Coastal region Rio-Santos
The small coastal town Paraty is about halfway between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. This region is called Rio-Santos (between Rio and Santos). It takes about six hours by bus to reach Paraty from São Paulo. The bus stops in some of the highly frequented seaside ressorts on the way, like Ubatuba or São Sebastião.
So it may happen that a group of soldiers, dressed up in starched white navy uniforms get on board of the sunday's nightbus. They were on the way to their navy base, to start duty on early monday morning.
The atmosphere of Paraty's colonial history is present in each moment. Several coastal fortresses remind at the numberous military conflicts of the colonial times. Paraty lies in a large calm bay, surrounded by high coastal mountains. Seven fortresses protected the most important harbour and thus logistic hub of the portuguese colony.
Historical old town
The historical old town consists of portuguese traders homes with bright white facades. These houses are decorated with simple and beautiful patterns as well as colourful window frames. Nowadays they accommodate artist workshops, pousadas (hostels), restaurants or bars. Literally every stone is carrying historical importance : The huge rounded stones with whom the streets are covered, stem from Portugal. The portuguese sailing ships, coming from the Old World, carried these stones as ballast. After the ships had been reloaded with the precious colonial goods, the stones have been used as material for road construction.
In contrast to the giantic cities like Rio, São Paulo or even Salvador, Paraty emits a naturally calm and peaceful atmosphere. Despite of numberous tourists, criminality seems not to exist.
Path of the gold
A small exposition is showing the role of Paraty as the just mentionned logistic hub for colonial treasures. With the rise of the gold rush in the interior (especially in Minas Gerais), Paraty's importance raised and until it finally gained independence from the gouvernor of Rio de Janeiro. In the beginning, the transport of the mined gold from the interior parts to the coast posed serious problems. By the working force of thousands of slaves and enormous efforts, a path of 300 km of length to Ouro Preto (MG) had been established. On this path, donkeys could transport the treasures to Paraty. This epoque is called "first cycle" or "cycle of gold".
During the following "second cycle" or "cycle of tobaco", the interiour parts of the portuguese began to be used agriculturally. After clearing of the dense vegetation, numerous fazendas (huge estates) started to set up giantic tobaco fields on fertile soil. With the earned money, the lords bought expensive luxury goods from the Old World. Thus, the treasures moved on the former path of gold in the reverse direction : with huge efforts, even french pianos have been pulled up the steep and densely vegetated coastal mountains.
The official abolishment of slavery in the portuguese colonies, and thus the lack of cheap labour force, lead to the stop of maintenance for the path. As its last historical significance, a road has been constructed on parts of its trace in the years 1940.
Nowadays, its original course has been re-traced for tourists walk it down by foot. Without french pianos.
Almost every vistitor of Paraty must have untertaken a boat trip to the numerous islands of the bay of Paraty. Several boats are waiting at the quai, small ones but also big yachts that are able to carry up to 20 persons. Surely it is more vivid to make a trip on such a big boat. During its one day journey, the boat stops at several islands, in deep blue or emerald green water. There's always enough time to swim in the crystal clear water and watching the shoals of tropical fishes passing by one's legs. Of course, the fishes first have to be attracted by some portions of fish food.
After lunch break with fried manjok and chilly beer, it was even possible to climb inside a grotto in the rocks by the sea. The hall was filled with warm water to the hips and had a soft sandy ground. It was dark, just a small hole at the very top let pass a tiny glim of daylight.