Florianopolis and Paraty
23.01.2013 - 04.02.2013 30 °C
This entry starts at our first stop in Brasil, the island of Florianopolis. Floripa, is one of those places all travellers we have met along the way rave on about and anyone that visits here always ends up extending their stay by a few days. It certainly lived up to the hype! Floripa is an island paradise skirted by 42 beaches within an hours drive - some are very secluded and only accessible by hiking through the rainforest, whilst others are full of beach bars and activity. Whether you are looking for surf or calm waters, this is the place to find it.
At midday on the 23rd of January we checked into one of our favourite hostels we have ever been to, Tucano House. Tucano is a bigger hostel but with a small hostel feel which organised day trips, themed dinners and nights out for guests. There was a small pool and heaps of hammocks and chill out areas and it attracts a very social crowd. We found the hostel to have a very friendly vibe and over the course of the 7 nights we spent here we met some really lovely people. We ate extremely well at Tucano and the food was by far the best we had eaten at any other hostel. Every night the hostel´s chefs cooked up a massive buffet for the theme of that night - Thai, Indian, Brazilian BBQ, Italian and many more with each dish having its own Brazilian tropical twist. Breakfast was far better than in other countries as fruit is in an abundance in Brazil. We spent our first afternoon working on the previous blog and exploring Lagoa da Conceiçao, the area where we were staying.
On our first full day in Floripa we decided to walk to one of the closest beaches, Praia Mole, taking many pictures along the way of the lagoon. The 45 min humid walk was worth it when we arrived to the beach to find the first place in South America where the water didn't feel like ice and we could actually swim in warm waters. This beach was quite popular, with many people lined across the beach kicking a soccer ball around or sunbathing. Later in the afternoon we walked to the north of the beach then over rocks and through a trail to Praia da Galheta, a beach that is not accessible by car and was surrounded by rainforest. We would have taken photos of this picturesque beach but we were confronted by more than just the skimpy Brazilian bikini bottoms - many men strutting along the sand with their bits hanging free or confidently striking a pose with hips forward. Yes, we had stumbled across upon the nude beach.
The following day we went on the day trip offered by the hostel which was deemed a must see, Campeche Island. We were so glad the hostel ran these day trips as Floripa is very difficult to get around with public transport and Leo from Tucano House took us to some amazing places we would never have found on our own. This is a small island off Floripa, which we reached after a 45 minute van ride followed by a 45 minute boat trip. We spent our time on the one beach strip on the island with the rest of the island being covered by dense rainforest. Unfortunately you could only access the rainforest by booking a walking tour which was full, although we enjoyed the time we had on the beach anyway and the boys had a good game of beach volleyball with a few of the locals.
On our third full day it was Australia Day. Unfortunately we had not been able to stream the Triple J Hottest 100 countdown live the previous night as the hostel had a no noise policy after 11PM. In the morning we started the celebrations early from breakfast time with many potent fruit vodkas and podcasted some of the countdown before we headed to a day club, P12 with a big crew from the hostel. P12 is a club designed around outdoor swimming pools and bars, a luxurious club setting nothing like we had seen at home before. We were lucky enough to have meet a lovely Perth couple, Megan and Sheldon, as well as a number of non-aussies who helped us make Australia Day away from home such fun.
The next morning we awoke feeling rather average but decided to book on another day trip to avoid wasting the day feeling sorry for ourselves in our hungover states. After watching the mens Aussie Open final in the morning (the first tv we have watched in 2 months) we set off to Lagoinha do Leste, a beach down the south of the island and the best beach we visited in Floripa. After the bus dropped us off, the group hiked for an hour through the rainforest to reach this beach paradise. We started off wondering why they had to organise this trip with a challenging hike on a Sunday when everyone was bound to be hungover but Leo assured us it was so we could sweat out the alcohol and he was right. We felt much better by the time we reached the beach. The beach was very secluded with only a few people camping on it. At the other end of the sand stretch, 100 meters from the water was a lagoon at the foot of the mountain with lovely warm water. Late that afternoon we caught a small boat back to the town we had started the hike from. On the the boat trip we captured some beautiful photos of the late afternoon sun on the cliff faces.
The following two days we visited 2 beaches closer to where we were staying, Joaquina and Barra de Lagoa. The first on our own and the other with the hostel. Both beaches proved to be very popular and were both packed with many food outlets and bars. Joaquina beach had juice stalls, bbqs and people with racks of bikinis and sarongs for sale so close to the shore that the water lapped up over where they were set up and kids on body boards were colliding with them. Joaquina also took out the prize for the beach with the highest proportion of girls with g-string bikinis, but we are expecting the rio beaches to take over that mantle when we get there. Scott borrowed a surfboard from the hostel to take to Barra de Lagoa, having never tried surfing before and was surprised to get up on several occasions and ride some small waves! Scott spent about 4 hours out in the surf with an English guy Harry, while Georgie chatted to the girls on the beach.
We had booked in extra nights in Floripa to make sure we could take part in the much talked about Pirate Ship day trip. On our last day we jumped on board the pirate ship with an esky of beer (really should have got rum) for 5 hours of dancing to cheesy South American pop and samba music, and island and swim stops. The crew had many terrible choreographed dances that everyone had to participate in otherwise a full bucket of agua (water) was thrown over their head with everyone chanting água´. The first island stop was an old fort that the Portuguese had build to defend themselves against an invasion by the Spanish. Here we did a quick tour and learnt a little about the history thanks to a girl from the hostel translating a little of it to us. The second stop was to a beach for lunch where we had an all you can eat buffet of seafood, meats and salad for only AU$8. We absolutely stuffed ourselves! Scott worked some of it off on the way back after being chosen for the dance comp with a local girl - got through the first round but then got voted off by public applause (or lack of it). When we arrived back at the hostel we had a quick shower and headed straight to the bus station for our next stop, Paraty.
Our overnight bus ride to Paraty ended up being a marathon taking nearly 24 hours of several buses and much waiting around in between to get there. The first night we were so exhausted we went out for dinner and had an early night. We were meant to visit an undeveloped island, Ilha Grande for a few days after Paraty but decided we would be too rushed with Rio already booked in on the 5th so we booked in for 5 nights here instead. This proved to be a good choice as we adored this little coastal town with its old cobblestone streets full of horse and carts, and historic buildings with many interesting shops to explore. The buildings in the old part of town are almost all white apart from different coloured doors, door frames and window frames. The cobblestone streets are so uneven and bumpy that we have to keep stopping to look up from our feet to take it all in.
On our first full day in Paraty we explored the town and worked out tour options to visit the surrounding islands and beaches. That night we met up with the Perth couple, Megan and Sheldon, along with 2 other Aussies they had become friends with at another hostel for a drink. We had hoped to get a small group together to hire a private boat to take us to some of the 200 islands in Paraty Bay, but as Dan and Gen had already booked a schooner tour that sounded great we all decided to do that. The following day we all met on a very nice schooner boat positioning ourselves on the top deck sun chairs. The boat stopped at 4 different spots just off the beach of the islands. We made the most of the opportunity to swim to these beaches as it was so hot on board! Considering Brasil is supposed to be the most expensive country we are visiting, it was a pretty good day out on the water for 6 hours that cost us $20 each.
We had read that one of the best beaches in Brazil was close to Paraty so we had to check it out. Unfortunately we had the problem of needing 4 other people in order to book this tour with the company to get there. As we had been unsuccessful in finding anyone, we read up a bit more about its location and decided to try and reach this beautiful unspoilt beach of Sono ourselves. Setting out in the morning we caught a 30 min bus to a tiny town and hiked for an hour through rainforest at a good pace to the beach. Luckily the bus driver had pointed out the start of the track and it was clearly marked out the whole way. We were rewarded when we arrived as this place as it was as good as we had read about - yet another secluded paradise! Big trees lined the beach close to the water giving shade to the sand unlike all the other beaches we had been to. We discovered another lagoon here and bought Caiprihinas from an empty beach bar to make the most of this place before hiking back to the bus stop.
Today is our last day in Paraty and luckily we had not planned to do much today is it has barely stopped raining all day, perfect for the long process of another blog entry. We have booked a bus to Rio de Janeiro in the morning, very excited for one of the best festivals in the world, Carnival!!!