In Pursuit of Paraty with a Paraty Explorer
A little over three years ago our travels through Brazil took us to Paraty, a small, colonial town on the country’s Costa Verde where Portuguese colonizers found Guaianás Indians living when they arrived on the town’s shores back in 1667. With the discovery of gold in Minas Gerais 29 years later, Paraty’s convenient location on the Bay of Ilha Grande propelled it to become a hub port for exporting the region’s riches to Rio de Janeiro before being dispatched on Portugal-bound ships.
The gold boom triggered construction of the Caminho do Ouro (Gold Trail), a 1200 kilometer paved road which connected Paraty to Minas Gerais, and was used to transport gold, supplies, miners, and African slaves to and from the gold mining regions. Walking on the Gold Trail in the footsteps of these slaves, hearing the stories about the brutalities they suffered while being forced to build their oppressor’s wealth, and learning about the surrounding rainforest, are all experiences that we trusted local adventure outfitter, Paraty Explorer, to bring to life for us. And what a revelation it was! It’s an experience that I have yet to put into words.
Now, more than three years later, having already seen and experienced Paraty for myself, I find that my desire to learn more about this seldom seen part of Brazil is still burning. But why – what is it about this quiet, preserved town that lures visitors like me?
To find out, I recently caught up with Rodrigo Pereira, a native of Rio de Janeiro who’s now a Paraty local. In our interview, the 36-year-old adventurer who’s a co-founder of Paraty Explorer and who’s been working for the company for the past four years reveals why Paraty stole his heart when he moved there eight years ago and why he has no intentions of ever leaving. Read on…
Which part of Rio de Janeiro are you from?
I’m from Rio’s Engenho de Dentro neighborhood which was named after a sugar cane plantation from the seventeenth century.
Which university did you attend and what did you study?
I studied administration at Universidad de Estatdo de Rio de Janeiro, but I didn’t finish the course because I decided to get out of the big city!
What made you decide to move to Paraty?
I decided to move from the big city because I wasn’t happy. There was too much competition and less time to enjoy life. Living in the big city, you aren’t free. After leaving, the first place I went to was Ilha Grande (Big Island) and then to Paraty.
Is there a particular neighborhood in Paraty that you live in? If so, what made you decide to move to this neighborhood?
Yes, I live in the Princesa Isabel neighborhood. I chose this area because it’s not far from the town (4 km), it’s quiet, and there’s a river you can swim in.
What are some of the major differences between life in Paraty and life in Rio de Janeiro?
The quiet life. I think the people are happier, life is calmer, and you know almost everybody.
What are some of the major differences between life in Paraty and life in Ilha Grande?
Life on Ilha Grande has a really different sense of time. The fact that it’s an island makes it different. Things move more slowly. It’s really a very small town where you know almost every one that lives there. Paraty has a charming, bohemian feel to it but it’s also connected to the major cities of Rio and São Paulo by road, and it’s not difficult to find almost everything that you want.
What makes Paraty different from other cities in Brazil?
For me, it’s the only city that has amazing nature intact. Rainforest touches the ocean, the bays are beautiful with clear and calm waters, and the waterfalls are unbelievable which may be why Hollywood chose Paraty for scenes of the Twilight movie.
What are some of the differences between Paraty residents and residents of other cities in Brazil?
Paraty residents, historically, come from European, indigenous, and African blood. Also, here in Paraty, most of the residents are fishermen or farmers.
Going back to your response about the ethnic makeup of Paraty residents, is this not true of residents in other cities in Brazil?
It is true around Brazil, but Paraty was, at the time, the main slave port and there was the Gold Trail where gold and diamonds were brought down from Minas Gerais to Paraty, and from here to Portugal.
Where did you develop your sense of adventure?
I believe that I developed it growing up in Rio de Janeiro. It’s a big city but has a lot of nature, forests, and amazing beaches. I grew up walking in the forest and going to the beach.
What is your role at Paraty Explorer?
My role is to work – hahaha! At Paraty Explorer my friend and partner, Michael, and I do everything. We started it because we do what we love and we like to look after people and show them Paraty as if they were our friends.
[Editor’s Note: This is very true. Michael was one of our guides during our Paraty Explorer tour, and he was so accommodating. I recall that he waited for us long after our tour was over so that my cousin could cash his traveler’s checks, and even after that, he helped to arrange our ride to Trindade.]
What do you like most about working with Paraty Explorer?
Guiding and sharing with our clients our knowledge of Paraty’s nature and history and our happiness to live in a place like this.
What has been your biggest challenge with working for Paraty Explorer?
In the beginning, as a new company – paying the bills! But we believed in what we are doing and now that we have survived and grown, paying the bills has gotten easier.
Aside from working at Paraty Explorer, how else are you involved in Paraty’s community?
I help some friends who are agroforestry farmers with their marketing and administration. Plus, I provide occupational therapy to help special needs children develop skills with standup paddling.
What has been your most memorable experience of living and working in Paraty and why was it memorable?
It’s when I’m kayaking. Leaving from the town, and arriving in a fisherman’s village five hours away in Mamanguá fjord – the scenery is unique. Sometimes it seems like 400 years ago. This is my favorite place. It inspires me because the nature is preserved, and the view from the peak is surreal.
Do you have family living in Paraty?
No, I don’t have family living in Paraty. Now, I’m starting a new family – I recently got married. My family lives in Rio de Janeiro and I visit them twice a month.
Is there anything about Paraty that you don’t like?
Yes – the politicians that aren’t taking care of the people, the city, and the nature.
Have you been able to travel outside of Brazil? If so, where have you been?
Yes, I went to Argentina and Patagonia.
What are some of your goals?
Short term, I want to buy a piece of land and build my own house. Long term, I want to buy a sailing boat and travel around the world with my family, but that is not easy – hahaha!
What are 10 places of interest within Paraty that you’d suggest others to explore?
- Jabaquara Beach
- Paraty Bay
- Pedra Branca Waterfall
- Camoka Botequim
- Paraty Historic Center
- Puppet Theater at Espaço Cultural Paraty
- Paraty House of Culture
- Margarida Café
- Casa do Fogo
- View from Morro do Forte
*All photos have been provided courtesy of Rodrigo Pereira unless otherwise watermarked.
To book your Paraty adventure, contact Paraty Explorer.