Plundering pirates of Paraty


‘I have to go up there to pick up the loaf of Hovis?’ – the cobblestone streets of Paraty

A chicly-dressed tourist is paying the ultimate fashion price. In three-inch heels she wobbles precariously along some of the biggest cobblestones I have ever seen.

The raggedly placed, sombrero-sized mini boulders she is struggling to negotiate are 400-years-old.

‘No, I said I wanted a China Tea Set’ – gold at the cachaça distillery in Paraty

Used as ballast aboard galleons making the dangerous but potentially lucrative voyage across the Atlantic from Portugal, the stones were discarded on arrival in Brazil and the hulls were instead lined with gold for the return journey.

The precious metal was the key to this town`s growth. Discovering the world`s richest seams some 800 miles to the north west was the catalyst for a boom period which turned this small settlement into Paraty, Brazil’s second most important town by the turn of the 19th century.

Today, intricate, swirling designs on the colourful facades that line the streets of this UNESCO World heritage site give a glimpse into Paraty`s vibrant colonial past.

Tidy tiling

No cars or trucks are allowed in the historic old part, but as we turn a corner a donkey pulling a wagon trudges along.

Little donkey, little donkey, had a busy day… – the best way to negotiate the streets of Paraty

Around another bend an artist is capturing a picture of a bumpy alleyway where pools of water glint in the sunlight.

An ingenious bit of Portugeuse military engineering means that once a month, when the tides rise on a full moon, man made holes in the sea walls open to cause a controlled `cleaning` of the cobbled streets.

Water-lined cobbled streets of Paraty

Feeling smug in our flip flops we leave the high-heeled fashion Princess to struggle on alone and stroll to the jetty where escunas bob in the gently rolling waters.

We board our vessel and a 65-year-old deeply tanned captain who calls himself Galileo heaves up the anchor to set course for a smattering of some of the bay’s 56 islands.

Heave ho – all aboard!

We jump off the side into warm, if not clear, waters and swim to an island shore where a family of long-legged chickens roam around freely in their tropical palm tree paradise. You don`t know how lucky you are my feathery friends.

It`s easy to see why this area attracted so many pirates. Picturesque and plentiful there are dozens of nooks and crannies to lie in pleasurable wait for a gold-laden Imperial ship heading back to the Old World.

‘Oogh Argh Tinkerbell, I been a waiting for you.’ Pirate by the jetty in Paraty

Indeed such was the success of the pirates in this region that eventually the decision was taken to cut out the risky Paraty to Rio seaward leg of the journey and instead gold was taken direct to Rio.

With the end of gold as a source of economic prosperity the thousands of slaves by then living in Paraty were instead put to work on the production of sugarcane and the sugar-based spirit cachaça, later used to make the cocktail Caipirinha.

Although we have enjoyed many of these delicious lime, sugar and crushed ice-based mixers since we have been in Brazil, we decide it`s time to sample some cachaça at source and a short bus journey and a long walk through a lush rainforest leads us to the Murycana Farm.

More than 300 years old, this now humble-looking site once housed the kings of Portugal when they came to holiday in Brazil. When pirates were known to be rife in the area this secluded spot was used to stash gold.

Big barrels of cachaça – Murycana Farm, Paraty

Today Murycana Farm is still a working cachaça distillery and our jovial host happily lets us sample a wealth of different fruit flavoured cachaça-based drinks.

When, however, I harmlessly ask how the spirit is made she turns to me and in no uncertain terms says: ‘That, my English friend, is top secret.’

Bottles of cachaça

So, with bottle of cachaça in hand we bid goodbye to this curious and interesting little place.

And, as our bus jerks its way off down the street, I’m sure I hear a woman cursing as she tries to free her stiletto from a crack between two cobblestones.


About travellingtoothbrushes

We are a couple of journalists with restless toothbrushes. Our teeth scrubbers seem unable to leap out of their respective washbags to take up a permanent residency on the bathroom shelf. So, we've decided to let them live the way they want to and take them on a trip around South America...
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2 Responses to Plundering pirates of Paraty

  1. Lieske says:

    Liking your Keira Knightly impression there Soph!!

  2. Roddy says:

    Haha as if you packed 3 inch heels in your rucksack..impressive! 🙂 xxxxxxx

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