February 24, 2008

Saquarema and Arraial do Cabo

Julie and I are back in Buenos Aires after a grueling 40 hour bus ride from Rio. We had a great 4 days in Rio, but that will be another post altogether. Let me first fill you in on our week after Paraty.

After about a week in the Costa Verde (green coast) of Paraty, we headed four hours north to Rio de Janeiro, where we changed buses and went another 2-3 hours further north along the Costa do Sol (sun coast), to the tiny beach towns of Saquarema, and Arraial do Cabo. The drive from Paraty to Rio was one of the most scenic drives I have ever done, and around every bend there was a picture perfect postcard view. Too bad I didn´t take pictures.

Both Saquarema and Arraial do Cabo get little mention in the Lonely Planet guidebook, and because of this, we were finally able to get away from the backpackers and foreign travelers in Brazil.

The little resort area of Saquarema is the surfing capital of Rio state, and it reminded me a lot of a California beach town like Long Beach. The place gets a little crowded on weekends with Brazilian tourists, but never gets too busy. We stayed in an amazing beachfront pousada/guesthouse called Canto do Vila, with a pool and views of the ocean and sunset. It´s a strange feeling to witness the sun setting over the Atlantic ocean when you´ve spent your whole life on the East Coast. The land curved and faced west in case you are wondering.

I was so pumped up to finally go surfing, but of course it didn´t happen. The water was so cold, colder than New York in summer, and I could rent a board, but not a wetsuit. I lasted 10 minutes in the water until my lips went blue, then I turned around. Just a side note here, if you ever come to Brazil to surf, bring a board and wetsuit with you. My experience has been that if there are waves, there are either no boards to rent, or if you can find boards the water is cold and there are no wetsuits to be found. It´s a catch 22. Damn you Brazil. If you do make it to Saquarema, go to Itauna beach where there are huge waves (a left point break, and beach breaks further down).

Anyways, back to Saquarema. We had about 2 full days and 3 nights in the town over the weekend. The town square in the centro area where we were staying was bustling with street vendors at night, and they had a live cover band playing to the restaurant tables. It was actually pretty funny since the singer played all classic rock songs in English, but I don´t think many Brazilians really understood the songs. No one speaks English or Spanish in this country, but we´ll write more about that later.

After a couple days in Saquarema, we traveled an hour north to Arraial do Cabo. The town is a cape that shoots out into the ocean, and is surrounded on all sides by beautiful beaches. I have to say that these beaches were probably better than Paraty, although they had more people. The sand was the finest I`ve felt and the water crystal clear. Arraial is famous for scuba diving which is why we made a stop here. On our second day in town, I did two reef dives off of two different islands. The visibility was amazing, and I got to see about 4 sea turtles which are my favorite. I forgot how much I love to scuba dive, but I don´t think we will have another opportunity until we get to Australia in a couple months. The place we stayed in Arraial was so homely. The Hostel Villa Boas had a huge kitchen and pool, and we actually spent a lot of time relaxing and cooking at the hostel. We met some great couples from Argentina and Chile, and I can tell you, it was so great to hear Spanish again. With the rest of our free time we went to the best beach in the area, praia do Forno. The rest of the beaches were too crowded.

So, after about a week split between Saquarema and Arraial do Cabo, we headed back to Rio to meet our friend Maria, and had an amazing 4 days. More to come on Rio shortly. Click here for my photos of Saquarema and Arraial do Cabo.

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