A Travellerspoint blog

Paraty Town

See what I did there? ´Paraty Town´ sounds like ´party town´ except Paraty is the name of place I went to. Genius.

13/01/10 - 17/01/10 Paraty, Costa Verde, Brazil

The bus from Sao Paulo to Paraty takes 6 hours but time flies by as the scenery on the way is astonishing. One view of a city by the sea (Santo I think) as the bus climbs the steep mountain-side is absolutely jaw-dropping. My jaws dropped and stayed that way for a long time - people on one side of the bus stood up to get a better view. I get the feeling that everything we saw up to now in Mexico and Colombia is going to be small beer compared to Brazil.

When I get to Paraty, the thermometer at the station reads 42 degrees exactly. 42! As soon as I get out of the bus the seat starts dripping off my forehead and soon becomes a shower of salty sweat. I can barely see through the sweat as I make my way to the Jungle Hostel recommended to me by a Dutch traveller. The hostel is only about 300m away from the station but even this distance is unbearable in the heat, especially carrying big rucksacks.

Paraty (or Parati) [pronounced Par-a-CHEE] is a preserved Portuguese colonial (1500-1822) and Brazilian Imperial (1822-1889) town. It is located on the Costa Verde (Green Coast), a lush, green corridor that runs along the coastline of the state of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. Paraty has become a popular tourist area in recent years, renowned for the historic town and the coast and mountains in the region.

The town is located on the Bay of Ilha Grande, which is dotted with many tropical islands. Rising up as high as 1,300 meters behind the town are tropical forests, mountains, and waterfalls. It is the southernmost and westernmost city in Rio de Janeiro state.

On the first day, I explore the colonial centre which is remarkably beautiful not only for it's centuries old architecture, but also for it's lack of automobile traffic. Later there is the mother of all tropical rainstorms. I got drenched but it's kind of fun and feels really refreshing in the heat.

Over the next few days I explore some of the dozens of pristine beaches that are within a couple of hours by boat or bus. I also do a boat tour of the various islands. About 30 minutes into the tour, however, there is a big storm. Swimming in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean in a storm feels really good. Tropical fish start milling around when the captain throws some rice into the water. Watching this spectacle using goggles is one of my best experiences so far.

On the 17th I take a bus headed for Rio where I will meet Michael who stayed behind in Bogota for a week longer. In Rio, I am keen to see women wearing the famous string bikini on the Copacabana I've heard/dreamt so much about.

Paraty Town


Boat Tour in the Storm


The Beaches


While I was trying to take these 'artistic' photos a big wave came in and took my flip-flops so I had to run after them. Comedy, so.

Praia do Sono

Have to trek for over 2 hours to get to this beach...hope it's worth it...
First glimpse of The Beach
Leaving the beach

Posted by Señor Usuf 04:46 Comments (0)

Sao Paulo

Not that nice init

09/01/10 - 13/01/10 Sao Paulo City, Sao Paulo State, Brazil

My adventures in Brazil doesn´t get off to the best of starts. I was violently sick on the flights over and am very sick for the first two days forcing me to stay in Sao Paulo a day longer than I had planned. I won´t get graphic but everything I ate was immediately exiting one way or another. So I stopped eating completely for two days. My first meal after this period was one of the best I ever had.

With a population of over 12.6 million, Sao Paulo is enormous and intimidating. It is dirty and dangerous (the guidebook recommends not to go out at night alone). Due to my illness I didn´t get to see much of Sao Paulo but what I did see, like the lyrics of the Shania Twain classic, didn´t impress me much. I wasn´t impressed by the smog, the traffic, the crumbling sidewalks and the gaping divide between rich and poor. One neighbourhood I visited, the Jardin Paulista, could be in any rich European city, while right next to it sits utter squalor. This contradiction is bewildering.

There are some good museums but I couldn´t be bothered to visit them and caught a bus to Paraty, a small town on the coast with stunning beaches. I won´t be rushing back to Sao Paulo.

The Cathedral
Sao Paulo during the night
Liberdade where I stayed. The Japanese-speaking community of São Paulo live mostly in this neighbourhood.
Violent storms in Sao Paulo was frequent while I was there, it happened every day from 6 to 8 on the dot. Kind of freaked me out by it's regularity and timeliness

Posted by Señor Usuf 04:34 Comments (0)


The final country on my itinerary (unless I make a short trip to Argentina) is Brazil. The big one!

Where do you begin with Brazil? Back in 2003, economists were calling Brazil the ´next biggest thing´ after China and India, with enormous potential for economic growth. Over the next few years, Brazil saw a boom in exports, with president Lula elected in 2006, taking a US$8 billion defecit to a US$46 billion surplus. The real is among the world´s strongest currencies, having surpassed two-to-one parity with the dollar, its highest value since 2001. Following years of stagnation and mounting debt, Brazil had solid GDP growth, while paying down its debts - it even paid off its debt to the IMF.

Brazil´s population (190 million), the fifth biggest int he world, reached its lands from Africa, Asia, Europeand other parts of the Americas - diverse origins that have created one of the planet´s most racially mixed societies. Most of Brazil´s population lives along the coast, particularly int he south and southeast, home to 75% of the country´s inhabitants. Until the mid-20th Century, Brazil was largely a rural country - today it´s more than 70% urban.

Brazil boasts an incredible variety of landscapes and ecosystems. It´s home to the world´s largest rain forest, as well as some of the greatest wetlands and most beautiful beaches. More known species of plants (over 55,000), fish (around 3000), amphibians(775) and mammals (522) are found in Brazil than in any other country.

Brazil is the world´s fifth largest country after Russia, China, Canada and the US). It´s 8.5 million sq km occupies almost half of South America and it borders every country in the continent except Chile and Equador.

Blanketing nearly all of northern Brazil plus parts of Mato Grosso and Maranhao states - over 4 million sq km, almost half the country - Brazilian Amazonia incorporates 30% of the world´s tropical rainforest (the planet´s most biologically diverse ecosystem). Unfortunately Brazil is also known for it´s destruction. The Amazonia is in an environmental crisis. Even as new species are being discovered, others are disappearing.

But above all this, and the most importantly, the women are really fit.

My plan in Brazil is simple: spend two weeks in the south seeing just how small those bikinis in Brazilian beaches can get, then head to the Amazonas, then fly to Cuiba and explore the Pantanal, then possibly go to Argentina for a very short trip, then fly back to Rio and onwards to London via New York. All in 4 weeks. As I said, simple.

Posted by Señor Usuf 04:33 Comments (0)

Bye Bye Colombia

It was nice but have to go

07/01/10 - 08/01/10 Bogota, Colombia

For the third (and last) time I head to Bogota. As my flight to Sao Paulo is late in the night (10pm) we spend the day in Monserrat. The picturesque church sits atop a hill which can be reached by a furnucular or a cable car. Or you can hike there but the guidebook recommends not to do this during quiet periods (i.e. weekdays) as there have been robberies in the past. The view of Bogota from the top is stunning.

When I felw into Bogota on the 15th of December I was expecting the worst. Any news story about Colombia in the UK tends to dwell on the kidnappings, the gangs, the guerrilas, FARC, terrorism, crime etc etc. So it was with much surprise that I learned, apart from the dodgy buses, how easy it was to travel through this beautiful country. I was surprised how friendly Colombians are. How everywhere I went people said ´hola´. Colombia and it´s people are infectious. You can´t help but be won over and swallowed up by their friendliness and lust for life. And I hope this doesn´t change when the rest of the world discovers Colombia is safe and descends upon it en masse.

In fact during my stay there, I learned that Colombia is now one of the safest countries in Latin America. Parts of Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil are all more dangerous than Colombia. And Colombians are a proud people; there are hardly any beggers. Instead I was impressed by the ingenuity of some of it´s inhabitants for earning money. My favourite are the jugglers at traffic lights.

Like Mexico, I leave with fond memories of Colombia. The buses can be frustrating and the army checkpoints annoying but overall Colombia has been an amazing experience.

Diana in a cable car
Bogota in all it's concrete splendour
This is Simon Bolivar's house, he's a hero in Colombia. Together with José de San Martín, he played a key role in Latin America's successful struggle for independence from Spain.
The Gold Museum in Bogota has lots of gold but unfortunately you don't get a free sample to go

Posted by Señor Usuf 04:11 Comments (0)


Home town of Colombia´s most famous son Pablo Escobar

05/01/10 - 07/01/10 Medellin, Antioquia, Colombia

Annoying habits>>>adding ´shit´ at the end of every sentence. I.e "shall we go the gallery, look at pictures and shit?", "I enjoyed the ruins today, lots of old shit", "I´m going to the internet cafe, check my emails and shit".

The bus we caught to Medellin was distinctly non-luxury and packed to the ceiling with people who had come to do a year´s worth of shopping. Every passenger was loaded with enough canned food, plastic tubs and bags of washing powder to last out any apocalypse. The driver thought he was playing Gran Turismo. He flew out of the city centre, past the over-developed outskirts and up the steep, windy road into the mountains as if he were on a time trial. He raced past other buses and hunted down smaller, nippier vehicles. With large trucks, he waited until a sharp bend would approach, and then took the corner with them, side by side as if this dangerous manoeuvre would gain him extra points. I surmised he was on a suicide mission - his family had left him and he had snapped and he was taking us all with him. Then, after the top of the mountain was tamed and we descended into cool pine forests on the other side, the bus driver mysetriously slowed down. Maybe he had come to his senses, a flush of his child smiling, or a memory of a past Christmas who knows.

Medellin is a nice place but we don´t have much time to spend there. It is famous for it´s Christmas light decoration along the river but unfortunately I don´t get to see them as I´m sick and spend the whole day in the hotel. Nice hotel though and plenty do in the hotel so not like I´m complaining or nothing.


Posted by Señor Usuf 06:25 Comments (0)

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