Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
By Ricky Skelton
You can do it in an hour, but what a waste. The slower, the better if you take the scenic route along the Costa Verde. Unfortunately for me, I only had two nights to spare. Id liked to have spent three months going up that coast. We missed out Ilha Bela and hit the Coast at Ubatuba. Even the journey down there from the highway is spectacular, especially if youre fresh of the boat as I was. Trees with beautifully vivid purple and white flowers border the road, in the middle of the Mata Atlantica, with bending roads through the sights and smells of the forest. Its hard to resist stopping every five minutes, but it was Brazil. I needed to feel the sand between my toes and the white water fizzing around my ankles. I needed to be on a beach within 48 hours of quitting work at home.
It happened to, and life was Good. Surfing as the sun went down on Praia Grande, eating fresh seafood moqueca later, waking up to my first huge pousada breakfast and trying three or four strange fruits, my first 24 hours in the country was a resounding success. I drove as well, which wasnt such a shock on the coast road like it would be in the centre of Sampa or Rio. We cruised along, stopping at waterfalls and more pristine beaches, getting advice from the locals and drinking fresh agua de coco.
We dragged ourselves onwards to Trinidade, with its Moby Dick rock guarding the beach. More new experiences of Jaca, Açai and Brazilian students on holiday. Like them, we drank beer on the beach, one of lifes simplest, simple pleasures. It has to be a good day if you can end it sitting on a beach as the stars come out, and drinking a beer to the sound of waves hitting the shore. What more do you need in life than to be able to do that? If we needed anything else, the trollied locals staggering up and down the beach giggling provided free entertainment.
Time was tight, so we could only afford a quick trip around Paraty next day, but it was enough to appreciate why it always makes it as one of the guidebook photos with its coloured houses on the cobbled streets, and coloured boats in the harbour framed by the dark green hills. Too much great seafood went untasted there. We had to get to Rio before the end of the day.
But not without stopping in a tiny bar with a big view. Somewhere at the top of a headland is a sign pointing up a dirt track. Take the dents in the bottom of your car, its worth it. The bar has shade, cold beer, running water, and a view for miles across the bay and the islands dotting it. Ignore the nuclear power station on the far side, its enough distance away to not bother you. The owner of the bar may proudly tell you the story of how he built it all from scratch. With his bare hands. All of it.
Big Regret Number 1 of Brazil was not having the time to check out Ilha Grande. Hopefully cars still wont have arrived on the island by the time I eventually get there. It sounds like a good place to get lost for a week or two of nothing. More yellow sand, blue sky, turquoise sea and green trees and too much black tarmac to make it to Rio without eating. We pulled off the highway down into a small town with a beach. It was called The Town That Time Forgot. At one time, it may have been a place to escape from Rio. Now, we had skilfully managed to find the only place along the whole coast that isnt worth stopping in. Ive never seen anywhere so out of place among so many other beautiful spots. It looked like an English seaside town in February - empty old fairground rides creaking listlessly in the breeze - but with sun. There were people on the beach sunbathing amongst the litter. We ordered some food from a bar where the people creaked listlessly in the breeze. Some fatty fried meat and very oily chips. At least we had a view of the sea.
Not for long. Our view was interrupted by a train. Not just any train, but a rusty goods train heading as reluctantly along the tracks between us and the sea, as the town was heading into the 21st century. It was still passing as we laughed our way out of town, clanking slowly to who knows where. It probably still is.
Previous articles by Ricky:
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil - The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo - always a bad thing?