The last thing I did before passing out to the sound of traffic in Rio de Janeiro was to write down the Airbnb address and bus details in my travel notebook. Yes, actual paper and pen. This is one of my travel tricks. First, it’s a good way to double-check time and place, second it’s not a bad idea to actually write info on paper just in case you can’t access your mailbox or phone for some reason.

And this is when I realized Costa Verde bus company didn’t have a paperless ticket option. Usually, I buy my ticket online and I just have to show the QR code. This time, the email stated I had to pick up my paper ticket at the booth before boarding the bus. Surprising in Brazil, where you can pay for a coconut with your phone at the beach.

I sighed and set my alarm for 7:15 a.m.

Rio was still mostly asleep the next morning, but I managed to flag down a yellow taxi on Avenida Nossa Senhora de Copacabana.

I found the Costa Verde ticket booth inside the bus terminal, next to three other companies offering “direct” trips to Chile, Bolivia and Peru. My own bus ride was less ambitious—Paraty, just 160 kilometres west of Rio de Janeiro.

“Be patient, Juliette,” Feng had reminded me. “It took us nine hours last time…”

Feng and I spent Carnival in Paraty in 2009. We couldn’t afford Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian owner of an Internet café in La Paloma, Uruguay, had recommended Paraty. Yes, we were using Internet cafés back then. And yes, we took the bus to Paraty without booking accommodation or doing much research. We had a great time, by the way, perfect place to spend Carnival in a colourful colonial town. But it had taken forever to get there for various reasons—traffic, accidents, twisty roads.

I’m going back to Paraty, 13 years later. Why not? I’m taking the Rio-Santos route to São Paulo and I have time.

“According to my ticket, it should take… 4 hours and 40 minutes. Yeah, we’ll see.”

The mask mandate has just been lifted in Rio de Janeiro state and people got the message loud and clear. It felt strange to be in a maskless crowd at the bus terminal—what year is this, exactly?

The bus was supposed to leave at 9 a.m. At 9:15 a.m., it was still parked at plataforma 8. We eventually left at 9:45 a.m.…. but stopped for breakfast at 10:30 a.m. “15 minutes!”

It turned into a forty-five-minute break but hey, breakfast matters.

I chatted with an American traveller who was celebrating his fortieth birthday with a 40-day trip. “Complete drama,” he sighed. “My phone is almost dead, my Brazilian friends apparently missed the bus and I don’t want to end up alone in Paraty.”

“That’s travelling for you,” I said. “Stress, happiness, stress, happiness… Look, if you need my phone, just come over to my seat.”

He hugged me, because he was a hairstylist in NYC and apparently that’s what hairstylists in NYC do.

I dozed off for a while, then I marvelled at the scenery. It’s “jungle-ish” around here. Gone are the long, windy white-sand beaches of Cabo Frio. This part of the country is green, rainy, full of small hidden beaches.

We eventually arrived in Paraty around 3 p.m. Not too bad, it “only” took six hours this time.

Paraty’s bus terminal was just like I remembered it. I did a double take. Wait… it was full of backpackers, and there were flyers advising hostels. Again, a “what year is this?” moment!

I walked to my Airbnb, feeling I had just arrived in some town in Central America—hot, humid, stormy, chaotic but laid-back.

I’m not sure what year is this… but I’m pretty sure I’m in Paraty.

Rodoviária do Rio, Av. Francisco Bicalho, 1 - Santo Cristo, Rio de Janeiro
Rodoviária do Rio, Av. Francisco Bicalho, 1 – Santo Cristo, Rio de Janeiro
I love how you can just... cross the continent by bus! Rodoviária do Rio, Av. Francisco Bicalho, 1 - Santo Cristo, Rio de Janeiro
I love how you can just… cross the continent by bus! Rodoviária do Rio, Av. Francisco Bicalho, 1 – Santo Cristo, Rio de Janeiro
Rodoviária do Rio, Av. Francisco Bicalho, 1 - Santo Cristo, Rio de Janeiro
Rodoviária do Rio, Av. Francisco Bicalho, 1 – Santo Cristo, Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro to Paraty, breakfast pit stop
Rio de Janeiro to Paraty, breakfast pit stop
Rio de Janeiro to Paraty
Rio de Janeiro to Paraty
Rio de Janeiro to Paraty
Rio de Janeiro to Paraty
Rio de Janeiro to Paraty
Rio de Janeiro to Paraty
Rio de Janeiro to Paraty
Rio de Janeiro to Paraty
Terminal Rodoviário de Paraty, R. Jango Pádua, s/n° - Parque Imperial, Paraty - RJ
Terminal Rodoviário de Paraty, R. Jango Pádua, s/n° – Parque Imperial, Paraty – RJ
Terminal Rodoviário de Paraty, R. Jango Pádua, s/n° - Parque Imperial, Paraty - RJ
Terminal Rodoviário de Paraty, R. Jango Pádua, s/n° – Parque Imperial, Paraty – RJ
Terminal Rodoviário de Paraty, R. Jango Pádua, s/n° - Parque Imperial, Paraty - RJ
Terminal Rodoviário de Paraty, R. Jango Pádua, s/n° – Parque Imperial, Paraty – RJ

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