Overnight Stays: Arraiail do Cabo (2 nights); Buzios (7 nights)
DW - 06/11... At this very moment, I'm in a hammock in Paraty (south of Buzios), writing this post on the biggest hammock I've ever seen, with a long-neck by my side, sand underfoot, and the (minuscule) waves crashing in about 10-11 metres away to my left; this is Brazil!
Impressed with what we'd seen in Rio, we were very excited about our week stay in Buzios. It's a place we'd originally (about 10 months ago) booked to stay for a month, our goal to relive our Mexican dream we were lucky enough to experience last year. But with all the rubbish issues we had (I promise this is the last time I'll mention them) re getting visas, we sadly had to cut our time shorter in Brazil. Anyway, we were pumped for Buzios, having heard and read nothing but great things about it as a wonderful place to chill out and be beach bums for a while (because we've had such a busy seven months, ha!), perfect.
But first, we had an extra couple of days up our sleeves, so after a little online research, we decided upon two (2) nights at Arraiail do Cabo, between Rio and Buzios. We didn't know a lot about it and what to expect, except for that it's ranked the second best place in Brazil to Scuba Dive. Don't even get me started on number one (1), it looks like the best place in the world, way up north on a remote island, with only 400 or so people allowed on the island at any one (1) time, and 50 meters underwater visibility, holy wow! Sadly it's out of ur price range for this trip (trust me, I put a strong case forward for it) but hopefully it's somewhere we'll visit soon enough, especially with some of the best rated beaches in the world. Come back Davo; okay. So we took the bus a couple of hours north out of Rio and arrived in a cloudy and super windy Arraiail do Cabo, and made it to our hostel. The town is fairly basic, nothing worth calling home about, ghostly with a real sense of poor. But good for me there were dive-shops every second store.
Once checked in and raring to check the town out in its' entirety, we found a little por-quilo (per kilo) restaurant (they're everywhere in Brazil, where you stack your plate with food then chuck it on the scales; you pay the weight times whatever the per-kilo advertised rate is, awesome) where I easily mounted 700 grams of deliciousness on the crockery, why not at just $10AUD per-kilo?! Yep, that's right, my monstrous meal cost just over $7AUD, love this country.
I mentioned above that the town was windy, and it seemed to be worsening which sucks in a sandy beachside town. Poor Loz had left her sunnies at the hotel so was walking totally blind with her eyes closed, there was just sand all over the roads, inches high, everywhere. It was beautiful soft sand I might add, although that doesn't help your exposed eyes, sadly.
After booking a dive for the next day, we tried Acai for the first time. Loz had read about it as a super-food, some sort of berry that's amazingly good for you, and amazingly delicious. Everywhere there are Acai stores, who crush the berry and blend it with ice, making an ice-cold cup of deliciousness, naked and ready for you to smother it in your choice of 20+ sweet-sauces and nuts/cereals/lollies. And it costs stuff-all, usually around $1.25AUD for a decent serving. On its' own it kind of tastes like strawberry Hubba Bubba; but mixed with chocolate sauce and crushed nuts it tastes like an edible angel, sweet, refreshing, magic, and sort of healthy. It's the most deep purple colour and after that first bite you'll fall to its' vicious spell, I want some now.
Licking my wounds from a 500 flogging (cards, not freaky stuff) the night before, we awoke to an alarm with the sun showing signs of promise, perfect for a couple of morning dives. So while Loz relaxed in the hammocks by the pool at the hostel, I boarded the boat with about a dozen other divers (most of them learning) and a swarm of dive-masters, eager to get my head wet and see some underwater life. As soon as I entered the water I realised how good I'd had it with my diving to-date. I did five (5) dives in Mexico and four (4) in Egypt, in some of the clearest and warmest waters in the world. Here in Brazil, further from the Equator, in October, the water was a fresh 18'C on the surface (several degrees colder on the bottom) and after the shit weather that had been around, visibility was no more than five (5) metres, eek.
Underwater, only about twelve (12) metres down, it was freezing, so so cold, but the sealift was incredible, so many fish I'd never seen in my life. Even with just five (5) metres visibility I was blown away by some of the fish I saw; sea-snails, some sort of ray, this huge spiky mean looking thing, and these cool bat-fish looking things (they looked Ike they had wings with this amazing bright blue tinge), amongst scores of others. Much to my delight, a metre-long sea turtle all but brushed my side, happy diver indeed. The lady from Chile who dived with me (and the dive-master) couldn't handle the cold so gave in halfway through the first dive, win for me. So that left just me and the dive-master to explore until we ran short of air, perfecto. The others in the group were learning to dive so did their own thing with their own dive-master so I had the most personalised and free dive of my life, and it was fantastic. The Chilean didn't even attempt the second dive so more for me again, bring it.
The sun remained for the arvo and yesterday's wind had calmed as the day progressed, leaving a few solid hours for some beach time, reunited with my beautiful bride. Unfortunately we hadn't done enough research on Arraiail do Cabo (and the reception at the hostel spoke basically no English) and settled on the beach at the end of the street, nice(ish), but a little smelly in parts, and the water wasn't uber-clean. As we later discovered (on our way out of town), Arraial do Cabo is famous in the area for one (1) of the most beautiful beaches in this part of Brazil, just over the hill from where we were. 'Oh well' we figured, we've seen some ripping beaches and are going to see plenty more, we can afford to miss one (1).
12/11... On a bus now, a week later, between Paraty and Sao Paulo, on our way to Florianopolis (about another 13 hours away), Brazil is freakin' huge!
Much to our delight, we were able to board a local bus from just outside the hostel, destination Buzios. The bus ride had to be the craziest and jerkiest we've experienced, like no other. We've learnt that Brazilian bus drivers (especially on the public buses) go as fast as they can, then slam the brakes as hard as possible when they need to slow or stop. It's also their mission to test the limits of the vehicle around corners, and knock as many passengers out of their seats as possible, mental. Not long after departure we arrived in Buzios, a nice quiet beachy town, just what the doctor ordered. The weather had cleared and things were looking very up. The owner of our hostel, who looked a splitting image of Russell Crowe in Master & Commander, a lovely and very helpful chap, checked us in and gave us a brief rundown of the town. We spotted him and his legendary dog Terix no more than half-an-hour later at the beach only a couple of blocks from the hostel, where he gave us a huge smiling wave, we knew we were in good hands. The beach was gorgeous; clean yellow-sand, and beautiful clear water just the right temperature on a scorching humid day, and decent waves enough to impress a learning surfer (not me, I'm awesome ha).
Buzios has something like 30 beaches in total, too many to count and visit. We were staying just shy of the main part of town, but in a great area with everything we needed. What impressed me most (apart from a personal hammock on our balcony) was the nearby store that sold hamburgers for $1.50AUD, that's not a typo, yep. Along the main road you've plenty of stores and restaurants, every second one (1) selling Haviainas, seemingly cheaper than the last store. That evening, after the most relaxing afternoon with beers in our hammock, we strolled down the road (to another beach) to watch the sunset, pretty tough stuff. On our way home, in search of dinner, my eye was caught by a friendly looking chap cooking kebabs on his barely-lit barbeque on the side of the road. It looked about as dodgy as cabbage-ridden carni selling 'fresh' corn-dogs at the show, but I was game, ready to taste the streets of Brazil. Loz's stomach said 'not yet' and she had a piece of lettuce or something for dinner, while I chewed on some of the best quality steak and sausage of my short time on this earth, bait to return at a later date.
Brazilians are pretty fat. When we first arrived we expected to see some of the most beautiful people in the world, like what you see on the tele. Well, they're pretty massive, and you can understand why when you look at the food they eat. There isn't a breakfast go by that doesn't offer copious amounts of cake, people drink coke like it's in limited supply, and the snacks you can buy on every corner are (although tremendously delicious) deep-fried more than the colonal himself; maybe Acai isn't as good for you as I first thought?
After exploring town (it's the next day by the way) and all the Havaiaina stores we realised my budgie-smugglers that I'd bought in Portugal (seems an eternity ago now) had developed a whole in the bum now well beyond concealing, time to go shopping. Now, we're in Brazil, and the swimmers aren't quite the same as what we're used to at home. Women's swimmers are world-renowned as those you see on Baywatch, that leaving to be desired, and the mens smugglers are a mix between what we'd call normal and European. Basically they're halfway between a pair of undies and a pair of short shorts, ridiculous! Sadly there aint an option and with my white arse standing out like an African smile at night, I had no option; at least I don't know anyone here. Kitted up and secretly keen to whip out the new purchase, we made our way towards the peninsula point of Buzios to a beach called Fernandes or something like that. Twas a great beach with the water bang-on temperature. The water, although not the clearest we've seen, was calm and delicious. Just out from shore there were scores of fishing boats, bringing in fresh produce by the boatload (funny that), some not even making it past the beach, only to be thrown straight on the barbie and sold to anyone in need of the freshest fish possible, probably still flapping on the heat.
And so started our pattern for the remainder of the week; explore a new beach in the morning, hit the hostel pool in the arvo, followed by beers, hammock, and kebabs from our mate (whenever he was there). Throw oodles of Acai in the mix and the cheapest burgers in Brazil and suddenly the overcast afternoons weren't so bad.
One particular lunchtime we broke the mould and rolled up in town for a nice meal out, our first in about a week. Having done her research, Loz led the way to a place called 'David's', must be good. Here we tried the traditional Brazilian seafood dish of Moqueca, a heap of seafood (fish, mussels, clams, squid, octopus, prawns) stewed up in coconut cream, served with rice and this chutney thing. It was bloody outstanding, even for someone still trying to learn to enjoy fish. We washed it down with a cheap bottle of Brazilian Riesling which much to our surprise was pretty damn good. I don't know where the hell they grow grapes in this mammoth country, but this stuff was bloody good value for $15AUD, very surprising.
On our second last night in Buzios, Saturday, Rusty (the name we'd given to the hostel owner because of his Russell Crowe resemblance) hosted a BBQ which he does every Saturday. In he arrived with all the groceries, while we sipped Caprinhas, on his bike, with Terix (the dog) sitting calmly on the bike with him, paws on the handle-bars, one (1) of the funniest and strangest things we've ever seen, brilliant. Rusty then fired the barbie and watched as the guests feasted on all cuts of meat, cooked to perfection, juicy and phenomenal, perfect.
Our week flew by but was the perfect week of relaxation for busy travellers. We have no doubt that a month there would've been heavenly, but with so much to see and so little time, we were excited for the next part of our journey, this time on a comfy bus with a driver only 80% crazy.