"What is your name?" the young man with a mischievous smile asked as we stood in our swimsuits along the Pedra Branca waterfalls.
"Cindy" I replied.
"Cindje, put out your hand".
I did, and he put his hand over mine to drop something very light into it. He left his hand over mine, looking into my eyes and smiling broadly. I smiled back and grabbed his wrist with my other hand, not sure I'd be happy with whatever I was holding, but when he pulled back his hand to reveal what he'd given me, I was delighted to find that I was holding a little black frog.
Here I am with FrogMan (I wish I remembered his name, but I don't!):
I'd met FrogMan earlier, when I was standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking the pool at the base of one of falls, not sure if I really wanted to jump. It wasn't a tall cliff--only about the height of a high-dive, but after my guide Ivan had helped me climb over the rocks and tangled tree roots to get there, he pointed out that I must jump outward to avoid hitting some rocks directly below the cliff. Something about that made me nervous, and it wasn't until FrogMan climbed up also and suggested I take two running steps to jump off, that I finally had the courage to do it. Here's a photo of a guy preparing to jump from that same point:
I was glad I jumped...the water was refreshing, and once I surfaced, my guide Ivan motioned for me to come explore more of the falls with him. The rocks were smooth and so I could comfortably climb them in my bare feet.
Ivan kindly took my hand to help me climb over the difficult places to two additional waterfall-created pools, where we swam and enjoyed ourselves together. Ivan showed me the tattooed image of his young son that is on his shoulder blade, as we sat on rocks submerged in the pools together. We spoke in Spanish, since I don't speak Portuguese and he doesn't speak English.
After climbing back down again, I was delighted to watch one of the guides catching butterflies on his fingers and giving them to people to hold. (I wish I'd taken a photo that shows this guide's beautiful face--he was a mixed race man, with dark skin and bright blue eyes.)
"I'll see you at the next place!" FrogMan said as we prepared to hike back to our jeep to make our way to the Poço do Inglês falls, where you can swing on a rope over the water. Here's a video of that:
I wanted to try swinging over the water too, and found it less frightening than jumping off the first cliff had been.
It was so fun that I swung on the rope several times. One time when I surfaced, I heard a voice calling "Cindje! Cindje!" It was FrogMan. He was on a cliff about 15 meters high, motioning for me to climb up there and jump off with him. No way!
Later, he showed me this caterpillar:
As we continued our jeep tour, Ivan would occasionally pull off to the side of the road to pick fragrant flowers for the three women in our group. This flower had such a lovely scent that I placed it in the buttonhole of my shirt to enjoy it as we walked around the beautiful areas.
Here I am with Ivan, the fragrant flower he'd given me still tucked into the buttonhole of my shirt:
Here, Ivan is picking citronella grass for us, which he then crushed in his hands so we could enjoy its delicious scent:
We made our way high into the mountains along a private dirt road through the lush green atlantic rainforest, towards a remote restaurant along the side of a rocky river for our lunch.
Near the restaurant, they hung pieces of fruit, like this:
To attract colorful birds, like this:
I wondered how the restaurant could stay in business, being in such a remote location, but I no longer wondered as we left the restaurant via a shortcut...most of the patrons get to the restaurant by walking across this footbridge over the river that connects to a highway. Walking over it was fun...when others were on the bridge, it would bounce like a trampoline...not enough to be frightening...just enough to be fun.
The highlight of the day was visiting the Tobaga Cachoeira, a natural waterslide. Here's a video of a man surfing down the slide:
I was impressed that this guy jumped up from his belly up to his feet as he went down:
For those who can't watch video, here are some still photos of the experience:
As I prepared to go down the slide (on my rear end) for the third time, FrogMan grabbed my hand and said "Let's hold hands, run, and surf down it together!"
"No way!" I told him...I'd crack my skull for sure.
"Come with me, then" he said, as he held my hand and put his arm around my waist to guide me to a little waterfalls higher up. He took me to this place, where there's a hidden cove below the falls.
He showed me how to enter the cove, backside first, and I followed him. There was just enough room for the two of us to sit there, side by side, and watch the water cascade over our heads and in front of us.
"This is where slaves hid all day long." he spoke loudly into my ear so I could hear him above the roar of the water. I nodded and smiled.
"You have a nice smile" FrogMan said.
FrogMan had given me a lot to smile about! I loved the experience of having these kind, handsome, fun Brazilian men help me explore the beautiful areas near Parati!