“Where Else Can We Go?”

We were going to Ilha Grande, an island not to far from Rio de Janeiro. Here there were isolated beaches, endless walking trails and, we were to find out, excellent cake.

To get to Ilha Grande from Buzios is easy enough, it just requires a stop in Rio. One could take one of the almost-hourly 1001 buses from Buzios to Rio, and then transfer to a Costa Verde bus. Costa Verde will take you to any of the three towns that offer boat departures to Buzios: Mangaratiba, Conceição de Jacareí, or Angra dos Reis. The once-a-day public ferry (by far the cheapest option) leaves from Angra. Frequent schooners and lanchas leave from Jacareí and Angra. There are also (more expensive) companies that offer private transfer directly from Rio or Paraty which saves you the figuring. But it’s really pretty simple.

In theory, that is. We aimed for the 10 a.m. bus out of Buzios which was, of course, sold out. We got on the 11 a.m. bus. During busy time, I do recommend buying these tickets from the 1001 office, directly across from the bus station, in advance. We made it to Rio somewhere around 2 p.m., where we were promptly told that the next availability for a bus to our departure port was not until 5:30 p.m. It’s at least a couple of hours on the bus, and to the best of our information we found that the latest boats leave around 6 p.m.

Hmm. Keen to avoid overnighting in some potentially sketchy port town, we evaluated our options. “We could,” I said, “Go somewhere else.” We scanned the list of destinations on Costa Verde’s sign. Angra, Conceição de Jacareí, Paraty. I had a recollection of a lovely picture being painted in my head by a borrowed guidebook, some point in the last few weeks, about the town of Paraty. It was about three hours by bus, and we could still get to Ilha Grande after Paraty, relatively easily, if we stole a day or two from Rio. New plan.

The next available bus still wasn’t until late afternoon, but we managed to reschedule our Ilha Grande accommodation and book a place to stay in Paraty while we hung out at the bus terminal. We arrived reasonably late in Paraty, and were greeted by the excellent host of our hostel, Vibe.

As with most places in Rio state, Paraty is a place that just keeps growing on you.

Tim was lucky enough to get a surfboard on lend for a couple of days (seriously, the hostel was great) so we headed off to Trindade, a surfy beach about 45 minutes by bus from the centre. The buses are easy to navigate: they all leave from a central terminal and the times and destinations are posted. If you don’t notice the postings, like we didn’t, there are plenty of people milling about whom you can ask.

Trindade boasts a long and beautiful beach, with one end mainly dedicated to surfing (with a sheltered cove good for swimming) and the other littered with a pile of beachfront restaurants. The small town is full of a funky smattering of hippy shops and some cool restaurants (though prices are at a bit of a premium down this way).

The next day probably trumped. We’d heard of some waterfalls and natural waterfalls in the area, so after a bit of debating beach day or adventure day, we landed on adventure day. And we’re very glad we did. We headed off to Penha and it’s, again, an easy bus from town. We headed up the quick path from the road and made our way to the rock slide. Luckily we were there with someone who had been before, and he demonstrated the appropriate place to go sliding down the rock into the pool below. You could get up some serious speed on the slick rock, and the water at the base was freezing. Well, here goes.

20140707-IMG_2039It wasn’t long before we were taking running slides in, or having two people slingshot the third to get going, to maximize speed. There was definitely some air happening. At one point, the group of us were standing at the top of the natural slide, debating whether going down on one’s tummy, headfirst, was wise, when a local kid, maybe ten years old, went flying past us at a run and proceeded to take skate down the entire slide standing up.

Photo Credit: Tim Binks.

Photo Credit: Tim Binks.

Now, it’s entirely impossible to communicate the absolute craziness and skill involved in doing this. We have pictures, we have video, and you still don’t get it. I felt out of control going down on my butt, and this kid went down fully upright, catching air, losing, his footing, recovering, and then catapulting into the pool below. We obviously asked him to do it again so we could film it this time.

After the rock slide, we still managed to squeeze in a quick trip to the beach before making our way back to town shortly after nightfall. As we’d heard so much about the lovely historic centre of town, and had yet to see it, we took a quick walk through on our way home.

Paraty’s centre is exceptionally lovely. It’s dotted with mouthwatering restaurants and interesting shops, and is all cobbled together on a pedestrian street that I would never hope to have heels on and try to navigate. I only wish we had a bit more time to explore, but tomorrow it was off. To Ilha Grande. For real this time.

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