The word "picturesque" is overused in pretty much any form of travel journalism, but Paraty deserves it. Whether in the baking sun or the warm evening, you can take photos of pretty much anything in the old town and it'd look good. We had booked into Leo's Clan Beach Hostel, purely based on the stonking reviews it had received. It helped that Leo was available on WhatsApp to confirm our booking too. When we arrived, we weren't disappointed. The hostel is lovely - clean, spacious, and made El Misti Rooms in Rio look like a dive. There is even a pool on the roof!
We dumped our stuff and took a look around the town in the evening with a Greek chap called Dimitris who was in our room and was taking a break from his course in Sao Paulo. Hawkers lined the streets selling all the usual gubbins that you find at these places - bird whistles, necklaces, and other assorted tat. The place is so pretty at night that we took our time wandering the streets which are not so much cobbled, as bouldered. It's like someone took the remnants of an avalanche and dumped it on a mud road. I've never seen cobbles like them. After just about managing not to break our ankles, we decided to splash out on some Thai food at Thai Basil. The food was stupendous, the service abysmal. Still, we were entertained by a clown with a crystal ball while we waited for our food.
A further wander around the town after food revealed a host of stalls selling cheap eats and even cheaper beer - Friday night is a good time to head out, and the streets were pretty crowded. We even saw a tarot card reader peddling her scams to hippy travellers. The atmosphere is incredibly relaxed, and Paraty reminded us a lot of Luang Prabang in Laos where you could wander around feeling completely safe, and just take in the scenery.
We met a decent group of people at the hostel, including Charlotte, Tom and Evana, and Kev and Amy. They were all going on a boat trip tomorrow called the Caipboat, which offered swimming, beaches, and most importantly, all-you-can-drink caipirinhas. Even though the weather looked like it could be pretty rubbish, there happened to be space on the boat so we took a punt and signed up. It was a great decision. Leo was bringing his parents Nancy and Wagner along too, as well as his girlfriend, and they were fantastic sports. Wagner wasn't a confident swimmer, but he chucked himself into the sea like a pro anyway. He was also really keen on selfies, so I happily obliged, even though it made me look like I had eighty chins.
We stopped at three spots to go swimming whose names escape me. Leo had been making caipirinhas since we set off at eleven, so we were more than a little tipsy and therefore very keen to jump off the top of the boat into the sea. This escalated somewhat when at the next spot we trekked up a cliff and decided to jump off that too. Gilly managed to cut her hand open on some barnacles getting out of the water, but despite blood pouring from the wound she chucked herself off the cliff too. I'm not entirely sure it was good for my ear problem, but by that point the caipirinhas had kicked in so I wasn't too bothered.
I felt like I needed to learn how this amazing drink was made, so I tried my hand at it myself. Turns out it's pretty simple. Cut up a boatload of limes into quarters after removing the white rind at the core. Juice them. Add a megaton of sugar, and enough cachaça to floor a bull elephant. Top with crushed ice. Done. For my first go, people seemed to be pretty impressed but that may or may not be because they were already drunk. Charlotte was very happy though.
We stopped for lunch at a beach and chowed down on calamari, fries, rice, and some other fish before heading back onto the boat for the ride back. Given my immense caipirinha skills, it seemed only natural that the last thing I needed to do to launch my own rival Caipboat operation was to learn how to drive the boat. Our captain - Gustavo - was very willing to let me take the reins, although I fear my propensity for drink-boating may mean that I'm probably not cut out for a life at sea just yet.
I relinquished control of the boat long before I would have crashed into the pier, and from there it was back to Leo's place for a Tenacious D singalong with Tom and Leo, accompanied by a fantastic BBQ courtesy of Kev and Wagner and some table football. I managed to beat Wagner, but got trounced by everyone else - and I think my win was mostly because Leo's dad had drunk more caipirinhas than me.
Hangovers were assured the next day, but we were surprisingly OK and the weather was fantastic too, so we took a wander around the ridiculously photogenic town. Charlotte headed to the beach whilst the other couples were moving on to their next locations. Lunch came courtesy of Manuê Sucos, which two days earlier had been held up by an armed robber in the early evening. The owners were advising people on their Facebook page not to visit Paraty at all due to the danger, but I think that was more to do with the fact that Manue had unfortunately been targeted on a number of occasions rather than the area being particularly dangerous. The juices and wraps were outstanding, and the place was pretty full, so it seems the locals weren't bothered either.
We visited the Sacred Art Museum which was still in development (i.e. pretty much empty of anything to look at), picked up some postcards, and tried and failed to buy a bus ticket to Sao Paulo for the following day. It seems that spaces are limited and there aren't a huge amount of buses going to the city, so it didn't take too much to convince us to stay in Paraty for another night.
Wandering down another street we heard some commotion coming from a nearby building and there were loads of people dressed in in white inside, so we stuck our heads in to find out what was happening. There was a capoeira event taking place, with people of all ages forming a circle whilst two individuals would meet in the middle and battle it out. Capoeira is a mixture of dance, acrobatics and martial arts, and the performers ranged from excellent to incredible. Spotting that we were clearly tourists, we were led close to the circle and then Gilly was pulled in to have a go herself!
Despite the trepidation on her face, she threw herself into it and cartwheeled all over the place. I managed to avoid it due to being on camera duty, plus I feared something might dislocate if I tried it... We caught up with Charlotte in the evening and had some delicious falafel and kebabs at Istanbul before finding a cheap chopp (beer) shop for some late night drinks.
Charlotte was leaving the next day but had recommended a hostel for us to stay at in Sao Paulo where her brother worked. The weather was pretty murky so we pottered about the hostel for a while and chatted to a new couple - Emily and Dan - who had just arrived and were on the last leg of their trip before heading home from Rio. Everyone was starving, so a per kilo place (Taberna) was on the cards. It seems that per kilo places are a lot better when they are full of people as it means the food is constantly replenished. This was was empty, and whilst it was filling, the food was lukewarm at best. We exchanged some tips for places we'd been to for places Emily and Dan were going to later on down the line, and then headed to Punto Di Vina - a much nicer restaurant - for hearty Italian food.
We'd managed to get a ticket to Sao Paulo for the following day - we hadn't realised that Brazilians carry ID cards with them everywhere, so even booking something as simple as a bus ticket requires ID. Luckily we had brought photocopies of our passports with us - something I can highly recommend doing - so it saved us a trip back to the hostel. We said our goodbyes to Leo the next morning; he will be coming to England next December, so we'll hopefully be able to welcome him to Bristol!