On the Gold Trail in Paraty

On the Gold Trail in Paraty

Going through past blog posts and travel photos, I realized that I haven’t yet written about a special tour we took during our short stay in Paraty. You may recall my interview with Rodrigo Pereira, one of the owners of adventure outfitter, Paraty Explorer, in which he shared his thoughts about Paraty and his recommendations for things to do around town. I was compelled to interview Rodrigo following our tour of Paraty’s Caminho do Ouro (Gold Trail) which was led by Paraty Explorer. In light of the current World Cup and upcoming 2016 Olympic Games, I thought that now would be a great time to share our experience with those of you who are currently in Brazil or who are planning a trip to Brazil and are looking to round out your Brazilian adventures with a taste of Brazilian history and culture in an off-beat setting.

Around Paraty
Paraty’s historic center

Located on Brazil’s Costa Verde (“Green Coast”), Paraty is a relatively sleepy colonial Portuguese town sitting on the Bay of Ilha Grande. Surrounded by small islands, tropical forests, mountains, and waterfalls, many people may not realize that Paraty is a hotbed of Brazilian history, especially in connection with the Gold Trail.

En route to the Gold Trail
Scene en route to the Gold Trail

During our tour, we hiked along a small portion of this 1200-km (about 746 miles) road that was built by African slaves through the Atlantic Rainforest. Although it was slow to sink in, we soon realized the gravity of having to clear trees and sheer jungle habitat in order to lay stones for a long pathway in extreme weather conditions. What was the purpose of building the trail? Greed and gold!

When the richest gold mines in the world were discovered in 1696 in the mountains of Minas Gerais nearby, a gold rush ensued. So the Portuguese had to think of a way to get the gold from the mountains to the sea where it could then be exported on ships bound to Portugal. The trail would also be used to transport miners, supplies, and slaves. Not wanting to do the arduous work themselves, slave owners instead used slave labor to build the trail.

Gunpowder was used to blast rocks into stones. Today, many of the stones along the trail are covered in moss or have been eroded by water.

During our guided hike, in addition to the history of the trail, we learned about the local flora, fauna, and insects.

Shameless Marys
These plants are nicknamed “Shameless Marys” because they grow everywhere

Specifically, we learned about leaf-cutter ants, army ants which eat everything in their path, and termites. Along the trail, we came across a large, fallen tree that met its demise due to termites.

Although we visited Paraty in the dead of Brazil’s winter and it was somewhat chilly, we saw some locals wading in Tarzan’s Pool. My cousin even took a ride down Toboga Waterfall – a natural waterfall slide.

Tarzan's Pool
Tarzan’s Pool

 

Tarzan's Pool
Tarzan’s Pool

 

Tarzan's Pool and Toboga Waterfall
Tarzan’s Pool & Toboga Waterfall

 

Toboga Waterfall: Source
Toboga Waterfall: Source

I found it particularly interesting that slave owners were able to keep control over their slaves by getting them hooked on cachaça, a distilled liquor made from sugarcane juice. That fact was the perfect segue into our next stop along the Gold Trail: a working cachaça distillery.

(l) Map of colonial-era roads in Brazil; (r) A water runoff across from the distillery

 

Area around the distillery
Neighborhood around the distillery

 

One of the buildings on the distillery's site shows the intricate lattice construction which allows air to pass through to keep the buildings cool
One of the buildings on the distillery’s site shows the intricate lattice construction which allows air to pass through to keep the buildings cool

 

 

A cachaça shop in town
A cachaça shop in Paraty’s historic center

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When in Brazil, would you like to explore the Gold Trail?

  • One of my favourite places in Brazil! We almost got stuck here when travelling through Brazil, I absolutely loved the region and this cute little town. Thanks for bringing back good memories!

    • Dana Carmel

      You’re so welcome – Paraty is a wonderful place to get stuck! Thanks for reading. 😉

  • The Tobaga Waterfall is so beautiful, Dana! Gawd, I would love to see that in person. Of course, any pic of you and Jave will always be my favorite 🙂 I have gossiping co-workers at my place of employment who could definitely qualify as Shameless Mary’s lol! Great post as always, our dear friend! 🙂

    • Dana Carmel

      Lol about the shameless Marys at your job – we all know some of them! 😉

  • It’s nice to read something about travelling in Brazil that is not Rio or Sao Paulo. I also love learning about the colonial history of different countries. I find it a very interesting period, and it always teaches me something.

    • Dana Carmel

      I agree! And there’s so much more to Brazil than Rio and Sao Paulo. I’m really looking forward to digging deeper into Brazil sometime soon!

  • To me, it looks very wild and rough! Absolutely amazing though. I love places like this one <3!!

    • Dana Carmel

      I know – I’d love to return in warmer weather and take a plunge in Tarzan’s pool!

  • Lovely photos as usual. I keep wanting to desire the need to visit Brazil, but so far..zip..nothing. I just don’t feel the pull for it. This is quite moving though. So much blood, sweat and tears. Thanks,for,posting it.

    • Dana Carmel

      Thanks! Oh, you should definitely consider Brazil. It’s such an amazing country with such a fascinating history and culture. I’m pretty biased though because I’ve always felt a soul connection with Brazil and with most countries in the Diaspora.

  • The place is beautiful especially the Tarzan pool and Toboga waterfall.

    … getting slaves hooked to liquor … judging by the terrain, the only way the slave masters could have kept a hold of the slaves was by mentally enslaving them in one way or another.

    • Dana Carmel

      Exactly – I found that bit of info to be very insightful. Tragically, there are other forms of mental enslavement that are still alive and thriving today.

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