Despite the amount of time that has elapsed since our last entry, there is little to report. As planned, we have taken a break from the hectic pace and exertions of the past five months, trying to heal our travel wounds before heading back to the USA. It worked for the most part, except for the bug bites on our feet and ankles we picked up from the occassional sand fly. Enough with the excuses, time to account for the past two weeks to our demanding readership.
We had heard that Isla Grande (about two hours west of Rio) had good surfing and great weather (compared to reports of excellent surfing and poor weather further south), so we decided to head there for this landlocked Midwesterner to make his debut. It went about as well as you would expect--comic relief for the spectators and an exercise in some of my more choice vocabulary for yours truly. At least the water was warm. The geographical difficulty with Isla Grande (as opposed to the littany of other difficulties presented me as I attempted to do whatever it is that successful surfers do) is that the surf beach is on the opposite side of the island from all the accommodations, and you have to take a boat leaving at 10:30 AM followed by a short hike to get there. Incidentally the beach, Praia Lopez Mendez, is unbelievably gorgeous. The boat then returns to take everyone back at 3:30, which leaves an insufficient amount of time for futile paddling, near drowning, failure to catch waves and creative cursing regarding same. We thought it best to move on.
We took a bus about three hours further west along the coast to the colonial gem of Parati. During the summer, the place is swamped with vacationers from São Paulo and Rio who escape the 40 C heat (about 100 F) of the city to bask in the refreshing 40 C heat of the Parati--at least it's a nice change of scenery for them. In short, the historic city center with its white-washed stucco was quaint, the knick-knack shops were quaint, and the seafood restaurants were quaint. On the other hand, this town had the Granddaddy of all cobblestone streets, more like cobbleboulder streets. Cobblestones so large, so misshapen and so haphazardly placed that it was actually painful to walk on them in hiking boots after a few minutes.
There are several waterfalls in the hills and cliffs set a few kilometers back from the coast at Parati. The one we visited was more of a cascade in several stages, one of which made a solid rock waterslide of approximately fifty meters (with an altitude drop of maybe 20 meters). The water was brisk (which caused Abi to not enjoy the slide), but I went down it half a dozen times and had a bruised bum to show for it. Another day in Parati would have required a visit to an orthopedic surgeon to mend our ankles and tailbones, and I was still looking for the perfect wave (to pass me by), so we loaded up and headed down the coast thirty minutes to Trinadade.
Rather than expecting an ametuer travel-journalist to do justice to our experience at Trinadade, the reader should recall his/her best beach experience and then try to think of something a whole lot better. Our room opened onto a large, shaded porch where we slung our hammocks from the Amazon trip. Powdery sand ran right up to the steps of the porch, and the waves crashed down about thirty meters away. We read, we napped, we played paddleball and cards, we swam, we ate, and best of all we took no busses, carried no backpacks, and didn't have to ask directions once. We ended up staying six days, 30 minutes of which I attempted to surf again--the waves were bigger and better (better at turning my spine into a Slinky) than those on Isla Grande.
All good things must come to an end. We took a shuttle van back to Parati, then worked our way south toward Florianópolis. We stopped overnight in Joinville, and another night in Curitiba. We had heard that the train ride from Curitiba to Paranaguá is incredible, but that report must have come from someone who took the trip on a day that the fog didn't limit visibility to ten meters--quite a disappointment. However, there was a fair and a biker gathering in Paranaguá when we arrived, which provided ample entertainment for the three hour wait until our next bus to Florianópolis.
Florianópolis seemed like a clean and nice enough city, split between the mainland and Isla Santa Catarina and connected by two bridges over the bay, but, with the rest of the island and small coastal villages calling out to be explored, we rented a car to check it out. Neither one of us had driven since February, and Abi was a little rusty at the beginning, especially with getting familiar with Brazilian driving customs. (My license was stolen along with everything else in Ecuador, so I couldn't give it a go.) We had the car for two days and covered 450 km of coastline. Our favorite spot was Garopaba, and would love to return there sometime when the weather is better for the beach (the high was about 20 C).
We're on an overnight bus to Iguaçu Falls, where we'll spend two or three days. Then we have to go back north to the São Paulo for our flight back on August 10. We'll have a few extra days to kill before then, so I'll try my hand at surfing once more at Ubatuba, where (so I've been told) the waves are good for learning. If I strike out, Trinadade is only an hour away.