• The city of São Paulo

    HuntingTheBungle-4804Derelict building, São Paulo

    Our quick visit to São Paulo acted as a stopover for us. After wrapping up a restful three days in Paraty, we hopped on a 6 hour bus towards the largest city in South America for just one night before our flight to Uruguay. From what we experienced the South American buses are incredibly comfortable – the seats recline so far back that it feels like you’re in a bed and the much appreciated pit stops seem to happen in two hour intervals. Stu decided it was culturally important to sample every weirdly-shaped fried food item he came across at the roadside diners along the way.

    People had warned us about safety in São Paulo and, as the bus entered the outskirts of town, we began to understand why. Around 10 million people live in the city and it seems as though there isn’t enough space for them all to go. There is an abundance of homeless people; women with small children in their laps begging on the sidewalk; people sharing tents in parks and some souls permanently setting up home beside highways. Graffiti is everywhere and an expat told us that in this city it isn’t unusual for wealthier families to have a bodyguard protecting both them and their houses at all times.

    We arrived at Lobo Urban Stay in Cerqueira César, our accommodation for the night, and rang the doorbell. No answer. After a couple more tries we smiled at the group of taxi drivers milling next door and managed to ask them where to get a beer while we waited. Through a series of hand signs and mimes (our Portuguese still had not improved by this point) they directed us to a local bar two blocks away. The streets were filled with Christmas spirit – crowds poured into stores for their last minute gift purchases, and groups of young people swarmed around outdoor tables at corner bars drinking in the festive cheer.

    After the managers of the hostel let us in an hour later, we went for a sushi dinner (by this stage of the trip we were seriously craving fresh food) and then spent the rest of the night bar-hopping before retiring to bed and then jumping on a plane the following morning.

    We are producing these posts as participants in Lonely Planet’s Pathfinders community.

    HuntingTheBungle-4618Crowds line the streets, waiting for tables to free up at restaurants and bars
    HuntingTheBungle-4676Christmas yarn bombing on a tree in the city centre
    HuntingTheBungle-4742Looking like real-life backpackers/nerdy tourists
    HuntingTheBungle-4697Hire bikes, São Paulo 
    HuntingTheBungle-4712Straight lines
    HuntingTheBungle-4745In a cab on our way to the airport
    HuntingTheBungle-4721Pastel building, São Paulo
    HuntingTheBungle-4736The common area of Lobo Urban StayHuntingTheBungle-4749Some were certainly in full holiday mode, despite no beach in sight
    HuntingTheBungle-4851Stu shot this from a moving cab as we left the city
    HuntingTheBungle-4902São Paulo was our final Brazilian stop off before Uruguay. Thanks Lonely Planet for your useful tips!

  • What to do in Paraty Brazil

    HuntingTheBungle-3981If you don’t want to trip over while in Paraty, remember to keep looking down

    I told Stu we were stopping off in Paraty because, let’s face it, any destination that has the word ‘party’ in it’s name is most definitely worth a visit. He agreed, so we kissed Ilha Grande goodbye, hitched a boat ride to the mainland and awaited our bus, which turned out to be overbooked. For 20 minutes we stood watching the bus boss and the booking dude argue in Portuguese about what to do with us, before we were thrust into a taxi (complete with ‘I love Jesus’ stickers on the back windscreen and constant Portuguese gospel tunes blaring) and driven the entire 3 hours south to Paraty, at no extra cost. Thanks bus company!

    Paraty is a small colonial town which was put on the map during Brazil’s 18th century gold rush. Set against a backdrop of mountains, nowadays there is no gold to be found, but if you’re searching for relaxation, this is the place to be. Everyone seems to be kicking back; even the waiters at restaurants just hang out in doorways – you pretty much have to wave a flag to order a drink. Without a single skyscraper in sight, it’s a charming place to wander through and as the lazy beach area blends into the historic town, you discover the real beauty of Paraty’s architecture and realise why it’s referred to as “the jewel in the crown of Costa Verde”. Of all the cobblestones we have tackled in our travels, this town has the most difficult impressive. You almost need ninja-nimble feet to tackle the streets without hitting the deck. It’s entertaining to watch but hard to look up and stroll at the same time.

    We decided to book in three nights at a quiet place on the outskirts of town called Praia Selena and arrived close to dusk. While our taxi driver made the most of his large fare by heading to the beach (who wouldn’t!?), we checked in and met the owner Simon, a quick-witted Brit who told us he suspected he had a case dengue fever and might die. We gave him a pat on the back and he gave us the lay of the land, recommending where to get the best Thai food, pizza and beer.

    Travellers we had met told us the one thing to do in Paraty was to take a boat tour around the surrounding islands so we booked in a trip, lathered ourselves in sunscreen and headed out to sea on our second day. The waters are a piercing blue and if you hire snorkels, you can get a clear view of the tropical fish swarming below. The tour stopped off a number of times at isolated beaches where everyone jumped into the sea and fed fish for photos. For those who chose to stay on deck, there was a live band crammed beneath the stairwell playing tunes all day long.

    The truth? Paraty ain’t no party town (that we could tell), but it didn’t matter one bit. It’s a beautifully regal village and, apart from the street dogs brawling for your leftover food, is one place where the serenity is in abundance. Three nights is the perfect fit – we spent the remainder of our time attempting to kayak and sitting by the water reading books, wondering when we should order our next beer.

    What to do in Paraty Brazil:

    • Book a boat trip around Paraty – they normally go for 7 hours or so and you feel pretty deluxe. They’re full of leathery Brazilian men drinking too much beer and young families, but it’s ridiculously fun.
    • Eat at La Luna restaurant along the shore. The food is fantastic and the view is even better. Just don’t kick the dogs that hang around your feet, they bite.
    • Sample Cachaça Gabriela – it’s a locally made spirit that tastes like honey and cinnamon. The locals are extremely proud of it and are always willing to give you a taste!
    • If you’re tired of Brazilian food (we were after 3 weeks), eat at Thai Paraty – it’s better than most of the Thai joints back home.
    • Stay at Praia Serena - it’s a little out of town but right on the water and the Simon’s hospitality is fantastic. You’ll be pleased to know the doctor gave him the all-clear for dengue fever.
    • Learn how to pronounce ‘Paraty’ – locals actually call it ‘Parachi’.

    We are producing these posts as participants in Lonely Planet’s Pathfinders community.

    HuntingTheBungle-3945The seaside soccer pitch near our pousada was eternally busy
    HuntingTheBungle-4532The town centre is full of stunning architecture
    HuntingTheBungle-8226Headless Chelsea
    HuntingTheBungle-4041We ate pizza at Miracolo restaurant off the main square and taste tested the local Caborê beer
    DCIM116GOPROSnorkelling selfie in front of our boat 
    DCIM116GOPRONo fish were harmed in the making of this photo
    HuntingTheBungle-4120We continue to be baffled by Brazilian food menus. Just guess and point at what you think you will like
    HuntingTheBungle-4545Hanging out in front of a grand old buildingHunting the Bungle Travel BlogOur massive kayaking adventure
    HuntingTheBungle-4578Dirt tracks and Paraty sunsets
    HuntingTheBungle-4591The view from La Luna restaurant

  • Island life on Ilha Grande

    HuntingTheBungle-3738The Brazilian island of Ilha Grande is nothing short of spectacular

    Ok, deep breaths here, it’s time to talk about Ilha Grande. Loads of people told us that this place was a must and after a plane trip, a bus ride and boat cruise, we arrived in one of the most beautiful locations on the planet. Yep, we’re rating this one pretty highly.

    Ilha Grande literally translates to “Big Island” and, as if hosting around 100 white sand beaches wasn’t enough, it also has some pretty cool history. Originally it was a pirate hang out (there are rumours treasure still lies beneath the sand), then a leper colony (where patients were quarantined) and, before it became a tourist retreat, was a prison for political prisoners and violent criminals. There are still haunting remains of the prison just a walking distance from the main town area of Vila do Abraão.

    We booked a handful of nights at Aratinga Inn which is owned by an Aussie expat called Rennie. It was like sleeping in a jungle oasis – complete with visiting hummingbirds. Once we settled into our bungalow, we decided to set out on foot to explore the island. Only a tiny portion of Ilha Grande is built up (tourism didn’t kick off until 1995), and the remainder consists of mountainous jungle, complete with howling monkeys. After almost 4 hours of scaling countless mountains and dodging bugs the size of our heads, we arrived at Lopes Mendes, one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world according to Vogue. We didn’t look very Vogue upon arrival, but the white sand beach was definitely double-page-spread worthy. The walk back seemed a little too much, so we opted for a taxi boat ride back to Abraão.

    The following day we took a shorter walk to Abraãozinho, one of the quieter beaches with a restaurant on the sand. We swam, slept, read books and ate fresh calamari. As the afternoon came to a close, we walked back to town and, upon rounding a bend, met a comedic little dog who somehow became our tour guide. We named him “Lenny”. He walked with us for most of the way and even posed for a couple of photos. Stu wouldn’t let me take him off the island. I would have gladly squished him into my pack – I think he’d suit Melbourne.

    Next up was a caipirinha boat tour, because, well, caipirinha boat tour. We didn’t take much convincing – I’m pretty sure all we heard was “all you can drink caipirinhas” and we handed over the credit card. The boat left from the main port area at 10:30am and as we cruised out into ocean, the caipirinhas rolled out of the bar. The boat was full of young Brazilian kids celebrating their high school graduation and a lovely older couple who helped us translate safety procedures and more importantly, menu items. We swam with fish at Lagoa Azul (Blue Lagoon), dipped our toes into Lagoa Verde, visited the first church and school built on the island and ate lunch on the sand.

    Ilha Grande was pretty amazing right from the get go and we were sad to wave goodbye. Although it is swamped with tourists and gigantic cruise ships that stop by every couple of days, it is a magical part of the world, worthy of however many days you can give it. The restaurants are either really really outstanding or really really bad. Rennie managed to give us some tips but we still managed to miss the mark a few times (avoid mussels with olives).

    There are no cars but nobody misses them. Taxi (and caipirinha) boats are there to take you wherever you please.

    MUST DOS:

    • Hike to Lopes Mendes Beach. It’s painful but so incredibly beautiful and well worth it once you arrive. There are drink stalls and we even found a young girl along the way selling frozen acai, which comes in very handy mid-hike.
    • Eat at Dom Mario – it’s widely regarded as the best the island has to offer and, although a little pricier than other restaurants (and slower), the food is magnificent. We shared the passionfruit fish dish. Advice: don’t fill up on the complementary bread snacks and DO order that second bottle of wine.
    • Eat at Lua e Mar (we opted for the seafood moqueca, which is enough to feed a small leper colony).
    • If you find the young girls selling the caipirinha tour DO IT. It cost us about $30 Australian and took up the whole day. You’ll meet some lovely people along the way, and drink some damn tasty cocktails.
    • Do a day at one of the quieter beaches. Pack a lunch and just sit.
    • Visit the aqueduct and prison remains, they’re both incredible.

    We are producing these posts as participants in Lonely Planet’s Pathfinders community.

    HuntingTheBungle-2233The beginning of our hike to Lopes Mendes beach
    HuntingTheBungle-2340A short stop to rest the feet
    HuntingTheBungle-2355Simple directions for all things island
    HuntingTheBungle-2416Arriving at one of Ilha Grande’s many beaches
    DCIM116GOPROStu testing out the go pro at Lopes Mendes
    Taking a well deserved dip at Lopes Mendes post-hike
    HuntingTheBungle-2525Hitching a boat ride back from Lopes Mendes. The driver stopped off for a fish midway 
    HuntingTheBungle-3471Our pousada had many hummingbirds visiting every day. Stu managed to snap this as it dove in for a feed!
    Pousada Aratinga Inn 
    HuntingTheBungle-2645Our view for lunch at Praia Abraaozinho
    HuntingTheBungle-2627Chelsea powering through another novel
    HuntingTheBungle-2688Lenny! Our trusty sidekick
    HuntingTheBungle-3061Bombs away
    HuntingTheBungle-2966These kids just graduated from high school so were in full celebration mode. We felt old.
    This determined dude made and sold his own jackfruit jam – he came all the way out to our boat to sell us a jar for around $1.50
    HuntingTheBungle-3320Young love – they looked like they were in a swimwear advertisement most of the time
    HuntingTheBungle-2909Bye Ilha Grande!