February 10, 2012

Costa Verde

We decided to get out of the city for a bit, so we spent the last four days south of Rio, along Brazil’s Costa Verde or “Green Coast”. It’s a mountainous landscape along the water, which reminded us of Kauai, but more jungle-esque.

Our first stop was Paraty, a 17th century Portuguese colonial town. Before a road connected Rio and Sao Paulo, Paraty flew under the radar and it allowed the city to stay stuck in time. There are no cars in the historical center, and all of the streets – used only for pedestrian traffic – are made of the largest cobblestones we’ve ever seen. It’s a beautiful and romantic little escape along the water with charming buildings, squares and churches. There is constantly music in the air, and it’s not uncommon to see horses galloping by. At nighttime, wooden dining tables are placed down the center of the streets, and a post-dinner stroll is made even longer by the precaution you have to take navigating the humongous cobblestones. We were lucky enough to be there during a full moon, when the high tide flows through openings in the city walls, allowing water to fill the streets – much like Venice. The town feels a little touristy with its many stores, and we ran out of things to do after about 5 hours, but Paraty more than makes up for it with its beauty.

The next day we took a 45-minute bus ride to a beach village called Trindade. This was the start of our new routine: hiking, beaching, reading, napping, reading, beaching, hiking.

Then it was off to Ilha Grande, a large tropical island between Paraty and Rio that is known for its pristine Brazilian beaches. We liked everything about this island…no cars, dirt roads, nice hostels, cheap food, great hikes, and beaches that were made for postcards. Lopes Mendes is a beach that has been ranked as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Like most great beaches, you have to hike to get there. Our catamaran to the island gave us a late start to the day, and several locals looked at us like we were aliens when we said that we were going to start the hike at 1:00pm. “Lopes Mendes?!? Noooooo. It’s impossible. It’s too far”. Well they didn’t know that they were dealing with two fast-walking Americans with some hiking experience. It was strenuous, but we made it in less than 2 hours. That gave us plenty of time to do what we’ve been doing best: beaching, reading, napping, and beaching. Lopes Mendes had the whitest and most powdery sand I've ever seen. It squeaked when we walked on it...I have no idea why. This hike ranked in our top 3 of all time (so far) due to the little beaches that we had to traverse before even getting to Lopes Mendes. We would work up a sweat on the uphill and then jump in the ocean to cool ourselves off before starting uphill again. We wish all hikes came with built-in coolers like this!

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