Saturday, September 26, 2009

South America Trip - Part 4 (Paraty & Ilha Grande)

I woke up with my first hangover of the trip. The Caipirinhas at our BBQ were very, very strong. After midnight, I stripped down and jumped into the pool with several others for a freezing swim. The sausages we had were the best things I have tasted all trip so far. Wow! We ended up skipping the dam and going to the Bird Park near the falls instead. It was cool to walking among all the South American birds inside the large aviaries, but I was more excited seeing a pair of wild Toucans in a tree on Sunday.

A drunk Noah preparing for the freezing pool.
A wild Toucan we spotted in a tree at Iguassu Falls.
Most of the 24 hour bus ride to Paraty on the coast of Brazil was brutal. I had absolutely no leg room all night. We arrived in the huge city of Sao Paulo in pouring rain where we were stuck in traffic for two hours. The city seemed pretty gray and uninteresting, but that might just be from the section we drove through. It was unusual seeing a small beach party hanging out along a concrete water channel in their bathing suits. Leaving Sao Paulo, the scenery really improved as we drove up into the mountainous coastline.

Cobblestone streets of Paraty at twilight.
Mossy tree in front of church in Paraty.
Paraty is very beautiful. The old section of the city is full of white buildings with colorful doors and eaves. The cobblestone streets were constructed with the ballast stones left behind from Portuguese sailing ships after they reached the New World. We had a really good Thai meal for dinner. The green curry was perfectly spicy. Around town, they have these blue carts that sell pieces of cake for 2.50 Reals each. So delicious! The weather has been cloudy here, but watching the tendrils of white mist cresting over the surrounding lush green hills all day is very cool.

Noah on the rocks at Trindade Beach
Playing soccer on the wide sandy beach of Trindade.
On Wednesday, we went to the beaches in nearby Trindade. I went surfing but the small waves were not very good. We played soccer and threw the Frisbee before hiking to a natural cove to snorkel and clamber over the huge boulders. After lunch, we went up to some waterfalls in the mountains. Jumping off a high rock into the pool below, three of us hit a submerged rock. It was slimy and set at a steep angle so none of us were hurt, but it was unsettling glancing off it after hitting the water. The lower falls had a natural rock waterslide that was very fun. A couple of us went down, sans shorts, at the very end. We learned it is much faster that way and I caught crazy air into the water. I don't know which was worse, the friction burn or the slap from hitting the water at the bottom.

Noah jumping off rock into pool below in Paraty.
Jake going down the waterfall slide in Paraty.
We are spending three nights on Ilha Grande, a large island a few hours south of Rio. It was raining when we arrived here by boat in the afternoon, so we only took a short hike to the ruins of an old prison built in the 1800s. It used to house Brazil's most dangerous criminals before it was abandoned. A cool-looking aqueduct, constructed of stones and whale oil to supply water for the prison, was nearby. Chad and others ordered the Brazilian fish stew, Moqueca, for dinner. I tried a taste after I ate my meal and now I regret not ordering it for myself.

Noah in the ruins of a prison cell on Ilha Grande.
The old stone aqueduct on Ilha Grande
Yesterday, the rain stopped but the sun was still hidden by the clouds. After a hour and half hike to a small beach along the coast with a big group, I decided to hike on with Jake to Lopes Mendes Beach located on the other side of the island. It was a beautiful two hour hike over three steep hills with a great view of the island from the highest one. We passed three quiet beaches along the trail where we saw some sea turtles before reaching Lopes Mendes. Facing the open Atlantic, the waves were huge and the white sand squeaked. The only problem is we missed the last water taxi back to the main village and had to hike back. We went as fast we could to get back before the sun set, but the last half hour we were in the dark. Good thing I had my flashlight in my bag. It was tough but it gave us the opportunity to see fireflies all around us.

The large waves at Lopes Mendes Beach, considered one of the most beautiful in the world.
At the summit of the final hill as darkness falls on our hike.
Today, our last full day on the island, the sun finally arrived and we took a boat around the island to snorkel at the Green and Blue Lagoons. It was nice to see the island in sunny weather, but I am glad it was cloudy during our six hour hike yesterday. It would have been way too hot. Tomorrow we leave for Rio. We are going to a night club in a favela our first night in the city.

The Sun finally arrives Saturday morning as we head out on a boat trip.
Merman Chad sunning himself on a rock at the Green Lagoon on Ilha Grande
p.s. We played a couple card games of PIG on this trip. It always ended with the last two people having to race to finish a beer or a sandwich for the win. Always hilarious!

Matt laughing as Adam chokes on his sandwich racing to finish first.
p.s.s. Driving down the steep road to Trindade Beach, we saw a woman get her wheel stuck in a ditch trying to go around a bus. Luckily, there was eight guys in our van to help lift her car back onto the road and send her on her way.

A marmoset up in a tree during our hike on Ilha Grande.
p.s.s.s. Getting in late to our tiny hotel in Paraty, I found the door already locked. A woman opened up the door for me after one quick knock, but just as I was closing my eyes to sleep I heard a loud knock downstairs. After a pause, the pounding on the door came again and again and again. Thinking it was probably Chad and Matt coming back from the bar after me and since nobody was opening the door, I decided to go downstairs and let them in. It turned out to be Martin, our guide, and a Brazilian woman leading the other tour staying at the hotel. (She kept apologizing the next morning during breakfast, but it was no problem.) I groaned when I heard another knock at the door just as I got back into bed, but this time the door was opened before I had a chance to go down again. It turned out to be Chad who came into the room several moments later.

The shaggy dog who followed us on our island hike.
p.s.s.s.s. We have spotted several marmosets, a relative of the monkey, up in the trees here on the island.

Our Beagle companion on the long hike back to Abraao village.
p.s.s.s.s. There's lot of roaming dogs here in South America. On Ilha Grande, Johnny tossed some food to a white shaggy dog with prominent ribs who proceeded to follow us on our first hike looking for more food the entire way. We ended up taking him back with us on the water taxi instead of leaving him behind. When Jake and I missed our water taxi back from Lopes Mendes, a cute little Beagle followed us all the way back. She was a nice companion on the long hike and wasn't motivated by a handout either.

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