Following Rio, our loop through Brazil continued as we headed west towards Sao Paulo. The previous week in Rio was exciting and exhausting at the same time. We needed a little R&R before making our way into the largest city in Brazil.
Between Rio and Sao Paulo is a region known as Costa Verde, or Green Coast. Highway BR-101 follows the coast through this beautiful region. Around every corner was another beach that stretched the distance between each peninsula extending to the sea. Each time a new beach appeared before us, we paused as we decided if we would stop or continue. It would take several weeks to stop at every beach along the entire route. We had a week and stopped at a few beaches along the way.
Near Angro dos Reis, we made a quiet beach home for our first night following Rio. The entire peninsula was a beautiful drive with unbelievable views of the ocean. At our specific beach, the water was quite shallow, resulting in unusually warm water temperatures.
Paraty is an incredible colonial style town that has been preserved in its original style. The whitewashed rectangular buildings matched with unique shutters painted bright colors impressed us around each corner. The original cobblestone streets add to the charm of the historical center although walking these streets required a great deal of care. Right at sea level, the streets gradually filled with sea water at high tide and eventually dried up as the tide went out. The Sunday crowds eventually dispersed as we parked the truck with a spectacular view of the town not more than five yards from the ocean.
In the morning, we buttoned up the truck and continued west. After driving not more than 30 minutes, beautiful deserted beaches continued appearing before us and begged us to stop. Our first stop for the day had us at a state park beach with all of the services we love but prevented us from parking close to the beach. We continued a few more miles and arrived on an even bigger beach with only a few other visitors. The hot sun and warm water was just what we needed to begin unwinding from the city. A cold, strong passion fruit caipirinha helped even more and we relaxed as the sun set over the layers of endless mountains surrounding us.
Further west, we stopped at Toque-Toque Pequeno for a couple more beach days. This small beach town was deserted during the week with only a handful of locals passing by each day and even fewer beachgoers. Warm, tan sand beaches slowly dropped into the crystal clear, turquoise water that gently lapped to shore. Dense green jungle covered everything beyond the beach and mountains surrounded us with even a few mountainous islands far in the distance. This was easily the most beautiful and enjoyable beach we have enjoyed since leaving Costa Rica.
Our coastal journey ended for the time being in the city of Santos, directly south of Sao Paulo. A port city, Santos is heavily commercialized with everything near the port being rough and industrial. The main reason for the quick visit to Santos was the Coffee Museum near the port.
Ever since the colonization of Brazil, coffee has been a major crop for the country and the majority of it is exported around the world. Santos was the main port for exporting coffee and the building which houses the Museum of Coffee was where coffee was bought and sold for international trade. Built in 1922, the building is a tribute to the centennial of the independence of Brazil and as a celebration for its wealth and industry generated by coffee. Built in a neoclassical design, the details of the building are what makes it great. Everything from he huge stained glass ceiling in the central room, to the wood chairs and matching tables for each, to the arches and ceiling on the second floor and the carefully carved exterior stone make this building a gem that has been preserved for nearly a century. Of course it would be a sin not to try some coffee during our visit so we sat down for some espresso before leaving Santos.
As a side note to our visit to Santos, while in Brazil, we have received more attention from motorists honking, waving, giving thumbs up or flashing their lights at us than any other country. While in Santos, we handed out four of our business cards in one day, two of which through the window as we were in traffic. One of those cards connected us with a man we will call Dr. Marco who found us on Instagram and wrote us a note explaining we were an inspiration for him to travel as he trudged through normal life. It is experiences like this that we will never forget and also encourages us to continue our travels. We were once in a comfortable routine in a normal life back home and in the future we will return to that routine but taking a leap of faith and jumping out of our comfort zone has been an incredibly rewarding experience that we don’t regret. We hope other people have been inspired by us as well. Now, back to the blog!
Mid afternoon, we hit the highway driving towards the town of Paranapiacaba on the outskirts of Sao Paulo for our next visit. Out of nowhere, the relatively flat highway we had followed for several weeks began climbing very fast. Hanging off the side of a cliff, the two lane highway is the main connection between Sao Paulo and the coast. Naturally, truck traffic between the port and Brazil’s largest city was heavy. The steep highway that snaked through the mountains, through tunnels and bridges hanging in the clouds, traffic was very slow. The consistent, warm temperatures of the coast were left at the bottom of the mountain and cooled drastically as low-lying clouds drizzled rain and made seeing the highway difficult. We arrived in Paranapiacaba just before dark and set up the camper for the night.
Paranapiacaba was our staging point before entering the largest city in Brazil; Sao Paulo. In our next post, we will share the story about our week long visit to the city!