Diary/Photo Journal

Week of January 06, 2008

We start this week still treasuring our time on top-of-the-world and watched a storm blow itself out just in time to enjoy our lunch outside on the "veranda".   Just a relaxing start to the week as Gerson and I were to go alone on to the State of Rio de Janeiro. 

On our way, we were bombarded with magnificent views around every curve of the coastline and we probably would have reached our destination in half the time if not for the many stops we made to take in the sights.

Midori's nephew, Stephan and
Carlos' son, Arthur

Carlos, Gerson and Mitsuo having a "friendly"
game of billiards

Our lunch on the veranda - Midori, Marjorie,
Gigi, Gerson, Louise, Carlos and Mitsuo

Just a sampling of the views and beaches
we encountered on our drive up the
coast from the State of Sao Paulo to the
State of Rio de Janeiro

The second picture shows the island we
were at last week

We toddled into Sao Sebastiao and got the ferry across to the Ilha Sao Sebastiao (also called Ilhabela for its main village).  The island has a road that runs the length of the island on the West side and the East side of the island is only accessible by 4-wheel drive (sometimes) over the middle and by boat.  If there are heavy rains, as there were just prior to our visit, the road over the island is not passable in any vehicle.  Ihlabela sits just off the mainland and is a playground for the "Paulistas" and international tourists. 

We stayed in a wonderful hotel that overlooked the channel between Ilhabela and the mainland.  As it was easier to park the car and just walk into town, it was worth the 5 kilometer (3.5 mile) walk along the shore. 

Views from our cozy room on Ihlabela

A picture of our hotel

View down one of many trails to the beaches

Gerson having fun in a park filled with creative
metal statues

At the Regatta, or Yacht Club of Ihlabela

For a day trip, Gerson chose the northernmost beach, Jabaquara (at the end of the road) and as we arrived before noon (which is when the Brazilians are just waking up!), we had the beach to ourselves.  Soon enough, the sands were dotted with colorful umbrellas and bright towels.  We enjoyed a long snorkel around one end of the small bay and after several hours in the intense heat, we had our lunch on the beach and then headed home. 

Our trail to the beach

Gerson enjoying a beer "bem gelada" (well chilled)

Our entertainment - watching Nina playing in the water
but never quite going all the way in, no matter how
hard her owner tried

View back down to the beach

Our road trip

A very cool snake sighting...this tree snake was
about 8 feet long

Ihlabela is a beautiful place; however, I would not recommend a visit because of its rather unwelcoming (or perhaps, over-welcoming) inhabitants called "borrachudos" (boh-ha-shoo-does) or as I very
non-affectionately call them now, "butt-biters".   These little buggars were supposed to be repelled by the local concoction that includes citronella.  Either I missed a whole lot of spots when I applied this so-called "guaranteed" repellent, or the "butt-biters" have a good laugh at the expense of those of us using the repellent. 

Based on where I was lunched upon, I am voting for the latter.  These voracious pests have a very cheeky sense of humor.  They got me several times under my arms so when I have to scratch the huge welts, I look like I am imitating a monkey.  They also bit me many times at the base of my bum so when I cannot resist the itch anymore, I walk down the street looking like I am scratching my arse.  The final insult were the bites just under my breasts, where the bikini top meets my ribcage.  So, when I just have to relieve the skin of its itch, I look like I am fondling myself. 

So basically, I have been walking down the street with 40+ bites, looking like a monkey, scratching my arse and fondling my breasts.  Yep, I was the epitome of an attractive sight for a couple of days.

It's good to be me...

Water fun - kiteboarding and boating

Gerson making the best use of the cool pool
overlooking the channel

Now imagine those bites multiplied by 40 and most grew
to a size of about 1" in diameter.  Now you know why
I called the "borrachudos", "butt-biters"

Gorgeous sunset seen from our balcony

After a rather uncomfortable sleep (I actually contemplated sleeping in the shower to let the cold water run over my body as I had burning bites from my shoulders to the tips of my toes), I crawled into the car and we journeyed further up the coast.  Fortunately, the day was so fantastic that I could forget about my misery for a time and truly enjoy mother nature's glory. 

We stopped off for a brief jaunt at a beach called Puruba, wherein we took a short boat ride across a "sweetwater" river to access the beach.  We walked up and down the open sands and then continued our drive.  Not missing the opportunity for a pleasant lunch on the beach, we stopped off at a little bar and restaurant overlooking a small bay. 

View driving further up the coast toward Rio

Our transport across the river

Striking the pose on the almost deserted beach, Puruba

Even the cruise ships like these bays

Gerson enjoying his coconut

Our lunch view

Aiming for Paraty (pair-a-chee), we made it to our Hotel Coxixo, right in the heart of the village's historic downtown.  In the late 1700's, Paraty grew in size due to its being a stopover for the gold being moved from Minas Gerais to Rio.  The colonial waterfront remains relatively the same as it was over 200 years ago and as there was no road to the city until 1954, the original city seems to be relatively untouched by modern architectural influence. 

Hotel Coxixo - subtle exterior, but the interior
was full of character

Just a few additions, here and there

Our entry was interesting

And so was our quirky room

No need to remove trees when you can
build your pousada around them

The pool and bar area

A literal shrine to the Brazilian actress/owner
Maria Della Costa

It is difficult to truly represent the charm and beauty of this city.   Each building has a variety of colors on its doors and windows and these colors were at one time, very important.  As they did not use a numbering system for addresses, the homes and buildings were identified by their colors:  "I live in the house on the third street with the blue doors and red windows"...

The town is lined with stone streets that are called "pesde-moleque" (street urchin's feet).  As you walk the streets, you notice that there are a line of stones straight down the center and this is representative of where the sewers used to be located.  Over 200 years ago, long before plumbing, the people would empty out their waste into the center of the street and it would be carried downward toward the bay.  Assisting this disposal process, were the high tides that would come several times a month and would engulf the village's streets and wash the sewers clean. 

Not a system to be recommended today; however, at the time, it led to a rather clean city (and a not so clean shorefront).  When we returned from a day visiting several islands, we witnessed the high tide phenomenon for ourselves as the streets closest to the bay were flooded and the waters were slowly receding back into the ocean.

Colorful doors and quaint streets enhance the charm of Paraty

Street cafe tables are everywhere

No cars are allowed in some parts of the town
so firewood is delivered the old fashioned way

High tide cleans the streets

The old sewer ditch is apparent and you
can see where the street drains into the bay

More colorful doors

Ingreja Santa Rita dos Pardos Libertos

Some of the original walls are still exposed

So many details of the town can be missed if you are too busy watching your step (as horses and dogs share the street with us humans).  In the Portuguese style, many of the building's soffits still had the tiles that decorated these edges and the gutters and downspouts were truly works of art. 

Gerson made sure and booked us seats for a famous puppet show performed by Teatro de Bonecos (if you go to this link, you can watch a short video of the show).  The puppet show is unlike anything I had ever seen as these were extremely lifelike "dolls" that were hand manipulated directly on stage.  The performers would be dressed entirely in black and blend into the dark background so that all you saw was the movement of the puppet.  Although a remarkable show, there were a few rather odd moments within the seven different "plays" that were shown.  This particular puppet presentation has played around the world and is considered "world renowned".  It definitely is an art that is not seen enough and probably will be lost within the next generation.

An example of the detail on the downspouts from
the balconies

Gerson posing over the Paraty river

Our welcome guest in our room as we had no bugs to bother us

Just one of those pictures that have so much color...the flowering
tree, the boats, the small church across the river...

No photos allowed of the actual puppets or puppeteers, so I
copied this photo from their website

As the weather was fantastic, we chose to join in with a chartered schooner and travel to several small islands around Paraty.  We knew we were in for a great day when just looking back on Paraty was a beautiful sight. 

Views of the harbor
and the town's shoreline

Taking advantage of great photo opportunities

Small islands, both private and government owned, dot
the waters around Paraty

We took advantage of the 50' visibility and the warm waters and snorkeled at two of the islands.  Fish were in abundance and the starfish punctuated the mottled greens and browns with orange and yellows.  Gerson said he saw three sea turtles that of course, were no where to be found when I came in the same area with my camera.  Speaking of my camera, we found this awesome thick plastic bag setup that fits a digital camera and provides a small base (that attaches to where you would place your tripod) and was proven to be waterproof.  I was happy to get some great pictures of our underwater experience.

The yellow and black striped fish were everywhere

Very large and healthy coral communities

Gerson showing his snorkeling style

The starfish shown in the sunlight (about 1' across)

We would often find ourselves totally surrounded by
these schools of these little fish

Louise gets her underwater shot

All the kids like to ride on the bow

We had a nice lunch on the boat and enjoyed the acquaintances of three Australians that just happened to be sitting next to us.  Alex, Jess and Jill were three young women traveling for a few weeks between Brasil and Argentina and were on the last bit of their trip.  Like us, they loved Paraty and its quaintness.  Of course, sailing on turquoise waters with nice people was not too bad either.

Gerson enjoying one of our stops on the islands

Gerson took a turn steering the boat from Captain Lucas

The three Aussies: Alex, Jill and Jess

Looking across to the beaches near the lagoons

One of the natural sea-water lagoons that are
very popular

After our wonderfully exhausting day, we decided to do another snorkel-beach day and got an early start the following morning.  We ventured back south a bit to a unique beach area called Trindade.  This area is known for its sea-water lagoons that are formed because of the large rock formations that surround the pools.  The water in the pools is about waist deep and to get to them, you can either walk a few kilometers along the beaches or take a quick boat shuttle directly across the bay.

We opted for the boat shuttle as we were carrying our snorkeling equipment and basically because we were lazy (and still tired from all the swimming the day before - we are getting so old).  Arrival into the lagoon means slipping past two rock sentinels and being walked to the ankle-deep water to disembark.  The water was like bathwater and apparently many people preferred the warm water as there was very little room to move without tripping over someone.

We decided to climb over the rocks and take our snorkeling leap from the bay side of the lagoon.  Sounds easy until you realize the rocks are scorching hot and there are those little things called 'barnacles' that just love to tear up your feet.  As a result, we slipped on our fins and clumsily waddled over to the edge of the rocks.  Gerson, of course, slipped into the water with no problem, yet I was not so lucky.  Having misjudged my balance and the waves, I stepped (fortunately lightly) onto a sea urchin and a spine found its way through my fin and into the heel of my foot.  I extracted the spine from the fin and my heel showed no sign of puncture so off we went.

The water was again clear and beautiful and we swam between refreshingly cold currents and bathwater warm flows (as the water remains cool in the shade of the boulders and warms in the shallows).  While snorkeling, we saw a variety of fish and my highlight was literally running into a type of squid that was so many different colors that it reminded me of a peacock's feathers.

Beautiful reef colors

and lots of fish

A very cool looking squid just
cruising along


Our jumping off point with the boat shuttle
across the bay

The sentinel boulders

Our shuttle back to the beach

We left the way we came in, through a small town and via a dirt road tightly wrapped by the jungle.  We even had to cross a small river that empties itself into the ocean just after pouring across a sheet of rock.  The crossing was easy as was the rest of the day. 

The next day, we left for Rio de Janeiro and again were awed with fantastic views.  Unfortunately, some of those views included the "favelas" that seem to surround Rio and remind you of the true poverty and crime that infests the beautiful city.  We spent the evening getting settled into our hotel and catching up with Gerson's old friend Alex and his wife, Nyria and their daughter, Barbara. 

Our river and rock crossing

The sign said "free delivery" it just
did not say how the refrigerator was to be delivered

Coming into Rio and the view of the
Rocinha favela

Caipirinha drink looking onto Ipanema beach
this little drink is deceiving...once you drink it
you cannot remember you drank anything at all
so why not have another, and another...yikes!

We ended our week with our making plans for a couple days with Gerson's cousins on their "fazenda" or farm just outside or Rio.

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