Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nov 28th – Picture Perfect Paraty

The beautifully preserved historic town of Paraty (pronounced Para-chee) is an undiscovered gem. The town briefly grew rich in the 18th century, when Brazil struck gold in the inland region of Minas Gerais, over the steep mountains behind Paraty, and when you go back today, it scarcely seems like the place has changed at all since its 300 year old heyday.

Because there were no coastal roads back then, Paraty was the only place where the gold could be taken down to the coast – we went on a 4x4 trip into the mountains to see the rough roads where 6,000 tons of gold were literally carried down the steep hills, to be transferred to Portugal, to fund the splendours of Lisbon.

Our trip also took us to see beautiful waterfalls and one set of rapids where madmen "surf" over the rocks down to the bottom – you have to see it to understand how it's done (how they don't kill themselves, I don't know).

After the tour, we explored the picture-perfect historic streets of Paraty – it looks more like a film-set than a real place, although the incredibly rough cobblestones remind you that this town hasn't just been made for tourists.

The streets are so peaceful that it seems a world away from the tourist glitz and crowded beaches of Rio – a wonderfully peaceful start to our next cruise.