About halfway between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a pretty little town called Paraty sits along the sea. Known for its beaches and picturesque colonial streets, Paraty provides a nice break from its massive neighboring cities and is a worthwhile stop for anyone traveling through southeastern Brazil. One of the most unique things to do while in Paraty is visit a natural waterslide, the Cachoeira Tobogã*, that’s located just outside of town.
I visited Paraty during my three-month backpacking trip across South America in 2010. We had traveled from the incredible Iguaçu Falls along the Argentinian border to Rio, which was lively, fun, and gorgeous but comparatively very pricey. Seeking a reprieve from the bustle and expense, we decided to take a four-hour bus ride to Paraty for a couple of days.
Once there, we strolled the pretty streets, made friends with fellow backpackers, visited a few beaches, and had one swimming scare that is a story for another time. On one of our day trips to a beach outside of town, we were also taken to the Cachoeira Tobogã.
As I recorded in my journal that night, it was tucked away in the jungle a short hiking distance from the road:
March 31, 2010
“[The bus] dropped us off at the base of a little white and blue church halfway up a hill and we hiked the short distance to the waterfall. It is pretty cool looking, a smooth slab of rock over which runs a thin sheet of water. To one side of the rock, which is quite wide, the water falls into some rocks, but to the right there is a large open space and that is where you slide.
In Victoria’s Brazil book it says that the waterfall was the site of a scene from the movie The Emerald Forest, which was a completely ridiculous film that I watched with [M] in our International Human Rights on Film class. It was kind of funny to actually be there.”
That’s right, this very location was actually featured in a movie that M and I watched in a university class we took together. That class was where we first became friends, despite having known each other for a little while through the student ambassador group on campus. I actually remember excitedly messaging him later that night to let him know where I’d been that day.
Could our whole life together be traced to the Cachoeira Tobogã?!
Anyway, back to the journal…
“The Cachoeira Tobogã slopes gently enough that it’s not scary but steeply enough to give you a good ride. The locals go down face first or even standing up – a couple of guys demonstrated the latter by getting a running start and sliding down on their bare feet, leaping at just the right moments to go over the two or three bumps in the rock on the way down. It really was something to see, though we stuck to our bottoms.
“I was nervous to do it but it was a ton of fun… Perhaps the scariest part was walking out to the starting position, as we had to cross the flat top of the waterfall to do so. There wasn’t enough water to make it dangerous, but it was rather slippery. Happily, some of the local guides helped us across. They also showed us a hidden alcove behind another more powerful waterfall. It was intense getting in and out, and the rock opening wasn’t very big, but it was kind of neat nonetheless.
I went down three times, and we all had a ton of fun before it was time to leave and we caught the bus back into town.”
While in the grand scheme of our trip our time at the Paraty waterslide was a small moment, it’s one that I still look back on fondly as one of the more unique and unexpected adventures we found. If you ever find yourself in southeastern Brazil, I encourage you to take a moment to stop in pretty Paraty and try your hand at the waterslide. Even if you choose to stay dry, the location is really beautiful and it’s a blast just watching the locals’ acrobatics as they slide down over the rock face.
*Note: I had written Cachoeira Tobogã in my journal, but I’ve also seen it spelled Cachoeira Do Toboga.
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