Paraty was established by the Portuguese in 1667. The town is deep inside a very sheltered shallow bay with a fabulous mountain backdrop. The main industry was the production of rum from the nearby sugar cane plantations. In the 18th century, the port was important for the export to Portugal of gold and precious stones brought on horseback from Minas Gerais State. However, repeated pirate attacks led to the abandonment of the gold route, resulting in economic isolation for decades to follow.
The inhabitants developed a state of the art waste management system; rubbish would be dumped in the streets and the tide would flush it away. Sounded ingenious ... until we sailed into the bay and realised there was nowhere for it to go!
The streets at low water (it was strange seeing cars again)
The tide is coming in
We anchored as close to the town pier as we could but were still a long way out, the bay is shallow indeed - slowly filled by five hundred years of poo and the pong to testify!
Colourful boats for hire on Paraty pier
Paraty is owned by a handful of families and is very touristy. The old town has been restored beautifully though the tidal streets are a little smelly. We counted no less than three bookshops and the same number of ice-cream parlours. A truly enlightened town!
The main street was busy with Indians trying to sell their artefacts to tourists. Just over the bridge, in a giant marquee, the final day of the Paraty Cachaça (Brazilian rum) Festival was getting underway with a terrible band amplified so loud the sound was distorting.
The effects of cachaça
We needed groceries and were lucky to find a fruit and veg shop open until 1pm as it was Sunday. We stuffed what we could into a rucksack but still had three carrier bags. We retreated to 'Pistache' a 'by the kilo' ice-cream parlour. On the way we passed a horse.
The wandering horse
We selected a table and dumped our shopping by the seats while we chose our ice-creams. A few minutes later when we went to sit down, our shopping had disappeared! Dismay, we'd been robbed! After five fabulous months in Brazil, where everyone we had met had been friendly, helpful and honest, the doom and gloom merchants who claim Brazil is dangerous and full of thieves had been proven right. How could it have happened? we were never more than three metres away. We looked around, no sign. "Ach well, they must have needed the food badly!" or maybe they had called by the cachaça festival in the morning and got to the shop too late and if they returned home empty handed they would be skinned alive. Bad luck for us as we needed that food and were planning to leave in a couple of hours.
Eventually the couple at the next table realised we were looking for something. "The bags?" she asked, "the staff have put them behind the counter. You really shouldn't leave stuff lying around, it will get stollen you know." Doooooooh. We hadn't been robbed after all!
The staff thought the shopping must have been left behind by a previous customer. To a Brazilian, nobody in their right mind would leave anything unattended, not even while choosing ice-cream.
Brazil is portrayed in the yachting media as being extremely dangerous and prone to robbery and robbery with violence. It does have its problems, the difference between wealthy and poor is extreme, and there are certainly some areas where only a fool would venture out after dark. You only have to watch how alert the security guards (armed with pump action shotguns) who move money to and from banks are, to realise that it isn't all hype. We have met one sailing couple who were robbed at machete point, a very frightening experience. That said we know a sailing couple who had their dinghy stolen in Spain, a couple who have spent nearly a year in Brazil with no problems and had their bags snatched in Argentina, and Kath's mother and brother had their canal barge robbed in France. We can also think of parts of urban Britain where we wouldn't venture out after dark for fear of being mugged. In our experience Brazil is no different than anywhere else. Most people are friendly and honest. If you take basic precautions such as locking your boat when you leave it, not flaunting your wealth, dress like the locals, and are reasonably observant, you'll probably be ok.