I have had an insane amount of experiences while living in Brazil, but by far one of my best memories will be the day I agreed to go on a road trip to the annual Cachaça Festival.
While abroad, traveling by bus, train, or plane is for the most part reliable and simple. However, they don’t have the same adventurous qualities as filling up a rental car with friends and taking off on a road trip armed only with snacks and a faint sense of direction. I have had an insane amount of experiences while living in Brazil, but by far one of my best memories will be the day I agreed to go on a road trip to the annual Cachaça Festival (Cachaça is a Brazilian alcohol made of sugar cane) in Paraty, RJ. I ultimately spent the weekend in a remote beach town. The town was so unscathed by tourists that it didn’t even have an ATM.
After printing out a rough set of directions, we packed the two rentals and took off to challenge the seemingly lawless highways of Rio de Janeiro. After spending hours in traffic, we got out of the city and reached “no-man’s-land”. It was amazing. We got lost; we stopped in a “sketchy” town to ask for directions and eat and then proceeded to wander around the back roads until we found our way back to the highway. I took the wheel after our pit stop, and although I kept it quiet until we reached the festival, I had little to no idea where I was going most of the time. (Not to mention that apparently there are radar systems all along the highway and it’s a good possibility I was driving illegally.) At least the car was in the name of someone who left the day we got back, so we never received any of the tickets.
In my car, we had two Californians, a Brazilian, and a Spaniard. Sometime before we even left the city, we lost the Venezuelan, Colombians, and Chilean who took the other car. We took two completely different routes, but after about four hours, we met up at the festival. There, we soon realized we had arrived far too late to take on the challenging road ahead to reach our hostel in Trindade. So, we agreed to stay at the festival until the next day when we could see the road. We stayed up all night, drank, danced, and after enjoying the sunrise, we took off the next morning to complete the trek.
The plan worked out perfectly. Everyone had a great night and we tackled the dreaded mountain the next morning. We were repeatedly advised that our rental would never be able to handle the incline, and as I climbed the entire mile or so in first gear, I realized that there was legitimate reason for concern. We finally reached our off-the-map destination and spent the next few days relaxing on the beach, surfing, running through the jungle barefoot, spending the nights by a bonfire, and ultimately just enjoyed the silence and the vacancy of Trindade. It was something like a dream vacation.
In the end, the Cachaça Festival was honestly a pretty average experience. It was getting lost around the state of Rio de Janeiro and spending the weekend in a beautifully pristine town with a great group of friends that made this trip one that I will never forget.
To make the trip even more unforgettable, someone “accidentally” lost the car keys and we had to stay an extra night. The keys magically appeared in his pocket later that night. Although he never admitted it, I think he did it on purpose to force us to enjoy one last night in paradise together. I’ve come to realize that it’s rarely reaching the destination that makes a trip memorable. Rather, it’s sharing the unique experiences with friends that make a trip noteworthy in life.