weigh your plate and charge per kilo, pretty great as it means you can eat as little / much as you like and pay based on this, every travellers dream. It can be a bit risky, as with the one I had in Rio, you aren't sure what you're eating but I guess that's all part of the adventure! Our final stop of the day was an amazing looking bay, surrounded by rainforest little did we know in its waters were turtles. After watching them dart about popping up for air every now and again a few of us put back on our snorkel masks and went for a closer look. Hoping even to get the ever amazing turtle selfie! Alas, it wasn't my day, with our friends on the boat shouting 'its behind you' the scene became similar to a pantomime but the little or in some cases not so little guys surprised us with their speed, one kick and they're gone... I did manage to get a picture of one and as we headed back to a Paraty another popped his head up alongside the boat to say farewell; a great end to a day beach hopping!

That night the hostel was doing steak and caipirinha's for dinner so we got involved before setting off to a Samba party we had heard was happening in town. The energy at the party was amazing, varying instruments and voices kept up a fast beat. With drinks flowing and feet moving even faster we tried and failed to keep up with the locals, an amazing night to be part of and apparently it happens every Monday, so if you're ever in Paraty be sure to make it a Monday! The madness much to our dismay was done by 11 when the band and dancers dispersed and started serving soup to everyone in the building. A very strange ritual but the soup was tasty and having made friends with some of the locals they "took the gringos to the bar" and we carried on a bit longer before calling it a night.

I had decided to stop over in São Paolo to break my journey to Florianopolis so spent the following day relaxing at the nearby Praia do Forte and exploring some more of the town before an overnight bus to the metropolis that is Sao Paolo. With this final wander of the town I realised something had changed and some of the streets seemed to be waterlogged yet I wasn't aware of any rainfall. Following the water I found the source to be the Paraty main harbour. It seemed when the tide was in it flowed through inlets in the town walls making the streets nearest the water more like the canals of Venice, and bringing small one clawed crabs who live in the sand between the cobbles out to play!

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