R&S: Friday lunchtime saw us heading out of Rio on our first South American intercity bus ride. We were both a bit apprehensive as to what the buses would be like, but we ended up being more than pleasantly surprised. The seats were really comfortable and could recline back about 130 degrees, and the aircon worked a treat. The journey was set to be four hours and the cost was roughly £20 each. So not too bad.
And what a journey! Once we were clear of Rio’s urban grip, the grime soon gave way to greenery as we headed along the Costa Verde, or Emerald Coast. At times it brought to mind a Latin version of the French riviera or Italy’s Amalfi coast.
Although the bus was ultra-modern the driving was a touch medieval, with the driver taking turns at bus-toppling speeds. But after stopping off once or twice to allow the passengers a comfort break, we soon rolled into Paraty (pronounced Para-chee).
Once off the bus it was a 30 minute walk or so to our Pousada. In normal circumstances this would have been a bind, but the sun was gently on the wane as we walked along the footpath by the river. It beat any taxi ride.
Pousada Cafe Rosa lies just on the outskirts of Paraty in a small neighbourhood reminiscent of a Californian suburb. It is owned by Heliane, mistress of a three-legged dog and creator of wonderful breakfasts by Cafe Rosa’s modest but charming pool.
Paraty is a small colonial town that was one of the first settlements made by the Portuguese a few hundred years back. It prospers largely from tourism now. It’s main attractions are boat cruises, kayaking, hiking and exploring some of the 55 beaches which fan out from Paraty’s centre.
During our stay the weather has been overcast but mild so we have spent most of out time simply exploring the sights and sounds of the old town: old-school fishing in the river, a cat sitting astride a shop window, an artist putting the finishing touches to his latest work, and just generally hanging with the locals.
As a holiday destination Rio still may offer reasonable value but for the first stop on the itinerary of two backpackers’ it pinches a little. The sterling is being hammered by the real at the moment. Our hostel in Rio was in a great location but the facilities and cleanliness made the price hard to bear. Our Pousada in Paraty is actually cheaper and is so much better in every way. Restaurants in Paraty’s old quarter, however, are akin to UK prices or even higher. Many were charging £8 or more for a bowl of vegetable soup, and it wasn’t even Campbells.
Sometimes it is in the face of adversity when the greatest discoveries are made. And the Brazilian pastie, or pasteis, is one such discovery. Stuffed with cheese and other unrecognisable ingredients, it is wrapped in a thick tortilla-like substance and deep fried. Measuring 12 inches in length and requiring a good 30 minutes of cool-down time before approach, it retails at around £4 and can happily feed two adults. So who needs soup?
The high cost of Brazilian living aside, tomorrow we head off down the coast to Florianopolis. A five hour bus ride to Sao Paolo and then our first overnight bus journey to Flory, the gateway to Ilha de Santa Catarina and hopefully some windsurfing.