After a fabulous week in Rio neither of us felt like moving on, but having pre-booked our accommodation in Blumenau (for Oktoberfest) we were on a tight schedule. South of Rio lies the Costa Verde, where lush green jungle meets white sandy beaches and the emerald sea is dotted with islands. Unfortunately due to time restraints, weather, sickness and lack of research, we were unable to make the most of what this stunning coast has to offer. However what we lost was made up for by unknowingly arriving in Paraty in perfect timing to experience the MIMO music festival.
With only five days to reach Blumenau, including an overnight bus, we spent two nights in Ilha Grande and two in Paraty. Ilha Grande is a great place to hike to various beaches through the jungle and at least 3-4 days is preferable. Good weather is also essential, otherwise the water is choppy, jungle treks become mudslides and the beach is no fun.
Vila do Abraão
We arrived in Vila do Abraão, the main town on the island reached by boat from Jacarei. The sea was rough! The wooden boat looked to be about 50 years old and picked up the waves, rocking us violently side to side causing suitcases to roll off the piles of luggage and water to gush across the decks. We arrived at our hostel to find the power out.
We had planned to hike to Lopes Mendes beach the next day, but awoke to rain. Josiah was unwell and we were both exhausted from sleeping in a dorm with a loud snorer and people drinking and talking loudly outside until 3am (waiting for the power to come back on so they could see what they were cooking). Despite our reservations about the cost, we upgraded to a private room far from the noisy common area. We promptly fell asleep, waking up mid-afternoon to cheering and clapping as the power had finally been restored. We spent the afternoon wandering Vila do Abraão. Its beach is unfortunately polluted from all the boats (and general poor waste management) and the streets are dusty and unpaved. There is the advantage of no cars, a scenic backdrop of mountains, candlelit tables scattered on the sand and a few attractive buildings such as the unusual orange Sao Sabastio church.
After breakfast we departed Ilha Grande. I was thankful for the calmer water and the sun came out briefly, but it began raining during the drive to Paraty. We arrived in Paraty in time to spend the weekend at the MIMO music festival, which we had no idea was taking place. We spent the afternoon wandering the pretty cobblestone streets and admiring the colourful colonial buildings. At around 5pm, a torrential downpour put a stop on our movements. Stuck in the centre of town we had no choice but to eat in one of the more touristy restaurants and hope for the rain to pass. At 8pm we sprinted across to the Church Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Remédiosto watch violinist Ricardo Herz perform a duet with Samuca do Acordeon. A violin and an accordion make a hauntingly beautiful combination. The classical style inside the magnificent old colonial church only added to the enchantment of the performance. We then headed to the large tent next to the church, housing a variety of eco-friendly handmade stalls, selling jewellery, clothes, art and all manner of unique trinkets. Another band, Kosmo Coletivo Urbano had set up in the tent as the rain continued. The frontman leads the quartet with an alto sax and the guitarist is incredible! They play a fusion of Jazz, Reggae, Rock and world music. These guys were a side act but were my favourite band at the festival.
By 10pm the rained finally eased, allowing everyone to move over to the Palco Praca da Matriz where the main stage was located. Brazil’s own Tina Turner, Elza Soares took to the stage, Elza has a long career (she is 79!) as a Samba artist and was clearly a favourite and the most famous of the artists playing at the festival. Elza was followed up by Cheikh Lo, visiting from Senegal. His African beats made me miss playing music with my dear friend Berias Masseque back home.
The following evening, the music kicked off a little earlier at 5:30pm with CCOMA. There was a large gap between acts so we stopped off for an al fresco dinner and wandered the streets under clearer skies. There were plenty of buskers playing around town, keeping the atmosphere lively. At 9:30pm Hamilton de Holanda and Baile do Armeidinha finished off the festival.
During the day I sampled one of the boat tours. Josiah, having been up past 2am and still unwell, needed to sleep. I ventured out alone for the day. I’m usually good at doing my own research but on this particular day I walked straight into a tourist office and blindly booked myself on a tour. I was also hopeful that I might also meet some people this way. At $R25 it was as cheap as chips (quite literally! A serve of Batatas Fritas is $R25)
The large boat was among half a dozen others following the exact itinerary. I was the only non-Brazilian on board. We travelled for over an hour before anchoring near Ilha Comprida to swim and snorkel with fish. The island is private so we were unable to visit. The second location was Praia da Lula, while it was a lovely beach sadly the water is becoming dirty from the boats visiting daily. After this everyone climbed back on the board and lunch was served. We passed by Ilha do Mantimento, Lagoa Azul and Praia Vermelha before anchoring at Jurumim. I only had to look at the water below to decide I did not feel like swimming in it, it was also polluted.
All the boats have a musician playing a guitar and singing as well as acting as a tour guide. It was quite nice to have some live music as we drifted along. The scenery was beautiful and the sun was shining so it wasn’t all bad, but I could never recommend this tour. It was gimmicky, you’re stuck on a boat for 90% of the time, you can only buy food and drinks on the boat so they certainly make up for the tour being cheap. Worst of all though, is the environmental impact on this precious coastline, I was kicking myself for putting money in the pockets of those polluting it. The boats are old and not well-maintained, their engines spew toxic fumes, there is rubbish in the water and I caught one of the guides tipping drinks out into the water. I would have been better off catching a bus to Trindade beach or if we had more time, hiking to various beaches and in the jungle around Paraty.
We had a few days that didn’t quite go to plan, for better and for worse and thats just travel. I’m looking forward to travel after Blumenau: no more flights, no more accommodation bookings. Just us and the road ahead.