The bus is an hour late. That in is nothing unusual in Brazil. Neither is the fact that the bus driver later on tries to make up for it by speeding through the rain which has washed away any view over the road or the other cars.

I was told that the trip from Arraial do Cabo to Paraty would take about four hours, the perfect amount of time to spend traveling for a long weekend getaway. No, no, the bus driver tells us later, it will take about six hours. With his one hour delay and the rain slowing us down it takes eight. None of us mind terribly once we are actually on the bus mainly because there is nothing we can do about it anyway. I spend the bus-ride sleeping and working as good as I can on a bus that was not made for people with long legs. My friend Benno makes a new acquaintance with the driver who compliments his Spanish-Portuguese and we make our way through various Brazilian snacks.

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On the Long Road to Paraty

I am on a road trip with some of my new friends from Viventura who I have been staying with in Brazil for the past few weeks. We are off to explore Paraty, a proper pirate village and home of the infamous cachaça spirit.

That is also all I want when we finally arrive at our guesthouse in the late afternoon. But first things first, we meet Filipe our guide for the next couple of days and get going with our sightseeing tour.

Paraty has many sights but nothing quite as spectacular as Filipe’s long lashes as us girls quickly discover. This makes up for the history lesson in lieu of drinks and we willingly follow him over wobbly cobblestones from one church to the next.

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Back in the day, there was one church exclusively for white people, one for the black slave population, one for aristrocat women, and only the church Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora do Remédios was for everyone. That probably explains why it is crowded today because it is Black Consciousness Day in Brazil. We only poke our heads inside as to not disturb the service and make our way to the Capela de Santa Rita which is closest to the shoreline. Here Felipe wants to tell us the nice story of the weeping lady (his words, not mine!). It is is a good match in drama to Romeo & Juliet and ends with broken hearts and a ghost. When I complain that this hardly makes for a nice story, Filipe adds a killer smile to his lashes and declares that he never promised the story would be nice.

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Meet Jorge Amado

We end our tour in true Brazilian fashion at the local Thai restaurant, aptly named Thai Brasil. After two weeks of mediocre food, I am delighted for prawn curry & co and, even more, delighted to make the acquaintance of a very special gentleman. Jorge Amado was not only the name of one of Brazil’s most beloved writers but is also the name of a cachaça cocktail exclusive to Paraty. Made with cinnamon and glove infused cachaça called Gabriela (also the name of one of his novels) and maracuja it tastes like Christmas in a glass and is a welcome alternative to our usual Caipirinha. While a Jorge tastes like fruit punch it is just as potent and I quickly realize that not being to be able to pronounce its name properly is a good indicator to stop drinking.

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Did anybody say Pirates?

The village of Paraty was turned into a Portuguese town in 1667. It became an important trading post for the gold coming from Minas Gerais that was shipped on to Rio and from there back to Portugal. Not only the Portuguese traders were keen for the gold but also local pirates who would inhabit the islands and coves in the Bay of Angra dos Reis hoping for their golden opportunity. Eventually, they became too successful and a land route to Rio was found to transport the gold. When the gold finally ran out in the 18th century Paraty fell into complete decline.

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A Rainforest Adventure

However, to this day the remains of the Caminho do Ouro, the gold trail can be found just outside of town. The next morning we follow the well-preserved stone path through the jungle which was once used to transport supplies and slaves to the mines and gold back to the coast.

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Luckily we only carry small day packs with water and our costumes because for us the way conveniently ends after an hour and a half walk at some hidden rock pools. While swimming in these pools is all well and good, the real fun lies in sliding down a massive natural stone slide into the water.

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The local pros show us how it’s done: they run then slide, they run and surf on their own feet, they run then jump over each other. Some of us watch the fun from the distance at first, but I finally can’t keep away any longer – it looks like too much fun not to join in. Filipe shows us novices how to slide down, demurely sitting on our bums – no running or jumping for us! Still, it is highly addictive and we go again and again.

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From Cachaça to Caipirinha

After all this excitement and exercise we are well deserving of a drink and lucky for us cachaça tasting is up next on our agenda. After the gold ran out in Paraty it became famous for its cachaça so we are in the right place. At the local distillery, we not only learn that cachaça is basically the cheap little stepsister of rum, but also that this not necessarily a bad thing. Aged cachaça is a beautiful thing and we try thimbles full of different ages and infusions. Filipe tells us that back in the day slaves were given cachaca to become more manageable. However, eventually one cannot live off alcohol alone and their owners added limes and sugar to their diet thus creating the Caipirinha. He chuckles again so I am not sure whether the story is true, but it’s definitely gruesome enough to spoil my taste for Caipirinha for the rest of the evening.

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Setting Sails

On our last day, we finally get to play pirates ourselves and take a schooner trip around the bay. To get to the harbor, we make our way through the now muddy roads. Twice a month the roads close to the shore get completely flooded, which back in the day was used to bring goods directly from the ships to the warehouses using small canoes. Add some rain to this and I recommend wearing something else than Havaianas to explore the old part of Paraty. Mine get promptly stuck in the mud and tear, I finally have a good excuse for a visit at the Havaianas store.

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First things first and we go aboard our home for the day where we are greeted by Giselle and her husband, our hosts. While the weather is still gloomy we leave the harbor bundled up and cozy on deck and enjoy a perfect view on the Capela de Santa Rita. I think it needs weather like this to actually see the ghost of the weeping lady.

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Though there is a slight drizzle the samba sounds, pool noodles and the promise that the water is even warmer in the rain gets us all into the ocean during our first island stop. Giselle doesn’t lie, the water is the warmest I’ve had in Brazil and to my delight, I even manage to find a cat to play with on the deserted beach where we moor.

Back on board, it is lunch time with fresh fish, beer, and homemade brigadeiros, Brazilian pralines and my favorite when drenched in coconut flakes. Just in time for a nap, the sun shows her face and I am allowed to feel like a proper pirate sleeping in the net at the bow.

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Back in town, I spend some time at the Havaianas store and the little boutiques selling nicknacks and local crafts. While touristy, the charm of the old town makes it all better somehow as do the dessert carts all around. After a last dinner and a few final Jorge Amados, we make our way back along the river promenade which reminds me of Hoi An in the dark.

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Filipe leads the way in the front and I hang back with Benno. He leans to me and whispers: “Wanna know a secret?” “Sure, what is it?” “What is the first thing you noticed about Filipe?” “That he has really long lashes?!” Benno gasps. “You already know the secret?” I laugh. “Benno, that is not a secret, we girls have known and appreciated them from day one!”. I leave Benno to his astonishment and catch up to Mr. Long-lashes, I hope he might have another ‘nice’ story for me for the way home.

annika_travelettes-4 Good to Know before you go:

  • The easiest way to get to Paraty from Rio is by public bus. While I haven’t taken that route I found bus travel in Brazil to be very easy, safe, and comfortable.
  • In Paraty you will find numerous pousadas (guesthouses) and hostels, depending on your budget. If you wanted to splurge I would recommend the Pousada do Ouro in the center of the old town; while I didn’t stay there myself it looked rather lovely.
  • Paraty offers a variety of activities for history and nature lovers as well as watersport fans. Whether you appreciate handsome Brazilian guys with long lashes I can highly recommend our guide, Filipe. You can get in touch with him here.
  • Last but not least, remember the rule for drinking Jorge Amado – once you start ordering ‘another George’ it is time to stop!

All images by Annika

This post was written by Annika Ziehen who was a Travelette until 2019. Originally from Germany, Annika has lived in New York and Cape Town and now travels the world full time. She considers herself a very hungry mermaid and writes about her adventures, scuba diving and food on her blog The Midnight Blue Elephant. You can also find her on Instagram here!