Saturday, December 30, 2006

Paraty and Surrounds

In the evening, still in my siesta, I receive a knock on the door. My neighbour, a young Brazilian lady called Barbara, asks me if I want to go out for a drink. Well I'm not in the habit of refusing such invitations, so I wake up, shower, and we go out to a few bars in the area. Barbara is a journalist from Sao Paolo, doesn't speak much English, I don't speak any Portugese, so we use Spanish, with much difficulty, to communicate. Barbara behaves like a good Englishman abroad, i.e. if the other person doesn't understand, she just speaks louder, rarely reducing the speed of her conversation. Nevertheless, we get on well, and I have a friend for Xmas :)

Brazilian men were not so impressive

The following day we walk up to the Fort at the edge of town, at [GPS:23.21176S, 44.71110W]. Not very exciting, and the small museum inside doesn't have any English, so can't tell you much about it. I do know though, that in the days of the Portugese and Spanish being here, the area was a hide-out for pirates.

When gold or other valuable cargo was brought down from the mountains along the Caminata del Oro, they would wait up in the hills (for example at the Fazenda that I walked to previously), until signal had been received from Paraty that the "coast was clear", i.e. no pirates about. They would then come down and load up their ships. Of course, one might argue that the colonial invaders were pirates of a kind themselves, but I'll stay out of the politics. After the fort, the beach nearby, and a quick swim, but it's low tide so about knee deep. We dash back to Paraty as the rains start. They don't stop for another day and a half!

Aside: I've noticed that I now count numbers by default in Spanish. The past severals days there have been a few situations where I've started counting, only to realise by about 5 that I am saying uno, dos, tres, and that it's going to get difficult if I go past 10!! Not saying that this is a bad thing, just made me laugh :)

There is a street near the water which is inundated with small crabs, all of which have one claw which is enormous and disproportionate to their bodies.

Deadly right hook

They all make little holes in the mud and when someone walks close they scuttle down to hide. The faster you approach, the faster they move to hide. And there are hundreds of them.

Run for the holes!

Fantastic fun to run along the street and watch the panic as they fly in all directions looking for cover!

One of the main activies in Paraty is to take a boat going out to the islands and beaches dotted around the bay. There are large boats or schooners, which are supposed to look like galleons, carrying 50 or so people, with a bar, music, etc, or small converted fishing boats for private hire. The latter is what we opt for. We settle for one owned by a chap called Dito.

You can't be serious!

The bigger boats were the noisy yobs of the archipelago

After some negotiation, $R100 for 5 -6 hours out on the boat. Dito struggles to get the engine going, but after a few minutes we are chugging out into the open water.

The boat's name is Lua Nova. We ask why. I don't really understand the response, but I think it's something along the lines of "everyone asks that but there's no particular reason". After about half an hour chugging slowly along, we stop and swim off the boat, snorkelling and enjoying the aquatic life - fish, starfish etc.

Hawaii away from Hawaii

After half an hour or so, or however long it takes us to get bored of place, we move on, and Dito takes us to the next island, or round the corner to another beach. Lovely.

This is the life..

Mermaids about

In one spot, I am snorkeling along, turn my head only to confront a chap with a harpoon! Slight shock! Am a bit disappointed that they do this where lots of people are swimming for pleasure - it's so dangerous - so easy to accidentally fire the thing, possibly with tragic results.

Step away from the boat put your hands on your head

Batman soars overhead keeping the peace

Nobody mentioned piranhas?

For lunch we go to a place called El Lahô Restaurant [GPS: 23.19489S, 44.62590W]. We pulled up close to a small island with what looked like a couple of buildings on it, amongst the trees and rocks.

Would Sir like me to take his coat?

A small motor launch pulled up beside us. We get in, and it ferries us to the restaurant, pulling up next to some steps which lead straight up to the area where people are eating. This place is paradise.

Couldn't sit by a window even if you wanted to

We take a table right next to the water, with water underneath us too, through the gaps in the wooden planks. A white cotton umbrella above us and spotless table cloths, the place is smart.

We'll have two portions of this view and a side of paradise please

People step down and swim straight off the edge of the restaurant, where huge numbers of fish pass by, perhaps attracted by a kid who throws a few bits of food down.

No need to go far to catch dinner

Not much chance of running without paying the bill, unless you can swim fast

The water is crystal clear blue, and the food good when it comes.

Once again almost forgot to take pic in my haste to tuck in

The kitchen

The next pleasure in this amazing place was to be found when visiting the toilets. They were situated on the other side of the island, across some rocks above which ran a rope walkway. The view as one walked across was superb. There was also a small house at the other end of the island, presumable owned by the proprietor of the restaurant.

Shortlisted for world's most scenic views

The view as one walks across

After lunch, it's time for a siesta, so we head across to the nearest beach, Lula. [GPS:23.19676S, 44.62943W]

Deserted beach

Or almost deserted...

Who needs a bed?


Others have similar ideas

Dito does the washing up..

..then relaxes and enjoys the sun

I pray that I don't drop my camera

Finally it is time to go home, so we board the Lua Nova for the last time today.

I hate the (apparently) Italian person who lives here

The clouds grow darker as evening approaches and we return to Paraty

In the evening, Nicole and Patrick invite us to join them in attending Christmas Mass at the local church. We go along, and enjoy a strange but pretty service, with children waving little paper stars, and many candles. I recognise two hymns, O Come All Ye Faithful and Silent Night, though of course sung here with somewhat unfamiliar lyrics.

Merry Xmas, or as they say here, Feliz Natal (Navidad is Spanish!)..

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