After 9 months away, it seems like a good opportunity to assess some travel gear choices I made prior to departure.
Most important to me, I did not overpack. Every few weeks I meet other travelers who compliment me on the size of my 40L, 11kg pack. This compliment is quickly followed by a statement like, “My bag is so large. I wish I was traveling with a pack your size.” Not wanting to be rude, I say she/he has made it this far so the pack must not be too unmanageable. Then, I usually mention the option of mailing items home if it is important to have a smaller pack. While those are the words I say aloud, in my head I am thinking, “That bag looks horrible. I am happy it is not mine!”
One of my favorite travel items are my packing cubes. These cubes keep my bag organized and enable fast packing. A few months into the trip I re-organized my cubes based on a tip from a friend who spent the past summer camping. Now, I use one of the cubes (the blue one because color coding is amazing!) as a bedtime cube. Dedicating a cube to a specific activity instead of a style of clothing makes my nighttime routine easier.
My choice to travel with Keen sport sandals instead of Chaco sandals is my main regret. I choose the Keen sandals because they provide toe coverage, a feature I thought would be useful in crowded and/or dirty environments. However, these two concerns were irrelevant. When I wear the Keen sandals hiking, the grip is poor and because the sandal has limited tightening features, my feet slip. Neither issue is common with the Chaco sandals I own.
In August, when I wrote my first post about gear, my hunch was that I had overpacked first-aid and toiletry items. Months later, I still think I carry too many of these products. In my bag I have 2 partially full gallon zip lock bags, one toiletry case, and a packing cube storing the various supplies. I have used each item at least once though and having the item available in the moment still feels like a wise use of the space.
Overall, I was well prepared for most weather, activities, and social situations in each country I visited. With a wardrobe of fewer than 20 pieces of clothing, being appropriately prepared feels like a big accomplishment.
The Tiete Bus Terminal in Sao Paulo is the largest bus terminal in South America. In the world, only the New York City Port Authority bus terminal is larger. I traveled from Sao Paulo along the coast to reach the city of Paraty.
My first night in Paraty, I joined other people from the hostel in the town center to listen to samba music and to dance. This free gathering takes place weekly from 8:00-11:00pm and is attended by locals and visitors. The musicians were talented.
Paraty is the southernmost city in the coastal state of Rio de Janeiro. The state is known as a lush green region with its own microclimate created by the mountains a few kilometers from the water. Rivers from these surrounding mountains run towards the Bay of Paraty and the South Atlantic Ocean.
Within walking distance from the main town of Paraty are beaches and overlooks. The natural beauty is impressive.
Praia do Jabaquara is a beach I walked to from the main town. Along the beach there were restaurants and guesthouses but because I visited outside the December – March high season, there were few people around and some establishments were closed.
Through the hostel I booked a day-long boat trip to visit beaches in the region. Matt, Josh, and Roy, 3 Irish lads living in London and vacationing in Brazil joined me for the excursion. We met Rafeala on the boat. Our captain’s name was Tiago.
It was wonderful to see the colors of the water and the land formations in these bays.
Seeing multiple bays filled with sailboats and yachts were indications of the wealth present in Brazil and in this region. Amyr Klink is a Brazilian explorer from Paraty who is the first person to row across the South Atlantic Sea. He accomplished this feat in 100 days in a small row boat. One of his vessels for exploration, Paratii-2, is pictured in the bottom left photograph.
In addition to the beaches, Paraty is a popular tourist destination because of the town’s preserved Historic District showcasing colonial architecture. The town was established and designed by the Portuguese starting in 1667. The streets were designed to flood 6-10 inches once a month during the full moon. The flooding was intended to clean the streets and sweep waste out from the town into the water. We experienced heavy rains for the final hours of the boat trip. Once we returned to land, I saw the flooding first hand.
The hostel I stayed at hosted a party. At the party a tattoo artist was available to ink flash tattoos. Watching this scene was the first time I saw a person be tattooed.
I joined a Free Walking Tour in Paraty. From the tour guide I learned about the Freemasons and the strong influence this community had in the design of the town. Our guide identified the freemason lodges in town and many buildings with decorative elements that had numerical symbolization. The historical central district in Paraty has cobblestone streets and remains mostly unchanged from when it was originally constructed. The roads in this area are only open to pedestrians.
Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art created by African slaves who needed to dodge the physical punishments of their masters without striking back. Our tour guide is an advanced practitioner of this art. He gave us a 10 minute lesson at the end of our tour.