Two Days in Paraty (A Love Story)
In the small town of Paraty, coloured shop fronts sit side by side like little doll houses.
Around the 17th and 18th century, Paraty was a Portuguese port. This was during the Brazilian Gold Rush. It’s colonial centre still has buildings from back then, although these days they’re full of crafts stores and cafes. There’s more than a dozen beaches within 2 hours of the town. You can take a boat or a bus to most of them, but in the summer the place is full of tourists, so it takes a little longer to get anywhere.
The streets in the historic centre are full of cobbles that rise up out of the concrete like domes on a dragons back.
When we visited Paraty, it was raining hard. In an attempt to shield ourselves from the downpour, we ducked inside a store, bought a cheap umbrella and expanded it towards the grey sky.
It worked for awhile but we stood in the puddles that were forming in-between the cobbled domes, and slid on the slick concrete until we were forced to pick the closest restaurant to find shelter.
We sat down in the booth with heavy relief, shaking droplets from our hair. We hadn’t paid much attention to where we were, so we'd ended up at one of the only places open on such a day, a high end establishment catered to all the Europeans who flooded Paraty in peak season.
We couldn’t pronounce half the menu.
Not because it was in Portuguese either. It was a fanciful affair of French inspired dishes, full of apostrophes and accents our bedraggled (hungover) backpacker brains were struggling to decipher.
We'd gone on a small snorkel tour the day before that had ended in a big night out.
The sky was overcast when we’d headed out onto the water. We sat on the top deck of a brightly painted pirate ship, looking out towards the mist that’d veiled Paratys surrounding mountains in the distance.
After visiting a couple of snorkel spots, we stopped for lunch on one of the surrounding islands, then headed back in around mid-afternoon. As early evening rolled around, we stepped out to stroll the town.
We meandered for a bit before ending up at one of the beach front restaurants. While we chatted, we drank mojitos light on the mint, yet heavy on the rum.
We left hours after the sun’d been swallowed by the sea.
I have a vague recollection of crossing back into the main part of town, before being beckoned forwards by a lot of bright, shining lights.
The light drew us in like the first episode of True Blood. When I looked up, we were standing in-front of a market stall that was lit up like Buenos Aires should of been on Christmas.
Dozens of lamps were lined up in blazing rows. One next to the other, each one fashioned from PVC piping that had been carved into a different scene.
Underwater fish swam through thick coral, a pirate ship rode through stormy seas, a sloth hung out in thick bushes, while a diver explored the depths of the ocean.
Everywhere we looked, magical nightlights were throwing shadows over our exhilarated expressions.
We bought a lamp each, then headed back into town, beyond excited with our new purchases. After finding a seat at an outdoor restaurants, a waiter appeared with two Cachaça cocktails.
After that, things get more hazy than the mist we’d seen out on the water that morning.
If you've never heard of or tried Cachaça before, it's a Brazilian spirit that's made from fermented sugarcane juice. It's potent as hell.
The last memory I have of that night, is the sound of footsteps running up to us as we walked the cobbled streets. A hand fell on my shoulder, then I was spun around into the open embrace of the waiter, who had torn off his apron (I may of made that detail up) so he could chase us down the street after we'd left the restaurant. (That part's true, ask Ja-dee).
I'm not sure what else was in those cocktails, but I must of been on fire that night. I've never been chased down a moonlight alley before.
Sitting in the restaurant the day after, the only thing that was on fire was my head. The memories of the night before were as blotchy as my rain soaked clothes.
Looking around, I saw a lady sitting at the table across from us. She was dressed from head to toe in houndstooth, and she was slipping part of her entree to the small dog sitting in her handbag beside her.
Where were we?
When I'd recovered from the sight, I ordered the citrus salmon sashimi. Not what I'd normally have in such a state, but the only eggs on the menu were quail. It turned out to be so good, it almost cleared my head.
There's not a lot to do in a small town like Paraty when it's raining, but we'd managed to entertain ourselves for the two days we had in town.
We were headed to Ilha Grande the next day.
To get there, we had to take a bus, then a boat, then walk the remaining distance to the Airbnb.
We were now carrying our forever overweight backpacks, our small day packs, a bulging pantry stocked full of food, and two PVC piping lamps carved into fantastic underwater scenes.
As far as backpacker purchases go, those lamps look just as incredible lit up at home as they did in that market stall six months ago.
Plus, turning them on makes me smile.