Brazil, part two – far from the city

It took about four hours to get from Sao Paulo to the little colonial town of Paraty on Brazil’s Costa Verde (Green Coast).  The distance is not really that far, about 250 km, but going on the ring road around the great metropolis was pretty time consuming.  Our intrepid host, Adolpho managed the truly amazing descent to the coast very well.  The last stretch of the trip featured about half an hour of tight hairpin bends bordered by lush green foliage and some very beautiful white lilies growing wild along the edge of the road.  This is a fairly new road that has frequent safety bays for vehicles that get into trouble.  In view of our earlier problems of overheating in the city, I muttered a few prayers to the god of “turbos” and somehow we made it down.  It was quite funny to see the many brake and transmission shops set up at the bottom of this mountain road.  Well, funny because St. Nicholas, among others, had intervened on our behalf and we managed to get down without incident.  In the back of our minds was the ascent to follow in a few days but – what the hell – we would worry about that later!

The boat that would take us out into the beautiful waters off southern Brazil was to be picked up in the little town of Paraty.  This is a perfectly preserved Colonial town that was founded in 1597 and the name is derived from the indigenous name meaning River of Fish.  It is very pretty and one of the most unusual things about it is that when the tide rises, lots of the main streets are filled with salt water. In one of the pictures you will see a horse drawn carriage at the end of the street.   It was quite charming to paddle around until we remembered that we had parked our car quite close to the jetty.  A mad dash to retrieve it from the rising salt water reminded us that time was fleeting and that we had better get aboard our craft before sunset.

My experience with boats is limited and with one foot on the jetty and one foot on the boat, I remembered all those ridiculous moments on reality TV shows where funny and not so funny catastrophes befall novice sailors.  However, there was no turning back and when all was stowed in the neat but tiny quarters below deck we set off towards the bay where we would set off and spend the first night “at sea”.  It was wonderful to see the little town retreat as we sped over the beautiful sea towards our safe harbor a few kilometers away.   We prepared a tasty supper in the cramped galley and ate on deck in the still air of evening.  I admit to a little claustrophobia in the sleeping quarters as the vessel was secured against “pirates”  All right, then! Toilet facilities were not for the faint of heart or muscular prowess as vigorous pumping was needed to dispose of “black water”.  After all, even though there were two “heads”  – that’s what you call toilets aboard – one must think of the others and deal with this properly.

I woke up early and managed to open up and go up on deck.  The water was still and calm and the tropical vegetation came down to the shore.  A tiny beach was to be our destination for the morning although I had no idea how we would get there.  It seemed a good long way to swim.  However, I was sure that Adolpho and Marie Angeles, our wonderful hosts (they are Joe’s brother and sister-in-law) would enlighten me.  Sipping my coffee I was thrilled to see a school of fish break the surface of the see and flutter along for a short time.  Then I remembered this was not a show for my benefit but probably flight from a predator.  More tomorrow

Big, beautiful, bewildering Brazil


Canada is a big country too.  When people ask if I know their cousin in Calgary, I smile and shake my head.  So, I realize going to Brazil for a couple of weeks only gives a tiny glimpse  of this amazing country.  However, here goes on a few impressions of where we went in March of 2017.

The immigration agent gave me a puzzled glance when I told him I was entering his country as a tourist and going to Sao Paulo.  I quickly added that we would be visiting Paraty, the gateway town to some spectacular shoreline.  Sao Paulo is not known as a tourist destination and I was soon to find out why.  Its traffic and chaotic scene soon imposed itself as the car driving us from the airport to the home of our kind hosts broke down, overheated in the jammed traffic.  Listening to my hostess speak Portuguese to the taxi driver it gave me the impression of Spanish spoken underwater with a sing-song swing to the whole conversation.  I was surprised to be taken to a gated community of several high-rise apartment buildings.  The complex where we were staying consisted of five buildings, built about twenty years ago and set in a manicured grounds of lawns, tropical trees adorned with the most beautiful orchids, three swimming pools of various sizes and temperatures, and a  complex containing a library, gym and restaurant.  Basically, residents never had to leave the place and face the concrete chaos outside their enclave.  It was pleasant to go for our walk around the grounds, nodding to the security guards posted here and there.  This was my first taste of the social dichotomy that is  modern Brazil.  I looked up a few statistics.  Just in the city of Sao Paulo the homicide rate per 100,000 residents varied from 30.8 in the poor neighborhood of Santa Efigenia to 3.2 in rich neighborhoods of  Jardim Paulista or even none at all in Vila Formosa.  These are figures from 2015.  Of course, robberies, car thefts and pickpocketing also vary depending where one is strolling around.  The climate helps homeless people be more visible.  Unlike Canada where our long and hard winters force the homeless into shelters, in Sao Paulo it was quite common to see informal living rooms or bedrooms set up under bridges or along main streets.  Even more disturbing to me were the juxtaposition of luxury high rises next to very poor neighborhoods where families live.  Wake up Canadian woman!

When we left the city it was a joy to drive through countryside that looked so different.  The vegetation in this tropical region cannot be denied.  Rain, warm temperatures and various soil conditions mean that green is the dominant color at this time of year.  Of course there is a dry season but for me the lush, somehow irrepressible vegetation made a big impression.

On the coast, the little colonial town of Paraty was charming.  The astonishing feature was that at high tide, the streets become flooded with sea water.  Paddling around was fun until we remembered that our car was parked quite close to the sea wall.  We packed up the boat that was to be our floating home for several days and set off out of the port into the shore, dotted with beautiful islands.  More about this dreamy part of our trip next time.